Wot I Think – The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf

By Alec Meer on July 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

Well, how to do this without spoilers? “In the final episode of the first season of Telltale’s adaptation of/prequel to comic series Fables, the current storyline is concluded semi-satisfactorily and there are more quick-time events than usual.” There you go, we’re done here.

Fine. FINE. You want more? Fine.

This is a much more action-heavy chapter, featuring both a boss fight (which eventually plunges into dramatic and agreeable absurdity) and a car chase, plus the option to kill a fair few supporting cast members. Between that are some extended being-talked-at-scenes, leading up to an awkward kangaroo court moment that I felt relied too heavily on characters’ attitudes lurching arbitrarily, and made them all seem like feckless dunderheads for it.

Still, Cry Wolf maintains the tension and nastiness that has typified this largely great miniseries, doing a particularly good job of creating visually unsettling characters and a constant, gnawing doubt about whether what appears to be the right thing is really anything of the sort. I’m not fan of quicktime events in general, but they were well-judged and not too punitive here, and a move to more action did seem appropriate for a climactic episode. A drama’s final act so often depends upon a sense that everything might fall apart in the last moments, after all.

I also very much appreciate that it strives to make its ultimate villain be one who fights with softly-spoken rhetoric rather than fists/talons/axes/creepy mirror-magic, even if the options to call out blatant flaws in some of that rhetoric are maddeningly absent.

While the major denouement does offer a critical choice about what sort of character you want Bigby to be, it is also very much determined to follow its own twisting path (again, with the supporting cast’s opinions flip-flopping wildly in order to create artificial tension) and I found the lack of logical responses in some instances distracting.

For instance, pointing out that the character in question has repeatedly tried to have Bigby killed in plain sight prompts the blasé claim that it was “a misunderstanding”, which is not challenged further. Haven’t we all accidentally ordered a murder at least once or twice, eh? I know, I know – never look for perfect logic in the brazenly fantastical, but this was a lynchpin scene that unfortunately felt forced.

This has long been the key challenge these games face – they want to offer choice, but they also want to tell a story, and the tension between those dual goals is extreme. We saw it in, to name but one, Mass Effect 3 too – the writers’ conception of a fitting conclusion sitting ill with the players’ desired resolution to what they’d felt was their own personal story.

This doesn’t hand-wave anything away with space-magic at least, and most importantly it allows you to wind things up being the sort of Bigby you’ve consistently been – the big bad wolf, the hard-bitten lawman, or a little bit of both. None of them quite solve anything, and that it entirely appropriate for this setting, and the grudging alliances that Fabletown is built upon.

Looking back at the series as a whole, it remains the Telltale tale I’ve most connected with, but I don’t think it’s truly lived up to the promise of that first episode. Detective work fell by the wayside all too soon, too many of the supporting cast seem like dumbos who change their minds at the drop of a hat (the court scene put me in mind of one of Springfield’s angry pitchfork-wielding mobs) and – something I appreciate is wholly subjective – the ultimate whodunnit seemed a touch unsatisfying.

Perhaps Transparently Nasty People Inevitably Do Nasty Things was always the moral of the tale, but one thing I’ve missed is excited guessing as to who did what and when, why it couldn’t have been him because he was there, why she seems shifty and everything else that watching too many episodes of Columbo has taught me.

The thing is, this wasn’t a detective story. It was fantasy melodrama. The Wolf Among Us has a great setting, great tone, great music and at least a couple of great characters, and while there’s been a great deal of unmet potential, it’s a series I’ve really enjoyed. The sombre tone and bleak neon styling kept it high in my affections even when logic and flow were more troublesome. If it comes back – as a couple of post-denouement stings suggests it might – perhaps it will take a bigger shot at being a monster-tinged police procedural, but at least I’ll be more prepared for it not to be.

It’s important to note that I haven’t seen all the outcomes, though I have researched most of those I’ve missed. I am strongly tempted to play the whole series through again, behaving very differently (i.e. like a massive great prick) and then think more upon the series as a whole. It has been a good series, though I wish it had been able to aim higher.

The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf is out now, but only available as part of a full season pass.

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32 Comments »

  1. MuscleHorse says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. I think (and I’m surprised to be typing this) that I prefer it to The Walking Dead – Bigby’s such a likable character, as is much of the cast and the writing is (mostly) superb. I share some of Alec’s reservations about detective work falling by the wayside and the QTE’s being a bit naff. Here’s hoping for a season 2, especially if Colin becomes the player character.

