If You Liked The Walking Dead...

The Walking Dead brought Telltale plenty of new fans, so if you loved fighting walkers, what does The Wolf Among Us offer? Not only does Fables provide a big, epic world to explore like Robert Kirkman’s zombie tale, but the characters are just as fascinating. “There aren’t NPCs, so to speak; I think if you devolve something in your game to the generic label of the NPC then they’re not interesting enough for Telltale,” says CTO and president Kevin Bruner.

Those who want to feel an emotional bond with characters like they did for The Walking Dead’s Clementine and Kenny will have plenty of opportunities for forging new friendships. “If you really enjoyed the connection that you felt with The Walking Dead and the relationships...you’re going to get a lot more of that in The Wolf Among Us,” Bruner says. “You’re going to feel building those relationships and that really powerful emotional connection.”

 The Evolution of Choice

Choice and consequence is at the center of The Wolf Among Us. Telltale monitored data from The Walking Dead to discover what choices ended up being most meaningful. “We like that 50/50 divide when we look at stats,” Bruner says. “If everyone goes down one direction, then it really wasn’t that interesting of a choice.”

Making choice matter in so many different ways has been one of the biggest challenges during development. “Sometimes it’s a lot of work to make all the possibilities interesting...you get to a point where one really interesting thing could happen and one really lame thing could happen and you just have to cut that,” Bruner says. “If we were making a movie, that one interesting line would just rock, but we’re not making a movie. We’re making an interactive experience, and if we can’t make all paths lead to an interesting place then it’s not a good interactive story.”

This philosophy is helping Telltale craft interesting decisions into the game. A huge obstacle that they want to give players is balancing Bigby’s role as sheriff against his personal relationships with other Fables. “[You’re] bending the rules and interpreting the rules as the sheriff,” Bruner says. “[It’s] a really interesting thing to do because everyone in Fabletown has an agenda…you get to interpret other Fables’ motivations and how far you let them push the rules.”

He also warns that bending the rules for one character may damage your relationship with another. Your interactions also may vary greatly depending on your choices, which gives the player an added incentive to play through the story multiple times to see the different outcomes. Shorette gives an example of not realizing a character was lying to you in one playthrough, only to discover in another playthrough that they were deceitful. “As a writer, I know we’ve done a good job when I don’t know which playthrough I’d prefer,” Shorette says. “I think the replayability and seeing the different manifestations of these scenes as you play through multiple times is going to be really rewarding for players.”

To further drive replayability, The Wolf Among Us gives you the choice of when you go to certain locations in the story, which allows players the chance to see the story unfold in completely different ways. Two events will happen at the same time, and the timeline of the other event continues no matter what you choose to experience. Once you show up to the event you put off, it’s happening under a different set of circumstances. “To experience [the story] from a lot of different perspectives [and] to see what’s happening everywhere, all the time, you’re going to have to play the game multiple times, which is something we didn’t do in The Walking Dead,” Bruner says.

Telltale also learned from The Walking Dead that time pressure is an asset for choice. Not only will time play a factor in location choice, expect to choose between helping a character in peril in one location versus gathering fleeting evidence in another. It also factors into gameplay. Telltale gave the example of a chase sequence from the game and having different, timed options pop up.

Getting Action Right: Fight Like a Wolf

The Walking Dead received its share of criticism for not having the best action sequences. The Wolf Among Us hopes to change that with high-action, cinematic fight sequences. You’re Bigby! Did you really expect to never put up your dukes? “Having a character with powers like Bigby’s is like having something on a silver platter. It’s amazing for gameplay,” says lead designer Ryan Kaufman. “He’s really strong, he has this wolf sense going on, he’s very fast, and he’s tough.”

But don’t expect to walk around throwing punches at anyone you please. The fights are narratively motivated, similar to those in The Walking Dead, but give players more control. “Bigby is a fighter and he’s a badass, and so the fight sequences will be much more player-driven...and way more over the top,” Kaufman says. Players are tasked with decisions in the middle of the action that provide more control over the fight’s outcome. Because Bigby’s a Fable, he can take more punches in quick-time fight sequences than Lee Everett ever could in The Walking Dead. “One of the awesome things about Fables is that [they’re] hard to kill, so that means we can have really slam-bang cool fights that are fun, visceral, get adrenaline flowing...and then we get that coupled with the consequences,” Kaufman adds.

If you take a lot of punches, it affects in Bigby’s appearance, and characters in the world could point out that you got roughed up. Kaufman also gives the example of getting ultra-violent in the street and having someone notice. “We give the player a lot of opportunities to...have fights and to intimidate people, but that comes at a cost,” he says. “The cost is those personal relationships with Snow and other people. We feel like that’s an interesting dilemma to give the player: How far will you go to solve the problems of the people that you love, and will they still love you if you do that?”

 Your Very Own Fables Story

Even if you’re a hardcore Fables fan who thinks you know what’s coming, prepare for Telltale to surprise you. “We do a lot of clever storytelling moves that will leave Fables fans wondering what the hell is going on,” Kaufman says. “Knowing how it all turns out [is] a weird advantage sometimes, [but it will leave you thinking], ‘how do we get there?’”

Whether you are a fan or newcomer, there’s something alluring about creating your own story in the Fables universe. Telltale is striving to once again emotionally hook you by sweeping you up in a deep story, letting you build relationships and get attached to characters. Bruner finds it most rewarding when players look at the story and say, “Wow, this is really my story, I was challenged by it, and really feel like I own it.” How will you play your wolf?