Introducing The Wolf Among Us, developed by Tell Tale Games and based off of Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series. The game is broken down into five different episodes telling the story of protagonist, Bigby Wolf and his quest to uncover the murder of a mysterious woman. The setting takes place in run-down, New York City. Here we have Fairy tale characters or “Fables” living among humans or otherwise known as “Mundies” which is short for mundane, a word play against those non-magical beings within the game. We see fictional characters being faced with very real issues such as murder, poverty, drug abuse, and sexual abuse. That being said, there is a note of irony the game touches on with the idea of fictional characters tackling the real life and the very real struggles that come with it. Right off the bat you can see the accents of humor tossed into this game, having the name of the main character (Bigby Wolf) as a play on the fairy tale character, the Big Bad Wolf. One thing worth mentioning is that this game tries to take itself seriously with somber issues it throws in the players faces but still allows those under-the-breath chuckles to be found with a little more examination.
My first impression with the game was a very positive one, and still is. The cell shaded style brings back fond memories of my numerous hours thrown into Gearbox’s Borderlands series, a video game collection that also shares that same cell shaded art style.
What jumped out right away was the dialogue and the conversations had within the game and the power I had to manipulate how they played out. The choice of dialogue affected the relationship between Bigby and the characters he converses with. This adds a very unique element to the play style in that my play through of the game will be very different than that of someone else due to the selected dialogue and the relationships either built or destroyed by me, the player. Games like these always allow my curiosity to go hay-wire seeing all the effects of my choices and wondering what would happen if I were to choose another outcome instead. This curiosity usually leads me to replay the game and explore the different options. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to run through the game but It already has given me that want to do so in my free time.
The Wolf Among Us has a more interesting play style. The actions in the game are triggered through quick time events and button prompts. Other than that the dialogue manipulation and clue interactions is essentially the only things the player has the power to mold. This being said, is The Wolf Among Us supposed to be considered a “game”? As Juul stated, “Play is mostly taken to be a free-form activity whereas game is a rule-based activity” (Juul, 28). To find out we will look closely at Jesper Juul’s definition of “game” and his 6 criteria that it must hit to be considered.
Those 6 criteria are thus: negotiable consequences, player attached outcome, player effort, valorization of outcome, variable or quantifiable outcome, and of course, it must posses rules. Now through the lens of Jesper Juul, we will analyze the Wolf Among Us and see where it stands among the criteria listed. When it comes to negotiable consequences, the game allows you to pause and stop playing at any given moment with out any consequences to follow. You can resume at any time from where you left off to no penalty. Player attached outcome can be found numerous times throughout the game. The Wolf Among Us centers itself on the dialogue choices of the player and depending on those choices, the story somewhat changes and thus a unique story forms. The player makes a decision and that decision has consequences leading the player to stand with and attach themselves to his or her outcome.
When it comes to player effort, not much truly needs to be made to continue the game. Some puzzles are placed against the player and very difficult choices are needed to be made. These choices are where most of the effort is found. Some decisions leave you stuck between a rock and a hard place essentially. As far as playing the game though, there isn’t much needed effort on the player behalf, however in my opinion I would argue there is some effort needed to play the game and there is needed effort from the player to determine the outcome of the game. Valorization of outcome speaks to the completed choices of the player and whether they were positive or negative consequences.
This game prides itself on the choices of the player. The dialogue chosen will play a role in the end depicting the kind of relationships your worked to build or tear apart, there is no pleasing everyone and this leaves the player’s choices to determine the end of the game. The Wolf Among Us has variable outcomes, and is based on a “cause and effect” effort from the player. You cause a reaction in the game and there is a following outcome that occurs. As far as rules play into the game, there are natural barriers in place and the game allows only so many choices to be made to influence the game. Based on the criteria in place, I believe it is safe to say that The Wolf Among us is in fact, a game.