A Request To Developers Regarding In Game Choices

Recently I have been playing through Dreamfall: Chapters, I’ve been having fun and it is serving as a good follow up to Dreamfall: The Longest Journey . There is one thing that I would like to criticise however. Whenever a choice is made in the game regarding another character the game tells me that the other person will remember that, or that this choice will affect the relationship between the two characters, or something else along those lines. Later when the consequence of the choice becomes apparent the game lets me know that my choice has had an impact on the game’s narrative. In all fairness this isn’t a feature unique to Dreamfall: Chapters, I merely use them as an example because it is a game that I am currently playing. The Wolf Among Us was guilty of the same thing.

On the face of it this would seem like a harmless feature but I have to come feel that it is a feature that would best be abandoned because it discourages thinking about the story. When it comes to enjoying a good story part of the fun comes from thinking about it afterwards, wondering what might have happened if characters had acted differently, and why they acted the way they did. This is even more true of games like Dreamfall Chapters, in which the player can guide the narrative and wonder how things may have unfolded differently. When a game sign posts the effect of a choice the effect is to remove all ambiguity. The player no longer has the fun of speculating how their choice has affected the game, they’ve been told explicitly what their choice has resulted in. The player doesn’t need to ponder the the nature of the relationships that unfold with the game as they are given all the answers. This takes away some of the mystery from the story and breaks some of the immersion of the game with its story. Imagine watching a movie, now imagine trying to watch that movie with someone telling you “that was important”, or “that happened because of that thing that happened earlier”. Unless you had turned on the commentary option it would be very annoying.

It also serves to highlight the limits of the game. No game can offer 100% freedom in what you do or how you change the story but a good game can distract from you this and make you feel like you really made a difference. If you know exactly what you did to change it then it highlights the limits of your affect on the story. This ties back to my earlier point. If the game didn’t feel the need to highlight the impact of every choice you made then it would be harder to pin down how the game is different because of your actions and choices. This would result in the game’s plot unfolding in a much more organic fashion that felt like more than the sum of its parts, rather than a series of set choices with a story built around them.

I should stress at this point that experiencing this has never ruined my enjoyment of a game. I raced through The Wolf Among Us because I was so captivated by the story. I am similarly enjoying Dreamfall: Chapters and I do feel like my actions as a player have made a difference. I just wish that the game didn’t feel the need to signpost every decision. Avoiding this feature would, in my opinion lead to a story that felt a lot more natural.

Sometimes a little subtlety goes a long way.

The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf Review

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Generally reviews are pretty straight forward from a writer’s perspective. Play the game, dissect the game, review the game. Even if the process is complex, the steps are rudimentary … that is to say, if the game actually functions.

In the case of The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf, the game ceased to cooperate so many times that it has delayed the review for weeks. Every time I attempted to tackle the game, it denied me access with bug after bug, as if it wanted to remain out of the limelight.

Cry Wolf is the most frustratingly broken episode Telltale has ever created, yet regardless of technical aspects and a few questionable design choices, manages to surpass everything that In Sheep’s Clothing attempted. That is, after  I was finally able to surpass the myriad of bugs that awaited.

The fifth and final chapter in The Wolf Among Us has you returning to the shoes of anti-hero Bigby Wolf. As with past episodes, you will once again get to guide Bigby on a path of redemption or destruction, that is, when the game allows you to actually make real choices.

A common problem with Telltale games is that they offer both immensely satisfying and stressful choices, but as a contrast, offer the illusion of choice that tricks the player into believing they’re a part of the story. Several times in The Wolf Among Us, be it Cry Wolf or Smoke and Mirrors, you will have to make what appears to be a hard decision, only to have your character guided to the same place regardless. It’s not an apparent problem until you’ve had to replay the game either due to bugs and frustration, or by choice, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

A studio like Telltale, famous for character driven adventures, has earned the reputation of provoking both an immense attachment to characters, and tough choices. That said, one must argue: is the choice meaningful or impactful if you know that it’s simply an illusion? The answer is no if you were to approach me with the question.

When you’ve explored every musty, dank corner that Cry Wolf has to offer, you realize that you are frequently stumbling upon story-breaking illusions. A good example of this is (introductory spoiler) when you have to chase down two cars, and Telltale deceitfully leads you to believe you have a choice, only to be forced onto the car regardless of how many ways you attempt to take the other. It is this kind of thing that really makes Cry Wolf frustrating and disappointing, though luckily for fans of the series, intense action, dramatic tension, fantastic writing and plot twists await regardless of this criticism.