    • Premium User Badge Jackablade says:

      I’d love Telltale to have a crack at working actual game mechanics into the detective side of things. A Fables game that picks up and improves on the elements that worked in LA Noir could be pretty amazing.

    • nFec says:

      I was very confused by many of the qtes. (Not the hammering Q ones, but the reaction ones) Whether I failed or not was not clear and from the scenes it seemed I failed almost all of them, still I never died. What’s the point of having such things if the win state can not be distinguished from the failure states?

      • Meats_Of_Evil says:

        I assume you mean the ones against Bloody Mary. There were some really fast ones when she was coming from the shadows and Bigby was on a pipe, I don’t know if I hit them or failed but I won in the end.

        • nFec says:

          Yes, those were very fast ones. But even before, during all the episodes.

  2. Premium User Badge Earl-Grey says:

    A-Ha, I see what they did there.

  3. InfamousPotato says:

    I thought that the series was fantastic, even if it wasn’t quite perfect. I loved the feeling of being a detective/sheriff trying to do his best in a town that’s falling apart, and also being the big bad wolf at the same time, who everyone fears (and trying to prove that you’re not one of the bad guys). I’m not sure if I enjoyed this more, or The Walking Dead, though I’m really glad Telltale decided to do something so different. I’m really looking forward to what Telltale has in store for the future. Just out of curiosity, what did you folks say for your last words?

  4. tobecooper says:

    I think it’s cannon that the fabletown folk are a bunch of feckless dunderheads. I haven’t brought You Know Who to the trial, though, so I’ve got to say my experience was different. I was mostly attacked by the people for being mad with power. They weren’t afraid of me, because I was nice to all of them…

    Also, go look to the Steam forums. They believe the ultimate whodunit is still not solved. I don’t think I agree, but that last scene was definitely an interesting one.

    • Baines says:

      The intelligence of Fables characters changes over time and with the needs of the story.

      Fables is honestly rather inconsistent, rewriting itself over time as new ideas are introduced and characters’ roles change.

      Snow White is an example. At the start, it is repeatedly mentioned by characters that Snow White isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. This is used to explain why she doesn’t catch on to certain clues, and why she does some stuff that just isn’t very intelligent in the first few story arcs. But while Fables is a story about a group of characters, Bigby and Snow are the closest thing to lead characters. Snow increasingly transitioned to “strong female lead”, which was apparently considered incompatible with “not the sharpest tool,” and Snow ended up no less intelligent than any other character (and sometimes much more intelligent.)

      Mind, basic realities of Fables were rewritten over time as new story ideas were needed, even when it contradicted established knowledge or led to things that just fell apart if you looked too closely. So it is hardly a surprise that character intelligence varied wildly over time, to serve whatever the current story needed to happen or the current position of a character.

      • tobecooper says:

        Well put, I agree.

        Though, I feel that the way they acted in the trial scene is consistent with your explanation. They change according to the action and plot. They’re all capable of being complete idiots.

  5. derbefrier says:

    Good to see season one is finally done now I can buy it.

  6. Lobotomist says:

    It is not detective story and it is not melodrama. What it is: Film Noir set into world of Fables

    It is wonderful narrative journey, many times more of interactive story than a game.
    This would be my only complaint.

  7. horsemedic says:

    The first screenshot expresses my major problem with the Telltale games.

    “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I hope I’ve done some good … Oh, none of it matters in the end.”

    If that was intentional, bravo.

    • tobecooper says:

      I think it was.
      Though, this one had a lot of decisions that differentiated each run. It’s small details, but they could be perceived as doing good/making mistakes. There are around three characters who can die or not. There’s a certain arm that can be lost, and some relationships are really nicely shaped by your actions ( for example Toad, Colin, Holly, Woodsman). I’m very much enjoying a replay right now, and I don’t think Walking Dead S1 was replayable at all.

  8. Baines says:

    We saw it in, to name but one, Mass Effect 3 too – the writers’ conception of a fitting conclusion sitting ill with the players’ desired resolution to what they’d felt was their own personal story.

