The RPS Verdict: The Wolf Among Us

By Alec Meer on October 15th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Two Smiths and one Meer gather to discuss the latest episodic adventure game from Telltale (they of the recent Walking Dead series). The Wolf Among Us is based on the comic series Fables, and concerns folk from fairytales carving out a noirish life in the big city. It also concerns MURDER MOST HORRID. You should perhaps read Adam’s thoughts yesterday for a more fulsome summary, but moreso you should have played the game, for this here article is awash in the dreaded SPOILERS.

Are you sitting comfortably, or at least in a way that won’t cause you back problems in later life? Then we’ll begin.

Alec: Greetings, red riding hoods.

Graham: WOLFAMONGOUS.

Adam: Are you the wolf, the granny or the woodsman?

Graham: I am Granny Smith, obv.

Alec: Having played Wolf Among Us, I certainly don’t want to be deemed the woodsman. Not a fine fellow by any measure. I’ll start by asking if anyone ever read the comics, and what if any bearing that had on their take on the game?

Graham: I did not. I’d even forgotten it was based on a comic before I played it.

Adam: I’ve read the first few trade paperbacks and went back to doublecheck how similar the opening was. It’s almost exactly the same in terms of set up. Only the crime is different. And the end of the first episode raises different questions for someone who has read the comic.

Alec: yes, that much I established, which struck me as a smart move in terms of becoming an entirely standalone entity instead of fielding constant ‘but why isn’t this like this?’ gripes.

Adam: Yeah – something Telltale did with Walking Dead by creating new characters. That’d be harder here for obvious reasons.

Alec: It leads me on to the broader question of how much were you guys invested in the characters? For instance, when the shock death of that supporting cast member happened, did it hurt?

Adam: Err, do you guys mind if I do a comic spoiler that changes the first episode rather a lot?

Graham: Go for it.

Adam: Snow White is in the comics from day one. Not dead and as far as I can tell, never has been. So this leads back to the prequel shenanigans. That moment is part of the mystery about what really happened to Faith rather than a shock for anyone who has read even the first issue of the comic. I suspect they’ll reveal that very early in episode two and then the plot becomes about doppelgangers, glamours and illusions. Or something.

Graham: Is this game canon, or a sort of alternate re-telling prequel thing? Have Telltale or anyone said whether it’s meant to fit alongside the comics? Because that changes things quite a lot. That death at the end of ep 1 did hurt, for me, for a couple of reasons. One being simply that she’s one of the few characters in the first episode who is friendly and upfront. I wanted to see how that relationship played out. The other being that it caught me by surprise. I was expecting her to your Elizabeth-style sidekick for the whole series. I’d assumed that was the mechanic, so to speak.

Adam: Yeah, that’s the way it works in the comics. They’re a sort of investigating odd couple much of the time.

Alec: the question of who you’re going to be pleased to see in future episodes if she isn’t there is a big one. Everyone seems extremely obnoxious, with the exception of Beauty and Beast due to their brief appearances.

Graham: I feel quite warm towards Colin the Pig. If he was your new sidekick, I’d be OK with that. I get that he has issues with Bigby, but he has good reasons. And he’s a talking pig.

Alec: As opposed to Walking Dead, their obnoxiousness doesn’t tend to stem from their deadly situation and opinions thereof, but that’s the nature of being noir rather than survival to some extent.

Adam: Yeah. I think it’s also to do with their rather high opinions of themselves. They’re all, or mostly, aristocracy of some sort. Living in ruins compared to their former lives, but still convinced of their own importance. I hope they introduce Prince Charming. He’s a favourite of mine from the comics. The ultimate in priveleged airheaded wankers.

Alec: What do we think of Bigby as a protagonist? Or Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, as I like to call him

Graham: The reason I like noir, most of the time, is because the protagonists tend to be rough-and-tumble wasters. The sort better at taking punches than dishing them out, but who wins through dogged determination. Having a superpowered wolf in that lead role changes the power dynamic in a way that feels a little boring, especially in games. The writing was good enough though that I at least felt like I had options to shape him into something more interesting. I liked that silence was frequently an option, for example, and got into playing him as the strong-but-silent type.

