After the deserved and universal acclaim for their 2012 episodic release “The Walking Dead” (Set in the same universe as the comic of the same name), Telltale games have used the same “Choice and Consequence” formula to adapt another comic series- Bill Willingham’s Vertigo book “Fables”. I’ve only read the first two story arcs of the comic, but that was enough to get a decent grasp of what it’s about: a whole load of fairytale characters from various different stories have been exiled from their homeland and forced out into the human world. Those who either are humanoid by default or can make themselves look humanoid are allowed to live among us. Those who are not humanoid are forced to live at “The Farm”, away from prying eyes. One of the humanoid “Fables” is Bigby Wolf- once The Big Bad wolf who is now the sheriff of Fable town- a trenchcoat-wearing, chain-smoking detective. This game series is set before the comic, and features similar gameplay to “The Walking Dead” but with key differences.
Firstly, the “action” scenes are now far more elaborate. One of the very first things you do is get into a brawl with The Woodsman (the one from “Little Red Riding Hood”), which is controlled through quick time events, context-sensitive button presses and moving a circle over to a certain area and pressing a button. The fights are very messy, destructive affairs that result in a lot of broken furniture- they’re very much brawls. Controlling them is tense and involving while staying true to the established gameplay style (more on that in a second), and aside from the odd input not registering properly they work well, and are satisfying to pull off. Elsewhere it will be very familiar to anyone who played TWD; walk around an area looking at things, picking up anything useful and a lot of conversations. Choices made in conversations will affect the story later on (the “_____ will remember that” messages return, alongside a great new one: “_____ is afraid of The Big Bad Wolf”, depending on your actions) and said conversations are a lot less hectic and time-sensitive than the ones in TWD, often giving you more room to breathe. The conversations often take the form of questioning/interrogating suspects, which depending on how you play it can quickly descend into violence (there were a few times I punched people in the face with little provocation). It feels like words and actions can tailor Bigby’s character on a more obvious, immediate level and it does feel like there’s variation. My Bigby ended up being a gentleman to women but with a really short fuse when it came to men, particularly any who were messing him around. The core gameplay is satisfying and simple while also feeling rewarding and involving. The action scenes require quick thinking and are woven into events very naturally.
Where the game really shines is the presentation. The graphics are gorgeously cel-shaded with a lot of neon and nice details placed throughout the environment. A lot of effort has been put into making the game look unique to the point where (and I normally wouldn’t mention this) even the main menu is really cool. Seriously- it’s worth mentioning. It’s Bigby endlessly walking among a crowd of silhouetted people, smoking a cigarette as his eyes shift between human and wolf. As first impressions go it’s a good one, and a nice touch. The music is synth-based in the “John Carpenter” tradition, and the whole thing has noir-detective feel to it, which is nicely juxtaposed with the cel-shading. It’s pretty violent, too. Fables are very hard to kill, so Telltale can afford to have them get hurt, and they really get hurt. It’s a fantastic world to get stuck into. The story is kicked off by the murder of a fable and follows Bigby and Snow White as they attempt to solve it, questioning key people and moving through the case before a cliffhanger sets up the second chapter. It’s a good start plot-wise.
Any problems? A couple of minor ones. The game lagged several times during my playthrough, usually when conversations ended or I went to a new area, though it didn’t last for long. As I said earlier certain button prompts didn’t properly register during fights, but it was rare and you often get a second chance.
Overall, this is a great start to the new series. The noir themes, violence and tone all work well and juxtapose well with the excellent graphic style, the conversation choices and detective work are involving and gel competently with the action scenes, which are rewarding to pull off. The characterisation of Bigby and how your choices change him is really well done, and genuinely feels like it will be different depending on the player. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the whole “choice and consequence” idea the game is centered around feels genuine and fresh for this game, and doesn’t simply feel like “The Walking Dead” re-done with a different comic book as the basis. It makes sense to make the game play this way. I look forward to the next chapter, and anyone with even a passing interest in the title should definitely check it out if they can handle the violence and tone.
By James Lambert