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Bigby and the tale of the various citizens of Fabletown definitely comes to a close on this chapter, and almost nothing feels left unexplained. After four episodes of exposition and mystery, it’s very satisfying to have all of the enigmatic plot points unraveled and explained in a meaningful and memorable way. Some of the moments in this chapter stand out as some of Telltale’s best work to date, and though I’ve said that a lot, it’s commendable to them that they can continue to outdo themselves on a regular basis.

From the moment the Cry Wolf begins to the ending credits, there is not one moment of fluff or filler to be witnessed. It is direct and straight to the point without spending too much effort on down time. Telltale has put the more investigative, explorative aspects on the backburner to keep this chapter always in your face with its drama.

I must mention that this chapter suffers from being quite short however, but it never feels as if you’ve missed out, simply that they needn’t drag on which is essentially the very end of Bigby’s interactive story.

It’s nice that within the approximate hour and a half chapter, you do spend a lot of time engaged in the typical Telltale dialogue trees. You’re constantly arguing and reasoning with the people you meet or are bumping into again, and luckily, Telltale has avoided making every interaction feel samey and predictable, a major criticism of In Sheep’s Clothing.

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These interactions would be nothing if it weren’t for fantastic character development in the previous chapters, and that is made quite clear by how much you will feel yourself caring as the events unfold. Characters you despise, you like, and characters you like, you despise. It’s that third dimensional writing that makes almost every single character you meet memorable. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is either entirely evil or entirely good.

As mentioned earlier, Cry Wolf spends little time developing already established characters, but they nonetheless remain as unique and interesting as ever before, even if you don’t get to spend much time with some of them. No matter the importance of the character, they’ll make an appearance, and the finale wraps things up for everyone. It may not be a Lord of The Rings-esque ending that shows the life and death of each character, but no one feels entirely left out.

The ending itself is a pleasant surprise. It felt as anything could’ve happened, but the route Telltale took with the exposition, pacing and the final conflict was a fantastic choice on their part. It kept you in the dark until the very last moments, and struck with revelations and explanations at just the right intervals. The final conflict is heated and intriguing, and the way they implement the core mechanics and the progression of Bigby as a character to impact the ending is quite fitting.

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When all is said and done, Cry Wolf managed to redeem In Sheep’s Clothing with a hard hitting, suspenseful ending full of mystery and tension that any Telltale fan would be stricken by.

There are a few glaring issues such as illusory choices and bugs that prevent progress from being made, but once you conquer that, Cry Wolf is a game definitely worth playing.

VgamerZz_1Final Score: 8/10

Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf Gets A Release Date, First Trailer

Cry Wolf

Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf Gets A Release Date, First TrailerTelltale Games finale of the wonderfully bleak The Wolf Among Us has been given an official release date and trailer. Cry Wolf is set to release on July 8th for PC and PS3, and July 9th for Xbox 360 and iOS.

The Wolf Among Us has had it’s ups and downs, but consistency aside, the game remains as thrilling as it is emotional, and I am surely not the only person that has been anticipating this chapter more than any other.

Below is the first trailer detailing a few of the events that may take place.

If the trailer isn’t enough, Telltale has supplied two screenshots for you to gawk at.

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The Wolf Among Us Episode 4 Gets First Trailer, Release Date

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Telltale Games has released the first trailer for episode 4 of The Wolf Among Us, titled “In Sheep’s Clothing”. Along with the trailer, they’ve announced that the Episode will be released on May 27 for PC and Mac, May 28 for PS3 and Xbox 360, and May 29 for iOS.

Has the Wolf met his match? Beaten and bloody, Bigby is confronted by the realization that a society built on secrets is ripe for exploitation. And that the disenfranchised of Fabletown may see his prey not as the cause of their problems, but as their solution. Constantly caught between ‘the rules’ and doing the right thing, Bigby must tread a path fraught with danger in this penultimate episode of The Wolf Among Us.

I have been enamoured by Telltale’s take on The Wolf Among Us, and if A Crooked Mile is any indication of how excellent In Sheep’s Clothing will be, we’re in for a dramatic treat.

The Wolf Among Us: Why Do They Want Crane?