Adam: I like him a lot. He is drawn more from noir archetypes than fables and fairytales though. With him and Snow White in particular, the past life seems almost incidental – gives room for gags and predefined relationships but do we really see any of their old selves written in the character? Apart from turning into a wolf on occasion, I mean. But that’s more like a Teen Wolf noir crossover than Big Bad Wolf in the big city.

Graham: Maybe he’ll cross-dress as an old lady in episode two.

Alec: The Granny Among Us

Graham: I guess at this point I don’t really know what makes him vulnerable. Don’t hard-boiled detectives normally have vices? Alcoholism, gambling…

Adam: Rage problems..

Alec: I’m not sure about him yet, he seems a little awkwardly caught between the stools of take no shit hard nut and wounded soul in search of redemption. Which is an established archetype in videogames, but I’m not sure that, particularly, the somewhat muted vocal performance is entirely selling it. Speaking of vocal performances, I wish someone would tell whoever it is doing fake English accents that he can’t.

Graham: I think I appreciated that the dialogue choices allowed me to decide how gold his heart-of-gold was.

Adam: The game will probably go into this at some point, but Bigby wasn’t just the wolf that blew down the pigs’ houses and ate the granny – he was a legendary monster, devouring entire armies and the like. For me, the comics always failed to square that with the essentially likeable gumshoe. Though I didn’t read very far.

Alec: Yeah, I found that in the extra features almanac thing. Also helps explains why a slightly hairy man can effortlessly take down Grendel.

Adam: I always thought Grendel would be bigger.

Alec: I think he just hunching cos that bar had a low ceiling.

Graham: Why has a mass murderer been made the sheriff?

Adam: Amnesty. Just like Bluebeard is allowed to live his life of luxury despite being a nasty serial killer. When they arrived in our world, the Fables had a society-wide amnesty – no mention of past crimes or misdeeds because they’d essentially been ripping each other apart for centuries. This is why the setup works well for small genre mysteries, which can enjoy the Fables aspect without exploring it too deeply. The lore falls apart under scrutiny. Or a glance.

Alec: the game kept offering me the option to accuse Bluebeard of shit even though I’d never met him – did I miss something?

Graham: You could look at his file or his name in a newspaper or something in your apartment.

Adam: Again, a weird echo of the first comic arc where he’s the suspect in a killing. And he used to cut his wives’ heads off in ye olde times. What about these BIG SLOW MOTION DECISIONS. They’re new.

Graham: The stuff in combat?

Adam: No, the “GO TO MR TOAD OR GO TO THE PRINCE CHAP WHOSE NAME I HAVE FORGOTTEN” And who to pursue at the end.

Graham: Oh! Those. I liked them in principle, but I’m not wild in general about games like this which flag up their decisions as THIS IS A BIG DECISION HEY LOOK IT’S THE GAME MECHANIC. Like, I get it. I get the conceit. I see what’s happening here, and it could be a bit more subtle. >

Graham: Like, Gordon didn’t present Batman with two giant billboards of whether to save Katie Holmes 2 in the Dark Knight or whatever.

Alec: It is signposting HERE IS A MORAL DILEMMA a whole lot more. The trouble is that the bulk of the actions and decisions in the game are choosing between dialogue options, but they have a couple of decisions which aren’t dialogue-based, so how to show them given there’s so little direct character control? But fundamentally, Telltale are still the only dev who are really getting away with quicktime events, so I’ll forgive ‘em.

Graham: I think it’s just a presentational thing, to make them less separate from the flow of the action. Agreed on the QTEs, though. What did you guys think of the lack of explicit puzzles overall, as compared to the first episode of The Walking Dead?

Alec: generally I didn’t mind, but there were a couple of instances where the on-screen text was all ‘YOU HAVE CLEVERLY DEDUCTED SOMETHING!’ and I was all “no, I just clicked on the only available icon.” Interactive storybook ok, being patronised not ok.

Adam: At its weakest in the Toad ‘interrogation’, I thought. Being patted on the head for doing the slightest thing. Maybe that’s how it is for Mr Wolf – if he doesn’t pee on the carpet, Snow White gives him a biscuit.

Adam: Or a granny.

