Held on a pedestal for their storytelling, Telltale Games have become a main-event player in the past two years, according to most of the gaming public. However, one great game does not a five-star developer make. Looking at the much less interesting Season Two of The Walking Dead, a lot of people – including myself -were beginning to think that the studio was spreading itself a bit thin over their many upcoming/ongoing projects.
But, where The Walking Dead seems to be waning a tad, the turmoil of 1980s New York City is going from strength to strength. Currently on episode three of its first season – I can only assume there will be more if sales get anywhere close to the story of Lee and Clementine – The Wolf Among Us continues to use the lore of Bill Willingham’s Fables in interesting ways. It should also be noted that A Crooked Mile has had a very quick turn around in comparison to much of Telltale’s episodic history. With this type of model, it’s imperative to see a form of scheduled releases and two months is certainly an acceptable gap between installments.
A Crooked Mile’s strengths lie in developing the personalities of those that you’ve met previously. For instance, seeing a more compassionate side to the Trip Trap’s clientele like Gren and landlady Holly is a welcome change of pace and adds depth to their characters. Obviously, the tumultuous relationship between Snow and Bigby is still a centrepiece of the action and remains wonderful to watch unfold. Due to the player choice, Bigby can be cold to Ms. White’s suggestions, but retains a clear fondness for the beautiful secretary of Ichabod Crane. While acknowledging that their partnership is one of a strictly professional manner, Prince Charming’s divorcee (voiced by Erin Yvette) is evidently a warm-hearted soul and cares for The Big Bad Wolf.
Speaking of the Sheriff himself, Bigby Wolf is relentless in his gruff approach toward the scum of Fabletown. Adam Harrington’s performance is more and more believable as the series goes on. The Big Bad Wolf isn’t a terrible guy, but he doesn’t mind getting rough in order to obtain the truth, and Harrington’s delivery is pitch perfect in almost every way.
On the whole, more questions are asked than answered by the time the credits roll in A Crooked Mile. There are some little resolutions to grasp onto in this murder mystery and there is some busy work that doesn’t prove too fruitful at the end of the day, but at the very least, The Wolf Among Us still puts forth an intriguing story that is prepared to keep its cards close to its chest in order to keep you guessing. Intrigue is definitely an apt word too, as the final moments introduce a menacing adversary to the mix who will surely ruffle a few feathers in Episode Four.
Like other recent Telltale efforts, choice is seen as having a pivotal role and, whilst that is sometimes debatable, the developer has at least altered the way in which some of the more important player decisions occur. Yeah, there are those A or B moments which will have you questioning where your own moral compass lies, but the majority of those strategically sit in longer conversations with the Fables. There won’t be a big flag informing you that “this is important”, but come the end of your play through, you’ll see it appear as one of the “big five”.
One aspect that always lets Telltale down, however, is in the technical side of things. Up until the second half of my time with A Crooked Mile, I had experienced no glitches or bugs to speak of, but then loading times became a burden. On at least three occasions, they became almost unbearable and upon entering one area, The Wolf Among Us came to a screeching halt and stalled for a solid minute before regaining life. The studio appears to be getting better with these annoyances, but their presence is still noticeable and irritating.
If you’ve reached this point in the series, then you don’t need me to tell you that the twilight of an 80s NYC, with a pinch of neon, is just as pleasing and pretty as anything on the market. They’ve captured this moment in time superbly and the echoes of synth heard during a crime scene investigation compliment the aesthetic to the nth degree.
VERDICT: Bigby Wolf is a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of what’s tearing his community apart. A Crooked Mile brings out the best in his supporting cast, though. Having a strong lead is half the battle, but ensuring that the people around him can hold their own with their dialogue is just as important. Telltale are crafting an engrossing world with a plethora of deplorable and affable misfits, and Episode Three excels in showing this.
There’s still plenty to uncover, with two episodes to go, and things are setting up quite nicely for an explosive finale, but don’t enter A Crooked Mile expecting to get much in the way of answers. The conclusion will come soon enough but until then, enjoy the bloody, twisted ride.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.