Crane

Ichabod Crane is wanted by everyone in the third episode of The Wolf Among Us, A Crooked Mile. Not even his deputy days were able to give him as much popularity as now. Sadly, the motives are not the best. Bigby and Snow want to arrest him for fraud and attempted murder of Lily and Faith. The common Fables want him for being a shameless criminal and the Crooked Man gang is pursuing him for unknown reasons. Find out in detail why the different fable factions want to catch Crane.

The Wolf Among Us The Business Office: Bigby, Bluebeard, Bufkin and Snow

The Business Office, mainly represented by Bigby and Snow, is hunting Crane for multiple crimes. At the end of the second episode, Smoke and Mirrors, Bigby found harsh evidence pointing towards Crane as the prime suspect of Lily’s murder. It’s also known that Crane has been deviating public funds and denying his deputy mayor obligations. But these were previously acknowledged by the pair, what triggered the detention however, was Crane’s involvement with possibly two fable murders. After the events of A Crooked Mile, it becomes clear that Crane might be a lot of things but murderer is not one of them; he’s simply too coward and too fond of Snow to have killed her imitation.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’ Woodland Citizens: Beauty, Beast, Grendel, Holly and Jack

The Woodland Citizens have been drastically unpleased about Crane’s lack of intervention as Fabletown’s deputy mayor. The president neglected most of the requests sent by fable residents and the social system was never part of his priority list. Things became so ugly that some female fables had to resort to filthy jobs for a living. Now, that the rumor concerning his murdering involvement is out, the Woodland Citizens demand justice but they probably won’t get it so soon.

The Wolf Among Us Pudding & Pie Employees: Georgie, Nerissa and Vivian

The mysteries surrounding the Pudding & Pie are endless. However, for some reason the employees seem to want Crane behind bars. Perhaps, because they’re convinced that he’s the true culprit. Or maybe they’re being forced to act this way. Nerissa usually uses a peculiar phrase when someone asks her too much: “My lips are sealed”. Her deceased colleague Faith used to say the same. They’re clearly hiding something and everything indicated the Pudding & Pie is related to the Crooked Man and the fable murders.

The Wolf Among Us The Crooked Man Gang: Bloody Mary, Crooked Man, Tim and the Tweedle Brothers

The greatest enigma of the third episode lays on The Crooked Man intentions. Why does he want Crane? Wouldn’t it be easier to let Bigby take him away? Guilty or not, Crane would pay for a crime he possibly didn’t commit but that would be nothing more than a win-win situation for The Crooked Man. My bet is that Crane owns him something, most likely money. Perhaps, Crane got a few loans from this cruel man and now that he’s no longer a mayor, he has no way to pay his debts. But it could be something else too. Is Crane entangled with this lawless gang? Could he maybe, be using their services to get closer to Snow and satisfy his fantasies?

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’ New Characters

Crooked Mile

A Crooked Mile, the third episode of The Wolf Among Us, introduces a new set of fables with very peculiar fates in which some of them are predestined to change the course of the upcoming episodes. The new reinforcements promise a strong antagonist force, as well as a talented ally frontier gifted with exceptional aptitudes. Among witches, doctors, janitors and vicious killers, this new episode really brings a huge amount of diversity. Meet all the new characters presented in A Crooked Mile.

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1. Auntie Greenleaf

Aunty Greenleaf is one of the few rogue witches living outside of the 13th Floor magic group. She sells illegal spells in Fabletown’s black market and she has been supplying Ichabod Crane with illegal glamours for the past few years. Greenleaf is a nature and animal lover and she relies on her ancient tree to perform magical deeds. However, she’s now working for Bigby, meaning her underworld days have come to an end.

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2. Bloody Mary

This ruthless and vicious antagonist seems to be a higher rank of the Crooked Man’s gang. Bloody Mary kills for fun and she is proud of her malicious spirit. She has been working with the Tweedles Twins and for some reason she has been hunting Ichabod Crane. It’s not clear yet but everything indicates that she’s directly involved with the murder of Faith and Lily.

The Wolf Among Us Crooked Man
3. Crooked Man

The Crooked Man is supposedly the main antagonist of the story and he seems to be behind all the criminal incidents in The Wolf Among Us. He directly employs the Tweedles, Bloody Mary and Georgie from the Pudding & Pie. Consequently, he has all the girls under control, explaining the famous phrase “my lips are sealed”.

The Wolf Among Us Swineheart

4. Doctor Swineheart

Swineheart is Fabletown’s resident physician and he has become a notorious ally by tending to Bigby, Grendel, Holly and Snow’s wounds. He runs the Special Research Section of the Knights of Malta Hospital and he’s skilled at the art of instrumental surgery. Also, he seems to be a kind and generous fable and he usually advices other fables.

