A little over four months ago Telltale games released episode one of ‘The Wolf Among Us to rave reviews. This past week eager gamers were treated to episode two ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. The ‘Once Upon a Time’ meets ‘CSI’ story has been set and now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty investigating with Bigby Wolf. While not quite as intense as the first entry episode two does a good job of progressing the story while making you anticipate what’s yet to come.
If you’re even bothering to read this one should safely be able to assume that you finished up episode one ‘Faith’. You also likely finished it with the same gaped jaw that I did as the plot twisted in a completely unexpected way. Smoke and Mirrors unfortunately lacks that big, powerful moment and despite still being an enjoyable romp feels far less significant and impactful than the first entry.
Obviously, with this being episodic content, pretty much everything is identical to episode one in terms of gameplay. The story is the only thing that will change from episode to episode. The wonderful 80’s New York noir collision with the Miami Vice neon colour palette is back and looks just as good as last time around. It gives a real sense of authenticity to the story and when you couple it with incredibly detailed and well fleshed out characters there’s no denying that the experience is something akin to controlling your own movie. The new locations you visit this time around are perfectly imagined and even better the new characters you’re introduced to are a great addition. You’ll likely love to hate them (well a couple of them at least) but in true Telltale quality they’re perfectly acted and stunningly animated.
Telltale’s claim to fame is bringing the ‘choose your own adventure’ style storytelling to gaming and just like always every decision made feels extremely weighty. You’ll watch the timer bar slide away and come to a near panic trying to decide how you want to approach the situation. The nagging pop-up informing you that so and so will remember that or such and such noticed that is a constant reminder that perhaps you made the right decision, or perhaps you just screwed the pooch. The feeling that every decision actually matters is one of the biggest and most important aspects of The Wolf Among Us as a whole. In a medium dominated by twitchy trigger fingers and split decisions it’s refreshing to play something that gives you pause before you act. It would be nice to be able to turn off those notifications as you can in The Walking Dead but in my eyes that is hardly a deal breaker by any means.
What episode two is really lacking though is content. After nearly a four month wait we’re treated to an episode that clocks in at around an hour and a half. If you’re like me it’s more like three hours because I play as my preferred character and the character who makes all the decisions I’m uncomfortable with. Regardless, the shortness of the episode is really noticeable and some of the scenes themselves seem almost as if they were rushed and cut short to make a development deadline. One particular action scene (one of the only ones in this episode as a matter of fact) seems not only cut short but it ends awkwardly too. Perhaps Telltale is stretching themselves a little thin trying to keep up with two franchises all while preparing to work on another two in the near future in Game of Thrones and Borderlands.
Even though there’s less content and a little less action though you’ll still find yourself invested in the story. Bigby develops a bit more as a character as he dives into figuring out just what the hell is going on in Fabletown. He’ll have to make some crucial decisions and whether you take the hardline or the nice guy route the progress is a real treat to watch unfold. As uncomfortable as it was for me I did embrace the fact that Bigby IS the Big Bad Wolf and had some fun playing bad cop at times.
If ‘Faith’ was the setup to the story then ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is where the plot gets into the meat and potatoes of what’s to come. Bigby gets into his swing as an investigator and uncovers some killer (pun very much intended) surprises along the way. It is short but despite that fact it still does exactly what it should, which is have you eagerly anticipating episode three. I’m sure that after you come out of the haze of ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ you’ll be more than chomping at the bit to walk ‘A Crooked Mile’.