Alec: ‘You can have one leg now, but you’re only getting the rest if you don’t bark at strangers.’

Graham: I was distracted during that interrogation, so almost had to resort to violence as the only remaining available option because I’d missed a couple of dialogue options. That actually made it a far tenser thing, that pull between what the story was driving me towards and what I wanted the character to be. That was a kind of challenge I hadn’t encountered before. But it was dependent on me being distracted by a bumblebee first.

Adam: Maybe Telltale games should come with a jar of bees. Release them into the room for added difficulty.

Alec: I think they could have made a bit more of Bigby’s feral impatience threatening to get the better of him in conversation. So at times you’ve really got to react incredibly quickly to stop him going off at the deep end. I’m being an armchair designer there, apologies.

Graham: I think there’s a real opportunity for these games to be a kind of improv theatre, you and the game forging a character together. The problem I have with puzzles is that they grind the story to a halt, but when there’s no challenge at all, I don’t like the sense that I’m just turning the pages in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.But that’s more to do with genre stuff than this particular game, which I thought was the best example Telltale have delivered yet. I didn’t get that far with TWD admittedly.

Adam: At the moment, I find Bigby’s transformations a good thing. Like, ‘here COMES THE PAIN’ because he’s in a bad situation and needs to kick some ass. I’m hoping, and expecting, that we’ll see the unpleasant side soon. The out of control feral monster coming through. I think it’s a much stronger first episode than Walking Dead had. But I prefer noir to zombie drama.

Graham: Bigby didn’t repeatedly trip up in every action scene. That alone.

Alec: He hadn’t just been in a car crash, in fairness.

Graham: He did crash into a car.

Alec: True! That Lee’s just a wimp. I liked the game a lot, though the not-English actor very nearly prevented that, and particularly I think it’s a very beautiful game. Lovely to see what a graphics card can do when it doesn’t have to worry about 60 frames a second of all out action.

Adam: I didn’t mind not-English actor after tuning my ears so I reckon I liked it even more. And it is very handsome.

Graham: I didn’t mind the not-English actor either. I will accept any degree of junk accent if it’s coming from a talking animal.

Adam: Yeah – they’re not from England! They’re from Fake Fairytale England. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE ACCENTS IN FAKE FAIRTYTALE ENGLAND?

Alec: I’ve heard the same reasoning for the iffy accents on some of the Lannisters in Game of Thrones. ‘There is no England in Westeros!’ Which is a fair point.

Graham: There are other cel-shaded games, but the colour palette here makes it look like nothing else. How close is it to the comics, visually?

Adam: Honest answer – I couldn’t say exactly. It may be more like the later stuff – I remember the early ones being far more muted but I could be wrong.

Alec: it looks a lot like the Walking Dead game still, so I’d imagine it’s Telltale’s own hybrid art style to some degree.

Graham: Are you all looking forward to the next episode? I am some looking forward.

Adam: I am very looking forward.

Alec: I am quite looking forward, but a bit less so than I was ep2 of Walking Dead as I was more invested in the character dynamics there. Mostly though, I shake my head in happy disbelief that the studio behind those awful Sam and Max games has come so far.

Graham: I never even played episode 2 of Walking Dead, so I guess I am 100% more looking forward than that. But 80% less than Adam? I am new to this. How does this work without numbers?

Alec: You just spell out a score in acrostics, we’ve been doing that for years but no-one ever noticed

Adam: With this and Walking Dead, Telltale are making games that I can actually enjoy playing after spending a day playing other games. Normally I retreat from my computer in the evening because it’s full of complicated things. Wolf Among Us is a pleasantly unpleasant bedtime story.

Adam: Do we all reckon this is the shape of Telltale’s output for the forseeable future? They appear to have found a style.

Graham: I hope so. It’s a far better template for everything they seem interested in than the early ’90s LucasArts thing they were trying and failing to ape from Sam and Max through Back to the Future through all those ghastly games.

Alec: I imagine so, but I hope they won’t be too risk averse.

Adam: I’d like to seem them taking risks in the properties they adapt. Just as long as they don’t do a bloody Watchmen prequel.

Alec: I’d like to see ‘em do their own thing entirely.