    It is dismissive and misleading to describe the issues with Mass Effect 3′s conclusion as a conflict between the writer’s conception and the players’ “own personal story”. Mass Effect 3′s conclusion was poorly conceived, had logical inconsistencies within the series itself, and just all around was badly written. There is a difference between being unpopular because you aren’t liked and being unpopular because you are bad.

    • malkav11 says:

      To be fair, it was also very disappointing that the variations in said ending were purely based on one choice at the very end instead of reflecting your actions throughout the trilogy, seeing as that sort of reflection was a core selling point of the franchise. But it was -bad- because it was poorly written, inconsistent with the established story up until that point, illogical, disjointed, and arbitrary.

  9. draglikepull says:

    While I did enjoy the game to a degree, there were some major problems with it that really held it back for me. The inconsistent rules/logic were a major problem. Here’s a (spoilery) example:

    How come the Woodsman can take an axe to the brain and walk away a minute later, but a knife to the gut kills Georgie? What exactly is the line between characters who can be killed and those who can’t? It’s hard to get caught up in the drama of a scene when the stakes are unknown and shift according to an unseen logic.

    What made The Walking Dead work so well for me was that the characters were relatable and the stakes arose naturally from the setting and the characters. By contrast, in The Wolf Among Us it felt like things happened because they needed a next plot beat and an excuse to use a character, not because the scenes were logical outgrowths of what had come before.

    • mundy283 says:

      How come the Woodsman can take an axe to the brain and walk away a minute later, but a knife to the gut kills Georgie? What exactly is the line between characters who can be killed and those who can’t? It’s hard to get caught up in the drama of a scene when the stakes are unknown and shift according to an unseen logic.

      I believe it depends who is more popular with the mundys. I think I remember reading this in the comics; more popular fables are more difficult to kill. Obviously, the Woodsman is from Red Riding Hood, but Georgie is less popular (I’m not even sure myself where he’s from to be honest).

      • Quirk says:

        It’s an old nursery rhyme:

        Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,
        Kissed the girls and made them cry,
        When the boys came out to play
        Georgie Porgie ran away.

        • Meats_Of_Evil says:

          Nice, I didn’t know that. I enjoyed this game very much and talked to my sister about and she lent me a book about folktales of the world. Its pretty nice, I didn’t know about Bluebeard and in the game I was confused with him as well, I felt his introduction was not explanatory at all and he just came from nowhere. Its cool to know that his story is from France, according to the book at least.

      • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

        Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,
        Kissed the girls and made them cry,
        When the boys came out to play
        Georgie Porgie ran away.

        Kind of appropriate given his occupation in the game, I think.

        [edit] Strange… Quirk’s post hadn’t shown up when I posted mine for some reason, even though it “ninja’d” me by at least an hour or two. Weird. [/edit]

    • Baines says:

      In the comic book, it is theoretically based on who is more popular.

      But the comic book is horribly inconsistent there as well. The idea is introduced in order to pull off a shock cliffhanger ending, and comes up as an important plot point a few other times. But like I mentioned in another post, Fables writing is ruled by the needs of the immediate story.

      One character from a particular children’s story ended up looking unkillable. Seriously, the character is given absurd levels of overkill just to hammer home the point that that character is truly and utterly dead. Except Willingham (the author of Fables) made a spin-off series, and it was decided to bring that absolutely certainly positively dead character. But then in a later Fables arc, another character from the same kid’s story, a character that should probably be about as popular with “regular” humans, dies after getting shot in the chest.

      If the story wants a character to survive, then they survive anything and a hand-wave is made to them being popular. If the story wants a character dead, then they can die from wounds that would be fatal to a normal human. And Fables killed off a good number of characters over the years.

  10. AyeBraine says:

    Did you read Fables? I didn’t before I played the first 4 episodes, then read all of them, and played again – much differently. The reason why I ask is the “agreeable absurdity”. Thing is, if you know what’s coming in the next couple of decades, and what transpired in the previous centuries, you really look at this guys differently.

    Bigby is not a confused noir detective (though for plot reasons he had to suffer a “lost and confused phase of self-doubt”, so to speak, for Wolf Among Us). He’s an incredibly ruthless person and a professional spymaster and schemer, a combination of Columbo and Control, if you will. And, of course, physically he is virtually indestructible – that wolf-form is his normal body, as he is half-god.

    His gruffy persona is part disguise, part personality, and part “safety barrier” between really dark and powerful stuff he’s involved in and normal daily life – and his anger genuinely scares people, because they know what he can, and will, do. (Of course developers couldn’t show it all in the game).

