Corruption has been a common theme throughout The Wolf Among Us. Bigby started on a murder investigation, but the case has grown even more insidious. The mysterious Crooked Man is extorting down-and-out Fables, and Bigby is in the position to make things right. Unfortunately, Episode 4 spends too much time trying to set the stage for a finale, and not enough time making the journey there interesting. Forget painstaking choices, fun dialogue options, and seeing the satisfying impact of your decisions; this installment lacks momentum, and is too comfortable doing too little.
Story arcs have peaks and valleys, but when a narrative is only five acts, none of them can afford to drag like this. In Episode 4, Bigby is trying to track down The Crooked Man, discovering just how far his power over Fabletown extends. However, this episode never moved me, nor made me gasp in disbelief. It merely shows more of the corruption and social divide, but outside of a fun fight sequence with none other than the Jersey Devil, the excitement is missing. The frightening Bloody Mary introduced at the end of the last episode is mostly absent, and big choices aren't factoring in yet. Telltale may be saving those for the season finale, but that leaves this chapter as dead weight that you must trudge through to see the tale unfold.
A lot of the Fables we've seen throughout of the season are shoehorned in here, and every arc suffers because of it. Beauty and Beast are the most disenchanting characters, and this episode doesn't make them any more interesting, despite their being crammed into the drama. You could cut them out of the game and I wouldn't miss either one. Colin the pig is also revisited, but he's also a pile of missing potential. In Episode 1, it looked like he would act as Bigby's conscience, but his role evaporated since then. Suddenly he's back, and we're supposed to fight for him?
The episode just gets too comfortable focusing on the same beats; every character blames Bigby for the corruption. Having it happen once or twice is fine, but it's constant. I felt beat over the head by the fact that shady dealings are occurring and Fables are mad that the sheriff didn't catch on sooner. Adding insult to injury, the dialogue options are some of the weakest I've seen in the series. Part of what makes The Wolf Among Us fun is role-playing as Bigby, but for the first time, I didn't see many appealing ways to respond, and instead fell back on the silent option, something I rarely do in Telltale games.
The choices also aren't that conflicting. The only major one that impacts the episode is choosing between two locations to visit first. Some different characters show their faces depending on your selection, but that's as far as the differences go. Telltale experiments more with having two characters wanting disparate things and making you pick a side, but these decisions are surprisingly easy - almost instinctual. The dilemmas focus more on which characters you like and what you think is fair given the circumstances surrounding The Crooked Man, forcing you to choose whether or not to bend the law for certain characters. They just don't have the pressure or urgency that distinguished the decisions of previous chapters.
Other than seeing more about The Crooked Man and exactly who is involved with the crime ring, Episode 4 doesn't have much oomph. But you're already invested enough in the story that it shouldn't deter you from the finale. Hopefully the bigger payoff is approaching, as Episode 4 ends exactly as it should (which is unfortunately a little predictable). You never want to give your audience too much in the lead up to the finale, but you want to make them as excited as possible for the final stretch. The overall story is still intriguing, but this disappointing episode won't be a tough act to follow.
Note: This review is based on the PC version. The Wolf Among Us is also available on PS3, Xbox 360, and iOS.
Does the episode before the finale pack enough excitement? Find out in our review.