Graham: Me too.

Adam: Yes. Also.

Alec: Though given I didn’t know Fables I guess this was essentially that to me.

Adam: I think it works better as a new thing – maybe it’s a step toward that.

Alec: I’d *really* love to see is one without any fantasy elements. Essentially the Telltale Soap Opera.

Adam: I’d like to see them do a Columbo series.

Alec: Yes! Or Murder She Wrote.

Graham: YES.

Alec: Telltale are basically becoming the studio I always confuse them with, Traveller’s Tales. They’re basically refining just the one very successful formula, with licenses, and now we’re even basically doing ‘wouldn’t it be great if they did LEGO Aliens?’ Heavens, I said ‘basically’ three times there.

Adam: I think they were the same studio in an alternate dimension. We exist upon a tear in the fabric of reality.

Graham: Have you guys played Masq?

Alec: I have not played Masq.

Adam: Nor have I. Played Masq. OH NO. I have played Masq. Just googled it.

Graham: Masq is an indie game, and it’s free now, and it’s a soap opera told via black-and-white comic stills where you select dialogue options to branch the story. It’s basically the Telltale model, but without 3D graphics, QTEs or even puzzles, and with way, way more branching and choice. The story is a daytime soap thing about a fashion designer, murder and affairs. It’s boss.

Adam: You must tell the people about Masq, Graham. They deserve to know. If there’s one thing RPS readers love it is daytime soap things about fashion designers.. And affairs. They love a good affair.

Graham: In 15 minutes you can be divorced, in prison for murder, and bankrupt. It’s quite the little thing.

Adam: And so, Graham reviewed life. With added criticism of the ridiculous in app purchases.

Graham: 82%

Alec: Ah, I remember Masq now. I remember screenshots in a magazine. I remember magazines! I bet you don’t remember magazines, Graham.

Graham: I only remember all of your mothers.

Adam: END.

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50 Comments »

  1. mouton says:

    This game made me realize that I don’t really hate QTEs. I only hate when they are crammed into games that don’t need them, like FPSes.

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      It was playing TWD (episode 1) that made me dislike QTEs even more. They felt like a poor attempt to inject some action or activity into the game. Not sure if they get better, but I’ve had the rest of TWD on my hard drive for a while now, and just can’t be bothered to move on with it (although that’s for many more reasons than the QTEs).

      I’m still not sure I’ve seen a game that really does them well, but I wouldn’t necessarily get rid of them entirely. I would prefer if they were used far more sparingly.

      • mouton says:

        I’d rather they inject QTEs as an action element than some kind of half-baked shooter/sneaker/brawler mechanic. See Dreamfall, as an example.

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          Andy_Panthro says:

          I would agree with that, arcade sequences in adventure games can be very tiresome.

          • mulberry says:

            Well buckle up then because TWD has its fair share of crappy shooting sequences too. Am i the only one that remembers how lame those were? Still, worth the slog because the characters and the writing are strong.

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            Jackablade says:

            They were barely removed from Quicktime events, really. I can’t say that I found them any more offensive.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Oh man this is totally applicable to WTGDFD too!

      • SubzeroWolfman says:

        Shoot me dead (X-button), but I kinda liked the way Fahrenheit did it …. I guess the key would be to assign the buttons intuitively, like “X is always some form of block action, dodge or evasion – in action and fast-talk sequences alike” etc.
        Ready to Rumble for the Dreamcast had it so well integrated, actually, that I spent hours trying to become real good at it (swell I did). Admitted, that’s a very well defined environment, and the button-smashing an integral part of the gameplay, which in itself supports the notion of repetative action for its own sake, but hey, it worked because the environment was suited for the mechanic. Clever designers could make it fun.

  2. notenome says:

    It’s excellent, so good. I want more. I need more. Must have more. Finished in one sitting. Gimme more telltale, gimme more now. *twitch*

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    Don Reba says:

    Are you sitting comfortably, or at least in a way that won’t cause you back problems in later life?

    No…

    Then we’ll begin.

    Wait!

    • LionsPhil says:

      RPS cares not for the well-being of your spine.

      Only for the infinite spine of Horace, which needs considerable lumbar support.

