The Wolf Among Us From The Outside – Part III

by Jeff Cork on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Telltale released The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 - A Crooked Mile, a few weeks ago. And like I did with the first and second installments, I rode shotgun as my wife played through it. Are the continuing adventures of Bigby Wolf and Snow White cracking her cold, non-gaming heart? Read my recap to find out.

Spoiler Warning: I’ll be discussing the plot and other game details in each of these posts. 

Neither one of us walked away from the second episode particularly impressed. My wife was bored by the tedious detective work, and I was ultimately just bored. (You can read our deeper thoughts on the second episode here, as well as what we thought of the first one.) This didn’t surprise her, thanks to years of television conditioning.

“I compare it to a TV show, where the pilot is usually really strong – and I thought episode one was pretty strong – and then the second episode has to do a lot of setup and backtracking,” she told me. “And then the third episode, it starts picking up again. I don’t think it was different from what I would have expected with other media, if that makes sense, since you’re still getting to know people.”

In one of the episode’s more intense moments, Bigby’s investigation leads him to a memorial service for a dead troll under the Buckingham Bridge. Bigby is ambushed by the shotgun-wielding Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the scene has the potential to turn bloody. At least it did thanks to the decisions that my wife made. Things went south, and the pair of goons ended up shooting the beastlike Holly and Grendel. It was a powerful sequence, and it marked the first time we looked at each other in disbelief. (We do that a lot when we watch shows together.) 

“There was more action,” she said. “And it felt like I was more engaged in the story. I felt like the decisions that I made impacted what happened and made me angry with some of those choices, like when we thought the people died at the funeral. I understand that they ended up living, but I wondered why did I act how I was acting, which again, I’ve been trying to keep consistency of the character and those are totally things I wouldn’t have done. I’m not a wolf, so I guess that makes sense.”

I was let down by the “they’re dead, oh wait, they’re not” fakeout, and I was surprised that my wife didn’t look at it the same way.

“I would normally say yes [it was annoying], but because of the realm we’re in it makes total sense that they wouldn’t die. I mean, if you think about it, it’s not like we’re dealing with human beings who then got shot and we’re like, ‘Oh, nope, they’re totally fine.’ It didn’t feel like I was toyed with as much as I would feel watching many television programs.”

One of the things I noticed is how much more at ease she is with the game, now that she’s spent several hours with it. While she’s not unfamiliar with a controller, she is more used to using them for navigating Netflix than game characters. Back when she was starting the first episode, I sensed that she was tensing up when the dialogue options appeared – a natural reaction for anyone, considering their timed nature. Now, she’s much more relaxed, which makes it easier for her to focus on Bigby as a character versus how his inputs work.

“Now I know intuitively to a certain degree how I want to respond to something,” she says. “It’s my character. I have a concrete sense of who he is. All those times I’ve paused before answering is because it seems that every time I clicked an answer it cut [other characters] off, and the longer I let them talk the more I got out of them. I had a better sense of how I would answer immediately; I don’t have to think about the character anymore. It was just, ‘OK, I know what he would do here.’”

At this point, she got a little wound up – which at least made me happy that she was getting invested in our experiment.

“One thing I did want to bring up was one of the feelings I was having while playing was that in the third episode it’s so weird to switch from answering questions to the fighting piece,” she said. “And I can tell when it’s coming – at the funeral, I knew it was coming – and that’s not a problem. But the limited use of it is where I have issues with it. Either use it a lot or don’t use it. Make the game either where you’re fighting regularly or making movement decisions I guess, where you have to think in that mindset or don’t use it at all. I’ve learned to prepare myself for it; I just think the game needs to decide what the purpose of it is. I think the use of it is so limited that it feels weird when it happens.”

I hadn’t really thought of it that way; I equated the action/investigation split as something similar to what you’d see on a typical police procedural show. It never occurred to me that the division between the two gameplay types could be jarring for some players.

She seemed much more enthusiastic about the game after the third episode, so I posed a hypothetical: If I wasn’t writing about her experiences, would she feel compelled to continue? “If you weren’t interviewing me about it,” she started, before releasing one of the longest sighs I’ve heard her make. “Maybe I would finish it, only because you’d be in the room and engaged with me while I was doing it, but I wouldn’t do it if I was living alone. But then I don’t play video games, so this isn’t shocking.”

I asked her to liken the game with a TV show, so I could get a sense of her enjoyment level. After all, I don’t think she’ll be living alone anytime soon.

“It’s no Arrow or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” she responded after thinking about it for a few seconds. “It’s like a Hart of Dixie or some stupid stuff like that, where there’s nothing else on so you just tune in.”

Ouch. It’s not all bad news for Telltale in the Cork household, though. She’s heard me rave about The Walking Dead, and she steered the conversation toward that series. “In The Walking Dead game, do you get to make choices?” she asked.  After telling her that yes, you do, and that the series is amazing, the response was immediate: “OK, I want to play it.”

It looks like we’ll have something to occupy our time while we wait for The Wolf Among Us’ fourth episode.