Push to Smart Water Cooler: The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1

We’re back in the new year with a series of informal, unscripted episodes leading up to our game of the year video. In the first Push to Smart Water Cooler, we compare notes on TellTale’s The Wolf Among Us and make our best predictions at what could possibly happen next.

Transcript

This episode contains spoilers for the Wolf Among Us and the Fables comic book series.

Welcome to the Push to Smart Water Cooler. Stacey and I are going to have a little chat about Telltale’s latest episodic adventure game, The Wolf Among Us.

The Wolf Among Us is based on the long-running comic book series by Bill Willingham, and serves as a prequel set about 20 years before the events of issue number one.
The first episode of The Wolf Among Us, Faith, puts us in the shoes of Fabletown sheriff Bigby Wolf.  After he is first called in for a domestic violence dispute, things take a turn for the worst when the victim’s head turns up on Bigby’s doorstep the next morning.
This turns the game into a full-blown murder investigation, and Bigby and Snow White are on the case.

Unfortunately, it takes an even darker turn when the killer appears to claim Snow White as his next victim.

STACEY: So, uh, what was your familiarity going in?

JAYLEE: Well, I hadn’t read that much. I think I read the first, uh…
I want to say, like, 30 some-odd issues of the series.
And I know you’ve read more.

STACEY: Yeah, though I’ve read the deluxe volumes,
which are the big library volumes they put out.
So I don’t really have any concept of what issues go where.
And I don’t know anything about like, the side stories.
But fortunately because Bigby and Snow White are major…
characters—oops that’s a spoiler. But yeah, Snow White’s not dead!

Bigby and Snow White are major characters in it, I had an idea of,
kind of, what was going on in the story and how I wanted it to unfold.

JAYLEE: Since you’ve read so much of the comics, how did that change, like,
how you played or how you felt about the game.

STACEY: Um, it did affect it a lot more than I thought it was going to.
Like everybody else, I played The Walking Dead right before this, and
I found that in The Walking Dead, it was more like shaping Lee’s character
and seeing how I could keep the group together, whereas when I approached this game,
it was much more, ‘OK, what will Bigby do here?’
Knowing how events turn out for him, what would be the most
narratively satisfying thing for me to do for Bigby,
which was a really interesting, very different experience from
anything else I’ve played.
Did you find that at all, even with the first 30?

JAYLEE: Yeah! Well, I felt like it was interesting because
you’re kinda trying to make, like, decisions so that his character
is cohesive and makes sense, not like what you would do with, like you said, with Lee
since he was just like a blank canvas. You do whatever you feel like you should be doing
or what you want to do. But when it came to Bigby, I was like,
‘OK, so knowing where he is, where he’s going, he would probably choose this.’
Or, ‘he would not say that, he wouldn’t be that much of a jerk,
but he’d still be THIS much of a jerk.’
So that definitely colored my playthrough but I don’t think it really took away
anything. Even though I felt more compelled to choose certain options
not based on my personal experience, I still really enjoyed it.

STACEY: Even though there are some choices that I really struggled with, like,
“OK, which one is going to work the best?’ I think they did a really good job
making sure most the choices did fit. So there wasn’t really a point where
he was going in a complete opposite direction that made no sense.
You could tell they really understood his character.

JAYLEE: Exactly.

STACEY: Yeah, that kinda makes me think of one character that I wonder
if they actually got right which was Snow White.

JAYLEE: Oh, yeah.

STACEY: ‘cause I know you brought that up in another conversation that we had earlier.
And the idea that Snow White in the game is very difference from the Snow White we first meet in the comic books.

JAYLEE: Yeah, Snow White in the comic books is definitely more… kind of,
independent, and she kind of… she’s a bit more wide-eyed and innocent in the game.
And I’m not sure if this is the turning point in her character where that makes her
the more weary, no nonsense person that we meet in issue one of the comic series.

STACEY: Yeah, I almost wondered if it was like a, uh, pseudo-retcon-type-thing?
I’m not sure exactly where issue 30 lands but, um, later in the series,
obviously she and Bigby do get married and have kids—not necessarily in that order—
but once they do become married, she becomes much more… subservient?
She looks to Bigby more, she doesn’t have a lot of adventures on her own,
and I was almost thinking they chose to make her that way in the (game)
less because they are going to make her become this kind of… hardened badass
that she is in the beginning of the comics, or if it’s more, like, ok, well people
that read the comics know her as this now, this is what we’re going to make her
in the game.