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    Monkeyshines says:

    Jiminy Christmas, I am falling in love with Telltale Games. I know there are lots of adventure gaming veterans here, but for me, they just tick the right boxes. I like some oldy fashioned point and click adventures, but I frequently resort to google to figure out why I’m combining the Fabergé egg with the monkey wrench to solve the puzzle. So I’m a big, fat cheater.

    But after The Walking Dead and now The Wolf Among Us, bring on more of this, please.

    • Risingson says:

      What I don’t understand is why that is considered as cheating. In the old times you did all those games with friends, and now you look for a solution when you are tired of searching.

      I’ll repeat once again: the problem with modern adventures is not puzzles, but unnecessary overexposition (something inherited from The Longest Journey, a game I really *don’t* like) and therefore bad design as clues are ignored favouring the long rants from the archetypical strong female lead with tight jeans. And, for once, that’s something that Telltale knew and did perfectly, as the texts in all their typical adventures (the Sam and Max games, Tales of Monkey Island, Strong Bad games and Wallace&Gromit) are concise, amusing, have the right ammount of information and give hints of the personality of the characters. Something learnt from the best part of Monkey Island: characters, objectives and clues defined in just a couple of lines.

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      Oozo says:

      I’m with you: Amanita’s “interactive biosphere”-approach and Telltale’s focus on interactive storytelling atually made me realize that I never played classical adventures for their puzzles. In fact, it’s what drove me away from the gerne.

      Now, it’s a well established opinion that the arbitrary nature of the puzzles are one important reason for why the genre lost its popularity (and even though the true reasons are probably more complex, the success of “The Walking Dead” and “Botanicula” at least do make it seem plausible).

      On the other hand, I think that getting rid of puzzles is just one and way of dealing with the problem, and a radical one at that. As I said, I’m not really all that well-versed anymore in the genre, so I do wonder: Are there games that do not just somewhat improve yer-puzzles-of-old, but reinvent them? Or at least do them so much better that you can think of them as a genuine evolution of this aspect of the genre?

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    maninahat says:

    I felt a little disappointed and surprised with the stuffing of the women into the refrigerator. Granted it’s a comic, hardboiled, videogame (three things that seem predisposed to be unkind to female characters), but I was hoping Tell Tale would take us past that; that they would recognise the whole killing off sympathetic females as kind of a lazy and rote.

    Also, I noticed a few clunky continuity errors (visiting the toads house causes day and night to switch over, as though the cab ride across town took 8 hours) which took me out of it. Otherwise, I really had a good time with this. I didn’t expect to be too compelled by a “fairy tales but all dark and hardcoooore” story, but it has worked its magic.

    • NotGodot says:

      To be fair, Fables is some pretty retrograde material. Bill Willingham, who created the franchise, thinks that superheroes aren’t ring-wing enough, that straight white men are under attack from “the left”, and also he gets off on fantasies about how awesome Israeli militants are.

      • mouton says:

        Retrograde? How so?

        • NotGodot says:

          Willingham has a very old fashioned set of conservative ideals that permeate the text. It’s kind of telling that, say, Snow becomes increasingly incidental after she gets pregnant, that Bigby fetishizes Israel, The degree to which the European fables are emphasized over others… Look up some of willingham’s columns. He’s basically a cranky old racist and it’s kind of a FedEx arrow situation.

          • mouton says:

            *Snow becoming incidental? She remains a major character across the series. Bigby himself is sidelined quite a lot, the series being about a variety of characters anyway.
            *Bigby fetishizing Israel? He praises its military tenacity – on one page in the whole series – something even Israel’s Arab opponents grudgingly accept is a thing. If I say that Wehrmacht was well organized and Third Reich had excellent military tactics, does it make me a Nazi? Or right-wing, for that matter?
            *European Fables are emphasized because they are divided among cultural lines and Willingham writes for Western audience – is there some requirement that unless you spread your writing equally among cultures, you are racist?
            *Also, Sindbad – an Arab Muslim fable – and Mowgli – a hindu – are major characters later on.

            Willingham might well be conservative himself – I don’t care, I don’t follow his person. But saying that Fables are “right-wing” or “conservative” basing on a few mild remarks here and there is ridiculous.