    So when you play as Bigby knowing him, his impatience and anger take on a new meaning. He wields, or could wield, an immense power over Fabletown through information and artifacts he accumulated over the centuries. But he conceals it to keep stability, and plays the part of a grumpy alcoholic. And when people forget themselves in his presence, it really pisses him off.

    So now it no longer looks like artificial “be an asshole or act like a sane person” choice, but “restrain yourself or remind them who they’re speaking to”. They really should fear him, they would be insane not to.

  11. noodlecake says:

    I loved this series! There was one episode that was a bit dull but it was a thoroughly distinct experience, markedly different from any other adventure game ever besides borrowing from the gameplay style of The Walking Dead. I was happy with the ending. I don’t mind lots of quicktime events in this kind of game. It’s not pretending to be anything it’s not. Every conversation is a quicktime event, and every action sequence is also that, and it’s fine. I found the ending very satiusfying, and whatever faults anybody can have with the story, the voice acting, the choices or the writing, there aren’t any other games that really deliver what the Wolf Among Us delivers better.

    I want to read the Fables series now.

  12. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    For anyone that’s got a bug when they get to the epilogue (trying to avoid spoilers so can’t be more specific) whereby dialogue choices appear of 3 lots of “This choice is blank!” and one “…”, and stuff just gets weird and broken afterwards, closing the game and reopening it fixed it for me. I did do the verify game cache thing in between but it didn’t show up anything. Thought I’d mention this in case anyone else has the same thing, verified and found nothing to fix – try the game again, it may work for you now for some reason.

    • Premium User Badge Jackablade says:

      I had one where it gave the wrong responses for a couple of choices I’d made in earlier episodes.

      For those who haven’t played Ep5 yet, it may be worth holding off playing until the game is patched. It’s not as bad as the infinite loop, invisible characters and save corruption that turned up in the first series of the Walking Dead, but it does kinda suck if you put some investment into the choices you made.

  13. FataMorganaPseudonym says:

    “I am strongly tempted to play the whole series through again, behaving very differently (i.e. like a massive great prick) and then think more upon the series as a whole.”

    That right there says it all, I think. I burned through the entire series in the course of a day (i.e. it took far less time to play all five episodes than I was expecting it to) after the final episode was released, and was very tempted to immediately restart a new “massive great prick” run since I’d played through with as squeaky clean a Bigby as I could manage the first time. In fact, I’m tempted right now to start a new run as soon as I post this.

    • Premium User Badge maninahat says:

      I’ve been doing a giant asshole run at the same time as my “nice, natural behaviour guy” run, and it can be very fun. My favourite thing to do is steal money from the crime scenes and not share it with anyone who needs it (“Gee, I wish I could help but…”).

  14. altum videtur says:

    I strongly recommend you change that article headline picture since it’s a massive spoiler.

  15. Premium User Badge Jackablade says:

    I ran into a couple of story bugs towards the end of the game. One simply comes off as a continuity error, but the other alters the outcome of one of the more difficult choices which made things play out slightly differently (or appear to at least. Realistically it’s probably no more than a couple of different lines of dialogue). Didn’t make me terribly happy.

    The “player choices” section of the extras menu still seems to be locked too. Not sure whether that’s a bug – I can’t imagine any reason why it should really be the case.

  16. nFec says:

    My steam review:

    Not Recommended
    6 hrs last two weeks / 8 hrs on record

    While I was kind of hooked for the story the negatives overweigh:
    * You are offered information to come to conclusions on your own, yet you can’t voice them. Having to pick other options, or none, just to have others spout the correct thing at you. That’s annoying.
    * In some scenes it just doesn’t take into account what exactly you said before, it just goes to the default end. This especially annoyed me at the butcher. I never told him about something beeing wrong with the mirror. But in the final cut scene it was as if i did.

    The above are just two things about this that really rub me the wrong way.

    Of course there are a lot of pathways, but come on. Thats the only big part those devs have to focus on. Thats the main part of a game like this. To have it just not work as expected is just annoying.

    Also after the third episode bugs turned up that gave me a lot of “this choice is blank”s. Forcing me to restart the game and repeat the scene, after which it worked again.

    So for so much time to prepare each episode I am really disappointed with this one.