The Wolf Among Us Flycatcher

5. Flycatcher

Flycatcher used to be a prince but after losing his family at the Woodlands, he came to Fabletown to become a janitor. He has been hired by the Tweedle brothers to maintain their office and he doesn’t seem too concerned about the town issues. He’s a true workaholic and he uses his endless work tasks to deny himself and his past.

The Wolf Among Us Tim

6. Tiny Tim

Very little is known about Tiny Tim. He is seen driving the Crooked Man’s limousine at the end of the episode, which indicates that he’s most likely his devoted driver.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’ Review

Crooked Mile

A Crooked Mile pursuits the escape of prime suspect Ichabod Crane, who was found guilty of murdering Lily during the previous episode, Smoke and Mirrors. The whole story revolves around the previous events discovered in the Open Arms Hotel and the possibility of new involvements. Finding the truth is the main priority for Bigby and the deputy department but when things seem to be finding its route, everything just becomes even more complicated.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’
Bigby starts by examining Crane’s desk.

1. Gameplay: Following the Leads

Gameplay Score: 8/10

In this new episode the gameplay is more centered in exploration rather than combat. As Fabletown’s detective, Bigby has to visit different places and search for possible evidence that might lead to Crane’s current location. Finding and analyzing objects is the predominant activity in this interactive episode. A bit tedious for some but it can be exciting in its own way. Solving murdering cases requires intelligence and wisdom and that’s why fighting is not the main focus in A Crooked Mile. However and as usual, combat hasn’t been forgotten and Bigby will get himself into deep trouble. Despite the few moments of action, they’re all much more intense and severe with profound consequences for the upcoming episode, In Sheep’s Clothing.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’
Crane has been stealing public funds but is he capable of murder?

2. Narrative: An Expected Reality

Narrative Score: 7.5/10

The great mystery in A Crooked Mile is set on Crane’s innocence or culpability. And as I’ve predicted in this episode’s preview, things are not exactly as they look like. Even though, facts lead to a single and definite conclusion, reality ends up being a little different. And that’s exactly what players must uncover through new evidence. I can’t say the new revelations are stunning but they’re surely promising. Moreover, Snow White’s speech is usually very biased and apprehensive, which indicates that the new suspicions are in fact accurate. Bigby is still far from the truth and the whole case is much bigger than they ever imagined. In the end, this episode featured a predictable reality and it didn’t bring anything unexpected into the game.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’
Choices become more relevant.

3. Innovation & Performance: Choices that Matter

Innovation & Performance Score: 7/10

The third episode of the Wolf Among Us allows players to decide the angle they wish to investigate. While perusing Crane’s location, Bigby has three places in mind that might give him precious information. But time is short and players can only examine two of the three locations. This is not exactly new since in the previous episodes, players could also choose where to go first. However, now there’s a clear limitation. Unless players replay the episode, there’s always one location that can’t be explored. This is a very significant element and it gives choice a deeper meaning. Furthermore, the game runs smoothly and the only bug I could find was at Crane’s apartment, where certain objects kept being accessible even after analyzing them.

Overall: Not as Great as Expected

Honestly, this new episode is a bit of a disappointment to me. After the multiple dramatic revelations in Smoke and Mirrors, I was expecting something more enigmatic and astonishing. But instead, the new narrative turns out to be exactly what I was expecting. Crane is indeed innocent of murder and there’s a huge criminal group behind all the incidents going on Fabletown. The real killer is still on the loose but with the appearance of new villains truth shouldn’t be as far as it used to be.

Pros: Choices that make a difference; several investigation paths to explore.

Cons: Lack of action and combat encounters; predictable storyline.

Developer: Telltale Games     Publisher: Telltale Games

Release Date: 8th April, 2014     Tested On: PC

Vgamerz_2

Final Score: 7.5/10

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’ Preview

Crooked Mile

The next episode of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us is releasing this week on April 8th and new stunning facts are about to be disclosed. Fabletown is living a true horror scenario with the mysterious serial killer on the loose but Bigby, as well as other Crooked Mile factions, seem to be getting closer to the truth. Will they finally get a glimpse of reality? Or will they get misled by devious information again?