          • Christian O. says:

            @Mouton,

            Fables is a hardcore rightwing anti-muslim Randian parable. It’s like Frank Miller’s 300 except with less homoeroticism and a lot more insidious, because it only covertly endorses fascism. Fabletown is about a dispora that was cast out by evil non-WASP fables, the text explicitly ties itself to Israel in a “Hey, we’re underdogs, just like Israel”-diatribe, and at one point Snow White is captured and threatened with decapitation by the Sultan in the Arabian 1001 Nights who is basically a Fox News fever dream of an lecherous “uncivilized Arab”, despite the fact that most of the other fable characters have been updated with modern sensibilities.

            And while authorial intent isn’t everything, it should count for something that this is Willingham’s intent with Fables: “Politically, I’m just rabidly pro-Israel and so that, as a metaphor, was intended from the beginning. As a matter of fact, since this interview will be coming out after issue #50, there’s a scene in which it’s actually stated as fact that Fabletown’s battle against the vast Empire, the Adversary, is very much like Israel against the Arab nations. A scrappy little country full of stiff-necked bastards who, the only way we’re gonna protect our existence is to make sure that anytime you do anything bad to us, we’re going to make you pay horribly. I use that as a formal analogy for the existence of Fabletown and their relationships to the Empire. So that’s a roundabout way of saying that yes, that was in there purposely.”

            I really don’t mean to bag on you, but I’m frustrated that Willingham doesn’t get even half the slack Miller does, despite the both of them being war-loving xenophobes. And Willingham is an anti-abortionist to boot. And it’s not just his person; it’s in his writing as well.

          • mouton says:

            @Christian O.
            “Fables is a hardcore rightwing anti-muslim Randian parable. “

            Wat.
            Here you got Arabian and European Fables fighting together an evil empire: http://imgur.com/5u0Zp1Y
            And here you have Sindbad the Muslim Arabian Fable having happy sexy times with Rose Red, white girl and a sister to Snow White: http://imgur.com/zyf7vP2

            it only covertly endorses fascism.

            There is a lot of covertly endorsing fascism in them, you know, destroying a fascist empire. Very sneaky.

            at one point Snow White is captured and threatened with decapitation by the Sultan in the Arabian 1001 Nights who is basically a Fox News fever dream of an lecherous “uncivilized Arab”, despite the fact that most of the other fable characters have been updated with modern sensibilities.

            Some fables are changed, some not. For example Bluebeard, Baba Yaga and Snow Queen are European Fables and remain true to their fable templates. Bigby, despite his reformation, has a long history of murder and genocide and even Snow White is a cold-blooded killer.

            Look, I am basically left-wing, liberal, feminist, pro-choice, I hate US republicans and think Netanyahu is an asshole. But I refuse to brand a comic book series as something that it isn’t simply because I might disagree with its author.

          • Christian O. says:

            Sinbad the slave owner, who is only convinced of the errors of his ways, because he learnt it from white Fables (fables based in society that had slaves as well, although under the term ‘serf’). Fables has the moral that either you’re a white person and thus smart enough to change your own ways, or you’re a brown person who needs to be taught the error of his ways from a white person. (At best, it’s a story about how Sinbad is an unthinking ruler with corrupt counsellers, who actually run the country.)

            Coupling this with the fact that Willingham flat out named an issue “The Israel Analogy”, and his interviews that the Adversary to him represents the Middle Eastern nations, is an argument against the claim that we can separate his politics from his writing.

            Fighting a fascist regime doesn’t mean you’re not fascist. It just means that they are different groups of fascists. It’s a book about warfare being the only solution to a problem, capital punishment is encouraged (as seen in the Animal Farm-arc), it’s highly nationalistic (the Fables refusal to even consider integrating with the Mundane society of which they look down upon and fear), it ghettoizes and turns its less “human” occupants into second class citizens (the Animal Farm), and includes a host of other very unpleasant ideas. It’s fascism. It might not be the fascism of Frank Miller’s Sparta, but it’s still fascism.

            I’ll graint you Bluebeard and the Snow Queen, but the Baba Yaga is strictly speaking a Slavic fable, and while still European, doesn’t fit the criteria of European fable.