JAYLEE: That’s kind of disappointing.

STACEY: Though this is only issue one—er, episode one!

JAYLEE: I mean I’m sure that if MY head were cut off, I’d be pretty pissed!
So I’m hoping that she does turn into that bit more of a badass, a bit more of…
just a rounded character.

But to talk about something that I did like that
isn’t character related is the art style and art direction, which is just
breathtaking, and that intro sequence is just to die for.
I mean, it’s just a feast for your eyes.

STACEY: It sets the tone for everything.

JAYLEE: Exactly.

STACEY: It’s a beautiful sequence, and it’s interesting because it doesn’t try
to emulate the comic books, but at the same time, it totally fits.

JAYLEE: and it’s set in the 80s so it kind of has that kind of neon lighting,
but also it’s noir, and it’s just… a really great combination of the two.

STACEY: ‘Cause one of the things about the comics is that it switches,
not only art styles, but different genres—especially in the first few stories.
Like, the first story in the game—or the comics, rather—IS a murder mystery.
So it’s really great seeing them, kind of, go straight for those big genre cues,
and that image, and that music. It just works really well.

JAYLEE: and it makes me wonder if this game is going to follow suit—
If the murder is going to be wrapped up, and then we’re going to go into
the more political side of the Fables story.

STACEY: ooh! That’s a cool idea! I didn’t even think about that!

JAYLEE: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m hoping! Of course they’re going to
make multiple seasons since it’s been pretty successful.

STACEY: It’s working out for The Walking Dead, so why not?

So maybe this is a good time to talk about, like,
the big decisions that you have to make?
I don’t know if they ever did this before the Walking Dead, because—
but they always at the end of an episode list off the decisions that you had to make
and then give a percentage as to how many other players had the same experience
you did or chose the same thing you did.
So, did you choose to give the money to Faith?

JAYLEE: I did, just cause I was like, why the hell not? [laughs]

STACEY: Well it seems like, I did it too, and it seemed like a very Bigby thing to do.
Because even though he is the Big Bad Wolf,
he kind of does have that heart of gold. He’s gonna try to do the right thing.

JAYLEE: One thing that I do applaud it for is that I thought that was going to be
such a small gesture, I didn’t think it was going to be brought up later in the game.
If you give the money to Faith, you know, you can’t pay at the bar. So that was…
I don’t know, it was just very cool and very… it’s such a small detail,
but it’s the detail that makes it.

STACEY: Yeah it re-enforces that continuity. Yeah, ‘cause that was another thing…
I was sure he would give the money to Faith, but then when he didn’t have money
at the bar, I felt so bad. But then when I did my second playthrough,
I was like, “OK, I’m going to do all different choices,” and I couldn’t bring myself
to not give the money to Faith, so I still didn’t have money for the bar.

And there was another decision that it looks like they’re setting up to payoff later—
so far we really don’t know anything about it—which is you have Beauty and Beast.
Beauty asks you to lie, and you have the chance to actually tell Beast the truth
that she’s sneaking out—even though we don’t know what she’s doing. S
o, uh, did you tell Beast the truth?

JAYLEE: I did not. I kept it. There was a third option that was kind of like,
“I’m staying out of this” or something to that effect that he said.
So, um, I’m PRETTY sure I said I hadn’t seen her, but if I had to make the choice again,
I probably would have gone with that ‘not choosing sides’, ‘don’t bring me into this,’
kind of option.

STACEY: I wonder… was that tallied into the percentages…
was it included as NOT telling the Beast the truth then?

JAYLEE: I think probably. I don’t know.

STACEY: ‘Cause I… this is one decision I had trouble with figuring out
which would be the best for Bigby. Because I told Beauty I’d keep the secret
and then I did, but after I saw that I thought, well, maybe the better decision
would have been to tell Beauty that I couldn’t keep the secret,
and then to tell Beast that I didn’t know what was going on?
So then Bigby would then have all the cards to figure it out
as part of his investigation? ‘Cause he always seems to kinda be one step ahead of everybody.

JAYLEE: Now that’s taking role-playing, I think, to a completely different level.
That would be very interesting.

STACEY: Yeah.

JAYLEE: And I wonder if that kind of combination of decisions
would have an impact like that? I don’t know.