Episode 3: ‘A Crooked Mile’ Preview

In the last episode, Smoke and Mirrors, Bigby faced many twisted facts. Snow White’s death was nothing but a glamour delusion, the Woodsman proved his innocence, Toad seems to be involved with the real murderer, and Georgie Porgie became the prime suspect. But the most stunning revelation was done at the end of the episode, when Bigby finds solid evidence that incriminates Ichabod Crane. Now, in A Crooked Mile, everyone’s trying to catch the hypothetical guilty one. But if there’s anything to be aware of with the past two episodes is the fact that what normally seems to be ends up being something else. So, I’m quite confident that Ichabod is not the killer. He might have been involved with the murdered girls somehow but that’s probably all there is to discover.

Telltale Games has recently launched a release trailer for the third episode with more accurate information about the upcoming events. Watch it here but be aware of the spoilers:

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Destroying the Mirror will disable Bigby from finding Crane and anyone else.

1. Ichabod Crane: Innocent or Guilty?

Every lead points towards Crane but there’s something that doesn’t feel right. Mostly because Telltale has been producing deceitful facts one after the other, which makes me think this is just another play. But that’s not all. Even if a few facts may incriminate Crane, where’s the motive? He seems to have affections for Snow White, despite his terrible temper. In fact, he deeply mourned her death and he seemed genuinely miserable about it. On the other hand, his escape seems a bit off. I know, when you run away it means you’re guilty… normally. But if you’re being framed for something you didn’t do and there’s no way to prove otherwise, then running away might seem the best solution for the time being. I think that’s the case, thus why Crane destroyed the magic Mirror. That way, no one will be able to find him. And who knows, maybe new leads will be found in the meanwhile.

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The Tweedles – Is it just business?

2. The Tweedles: What’s the Catch?

The Tweedle brothers are always intervening in this case. Whenever Bigby finds something, they are either ahead or aware of the new lead. They are supposed private investigators but what’s the catch? Who is their client and what’s his/her interest in finding the real murderer? Or perhaps, it’s the real murdered who’s trying to gather every bit of information concerning the murder cases. That way, he could always be one step ahead of Bigby and assure he’s never caught. But there’s another option. It could be someone willing to take over Bigby’s position. Finding the real murderer before the sheriff, would prove that Bigby is rather incompetent and poorly suitable for his position. Regardless their real purpose, the Tweedle brothers are determined to accomplish their goal no matter the costs and they’ll return for another fierce and steady rivalry.

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Grendel has done something terrible and the Woodsman is not so happy about it.

3. Grendel and the Woodsman: Trust and Betrayal

The Woodsman proved his innocence in the last episode. He might be an indecent man but he’s no killer, at least that’s what he claimed. But can the same be told about his friend Grendel? This fable monster is normally aggressive and unreceptive. More, he’s truly dissatisfied with Bigby lack of results. Would it be surprising that he has taken action into his own hands? In the new trailer, Grendel and the Woodsman can be seen fighting. What’s left to know, however, is why the two friends are being hostile towards each other.

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Changes are coming to Fabletown under the name of Bluebeard.

4. Bluebeard: Wind of Changes

With Crane gone, the presidency seat is empty but not for long. Bluebeard, a rich and famous fable will step up and get a hold of the town’s management. The curious fact is that Bluebeard used to be a serial killer, however he seems to be a bit different now and devoted to his new ambitions. Power is always a main attraction for the wealthy ones but could there be any hidden motives behind his presidency desires? If by any chance Bluebeard killed Faith and Lilly, then it would make perfect sense to frame Crane and take his seat – security guaranteed.

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The big bad wolf will reveal his true form in A Crooked Mile.

5. Bigby: Losing Control

Since the ending of episode one, Bigby has been previewed to lose control and assume his true fable form – a big and frightening werewolf. It seems that episode three will feature that anticipated moment, where for some reason Bigby will embrace his wild shape. Will he be forced to break his humanity to fight back? Or will pressure and commitment lead him to a breakdown? I’m not sure what will make him go wild but one thing is for sure, it has to be a very strong and meaningful event.

6. ‘You Have No Idea of What’s Going On’

In the end, players really have no clue of what’s going on. And no matter how much prediction is done, there are always a couple of unexpected revelations that turn tables around. In the new trailer, a female voice resembling Holly’s states: You have no idea of what’s going on. Do you? And that’s exactly how I would describe the storyline until now. Nothing is conclusive, everything is uncertain. But isn’t this surprise element that keeps the story going? What makes players engaged and thrilled with the next episodes? It’s obvious that this play-act will eventually end but for now, it will continue as fierce as ever.