            And like you said, all the heroes are coldblooded killers, who aren’t challenged or even doubt their moral resolution, when encouraging to murder even their own people.

          • mouton says:

            You draw a lot of far fetched conclusions there, strongly adjusting your perception with how you view Willingham. You say we cannot separate his politics from his writing – well, I sure could. Every work is “tainted” by the person of the author, by his views, by his memory, by his opinions and prejudices, every work will be an echo of conflicts and situations real or fictional, modern or historical. Many brilliant authors and philosophers in history had quite horrible outlook towards say, women, foreigners, Africans, Jews, slaves etc. They key, to me, is whether they visibly pour those unwelcome elements into their work, whether those elements come to dominate it – and even then the work might retain its merits if read properly, just as much of the politicized music does.

            Is Fables an anti-anything pro-anything propaganda piece? Propaganda needs to be relatively clear and unambiguous, showing the “right way”. Fables is nothing of the sort, it has too many diverse messages, points of view and plenty of moral ambiguity. Even the “good” decisions like bringing down the Empire are questioned and tested and often have disastrous side effects, backlashes and their dark side. There are shadows of Willingham’s views but they are not by any means directly transplanted from the real to the fictional, and they are themselves subverted and questioned.

            Perhaps if you are emotionally invested in the issue of Israel/Palestinians and you despise Willingham for taking a position that is more or less opposite to yours, his work might burn bright with confirmations of your antagonisms. But I am positive the vast majority of readers who read it without prejudice would be unburdened with such a bias and would enjoy Fables for what it is.

  6. gschmidl says:

    The “awful” Sam & Max games? Wow. Also ow. (Couldn’t disagree more)

    • Acorino says:

      Yeah, YOU TAKE THAT BACK, ALEC AND GRAHAM, DO YOU HEAR ME?
      Sam & Max: Season 3 is one of the best things Telltale ever did. “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” is a standout, too!

  7. Quirk says:

    MASQ!

    Poor MASQ. It sits out there all alone, awash with more choices and consequence than any dozen other games, a lonely and ignored harbinger of a possible better future. It needed more of a budget, maybe, and a story more cynically targetted at gamer demographics, but it was such a hellaciously brave stab in a new direction I still find myself sad that nobody else followed down the trail Alteraction blazed. They deserved better.

    • greenbananas says:

      Masq’s really promising but I’ve never managed to play it whole. All the deal with the downloading and registering and whatnot means I’ve yet to make it past chapter 2. In fact, trying it right now, I can’t even make it to chapter 2 online. Offline is worse, if you try to register, you just end up stuck at a “please wait” screen.

      I wish they’d just either make it like any other online flash game, or let you download the whole thing and do away with this registering bullcrap.

      EDIT- After waiting for 20 mins at the “please wait” screen, I’ve been able to register successfully. The question remains, though: Why make someone jump through so many hoops for this? Oh wait, now it’s “Unable to validate user”. Jesus Christ in a tutu.

  8. Risingson says:

    “Graham: I hope so. It’s a far better template for everything they seem interested in than the early ’90s LucasArts thing they were trying and failing to ape from Sam and Max through Back to the Future through all those ghastly games.”

    You have not played those games. These are the best adventures of the later years, and again, the third season of sam & max not only had the best design an adventure could have, but it was so cleverly written and so innovative in its puzzles that… Ok, Graham, you were trolling here, weren’t you?

    • mulberry says:

      Yea he just tosses those lines out like its a generally accepted consensus. I thought they were all solid adventure games particularly sam and max and i seem to remember them getting decent ratings from critics.

    • NotGodot says:

      See I disagree. I hated their Sam and Max games because the humour didn’t really work and the hyperlinearity/ and lack of locations destroyed any feeling of exploration. I think that they were pretty awful, and that their Monkey Island was worse.

      • Risingson says:

        Because the humor didn’t really work and destroyed any sense of exploration. I don’t know why you say that the humor does not work (in 1×02 and 1×03 there are already very smart jokes), but anyway: that’s as saying that Monkey Island games are overrated because they are not always funny. And about the sense of exploration, of course the budget makes the games take place in a few places, things that the game shows to you honestly and you take as part of it, as it happens with indie adventures. But what it surprises me is that you think that this is more important than writing and puzzle design.

        I’m beginning to think that the games were much more subtle than I initially thought.

        • NotGodot says:

          I don’t think the comedy was really funny at any point. It really struck me as trying too hard, and it really lost a lot of what made Sam and Max funny: the origins of a lot of its humour in kitsch. It just came off as too LOL RANDUM, especially stuff like Bosco or the Soda Poppers that they insisted on bringing to the fore.

          When DoubleFine was starting work on Broken Age they asked around to find out what most people liked about old adventure games, and the thing that regularly rose to the front of the conversation was the sense of exploration and being able to experiment with the puzzles. This is absent in Sam & Max since the games are so linear and the puzzles are so heavily telegraphed. The third season is pretty much the worst for this.

          Also budget is not an excuse for the quality of the game. It does mean that the designers probably didn’t have the time or money to spend on creating more areas, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a real paucity of space. What made the Lucas Arts games so cool was that they all had a sense of exploration and experimentation. Whether it’s the massive mansion from MM, the islands of Monkey Island 2 (AKA the best Monkey Island) or the asteroid in The Dig, there was always a sense that this was a big world and that you were exploring and fumbling your way through it. Sam and Max Hit the Road was one of the best examples, what with the Road Trip theme and all.

          Telltale’s attempts to revive Sam & Max and Monkey Island are basically lobotomized cargo cult versions of things that I have dearly loved. The fact that The Walking Dead and Fables have shifted them into “Like Heavy Rain, Only Not Awful” territory is a source of hope because it means they’re going to stop missing that mark over and over and over again. They probably are going to fuck up the King’s Quest game that they announced a while back pretty badly, but that’s going to be worth it for the tears of the fanboys.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      I have to take that with a grain of salt, given your stance on The Longest Journey.

      • Premium User Badge

        Rikard Peterson says:

        I liked both, but in different ways. TLJ is like Radio Theatre, while S&M is an American Sitcom. (I don’t know what to compare TWD to in this analogy, but I like that one too.)

  9. commentingaccount says:

    I’m so glad someone agrees that the Sam & Max games were awful. They were an insult to the comic and the cartoon.

    • Risingson says:

      And The Godfather is awful. It is an insult to the book.

      • commentingaccount says:

        Are you seriously comparing the godfather to a bunch of games that completely miss the point of what they are adapting? The godfather took liberties as well, yes, but it still kept the core themes and feeling going. The Sam & max games did not keep the feeling going at all. There really is no core theme to sam & max so that cannot be kept…

        Perhaps I am misunderstanding you though.

      • Baf says:

        Risingson’s comment is awful. It is an insult to commentingaccount’s comment.

  10. Lobotomist says:

    SPOLIER ALERT:

    I doubt that either Snow White and Fate are actually dead. Because when Bigby asks the mirror to show him location of Fate, Mirror refuses because its prevented by higher spell.

  11. Bojangles says:

    This is as much a game as battlefield or frogger, in that it is a program whose only goal is entertainment and where you look at a screen, and when you click stuff happens. It’s an adventure game, and though the choices telltale made make it more of a story driven game instead of a puzzle driven game, it does not make it less a game. And who’s getting confused by this? Do people buy games without reading a short description?

  12. tsff22 says:

    I seriously don’t get RPS’s beef with SBCG4AP and Sam & Max. I freaking loved those adventure games.

  13. Premium User Badge

    JR says:

    “Alec: I’d like to see ‘em do their own thing entirely.”

    Puzzle Agent?
    I swear even Telltale have forgotten they did that.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      They’ve become (or hired) way better writers now, though. TWD had some very good writing, and TWAU isn’t far behind. Maybe they’re now capable of ‘doing their own thing’ without that being silly and boring.

  14. flat says:

    Not sure you could do a Columbo game. The thing about Columbo is that you see the murder, you know who did it, Columbo knows who did it, it’s just proving they did it.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      I always enjoyed Columbo, watching as the smug murderer is gradually driven insane by the relentlessly respectful pursuit of the friendly and polite gentleman in the scruffy coat.