STACEY: Right, because usually in these games it doesn’t actually—
like Mass Effect is the analogy I always come back to—but, like,
decisions in Mass Effect don’t really matter. I mean, I feel like they do EMOTIONALLY,
but as far as, like, [laughs] when you’re playing your game for the most part,
unless you choose something really evil, you’re going to end back at the same place.
Um, so I don’t have a lot of faith that it would pay off…
it would be that nuanced, I suppose? But it meant a lot, again, kind of emotionally
in my roleplaying as Bigby. So I don’t know. I’m really interested to see
how they do that.

JAYLEE: So when it came to choosing between
checking out the prince or helping Toad and his family, which did you do?

STACEY: Um, I chose to go with Toad because it looked like the prince
was already pretty dead, and it seemed like Toad really needed help.

JAYLEE: Yeah! It sounded very urgent.

STACEY: But at the same time, I didn’t even realize you could save Prince Lawrence.

JAYLEE: Yeah, I did not even think that was an option
until there was the choice at the end—like the little counter of how many people
saved him. And not many people did for the record! [laughs]

STACEY: Yeah, I did that in my second playthrough and I felt that it was almost
more narratively satisfying, as far as being able to talk to the prince and
get a little more out of that character. But at the same time,
it didn’t feel right to leave Toad when we saw that the prince was pretty dead.
‘cause the characters wouldn’t have that knowledge.

JAYLEE: Exactly—that kind of forethought. I feel like Bigby would go
for the urgent of the two choices.

STACEY: That was another one that was interesting because
it totally changes your reading of the game too—having Prince Lawrence alive.
Because if he’s dead, it rules him out as a suspect—for me.
Because I was like, there’s no way the game can go any further with him
dead if he’s the killer. But then—

JAYLEE: an episodic game in one chapter!

STACEY: Exactly! But then it was like, Oh! He can be alive!
Maybe he still could be a suspect?
So that was really interesting to me.

I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere, but it seemed a step up from the way
in which The Walking Dead was divergent.

JAYLEE: And so, this choice wasn’t tracked but… did you rip off the arm?

STACEY: Oh, the guy at the bar? I did not.

JAYLEE: Yeah, neither did I. That felt like overkill.

STACEY: That was the once choice where it felt like there was one clear one
that was wrong for the character. Like, usually they make it,
like we kinda discussed earlier, so that everything feels like it could be justified
for Bigby, that one just felt wrong. It was too much…
‘cause there was no real motivation besides just spite.

Though I think the last choice, then, that they do track is the prime suspect.
Which, obviously I wrote off Prince Lawrence since I got him killed,
so who was your suspect?

JAYLEE: So I would have chosen Blue Beard.

STACEY: That’s who I chose.

JAYLEE: But I accidentally hit the wrong button and didn’t say anything at all.

STACEY: Well that’s still interesting, because that’s still—

JAYLEE: It’s just Bigby holding the cards all along.

STACEY: EXACTLY! Just like with Beauty and Beast.
That was another one, though, where I might have taken my role-play to extremes,
because I chose Bluebeard not because I thought that he was actually the killer,
but because I thought Bigby would think he was the killer.

JAYLEE: Back to that old chestnut.

STACEY: Yeah, because obviously in the first arc of the comics there’s a murder,
that’s very—kind of similar; Bluebeard’s the prime suspect.
And so I was like, OK, Bigby’s always after Bluebeard; he knows something’s wrong
with this guy, and this was his MO with the beheadings..
so he’d totally go for Bluebeard. But it’s too obvious for us—
for, you know, five episodes.

JAYLEE: Yeah, it’s very obviously misdirection.
So what do you think—we’ve kind of touched on this—where do you think
the next chapters are going?

STACEY: I have no idea. I think, obviously Beauty ties into this somehow.
I read—I think it was on Tumblr—someone had the suspicion that Rose Red
would show up and be involved.

JAYLEE: Oh, I hope so.

STACEY:…since she staged the murder in the first issue of the comics.
Um, which would be great since she has so much to do with Snow White,
and maybe that would explain why Snow White is acting so differently here
than she does in that first arc. Um, but I really have no idea.

JAYLEE: I think this is going to be, like, a very, kind of… Bigby’s kind of
going through his anger phase, and it’s just going to ramp up until, like,
in the end, Snow White comes back and Bigby is calm.

STACEY: Yeah, she’s effectively been fridged.

JAYLEE: Oh, yeah! Absolutely! But she’s going to be defrosted!
[laughter] So I’m not sure if that makes it any better.

STACEY: Yeah… I don’t think it does, but yeah.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. She will defrost.

Which that totally reminds me, we decided Bluebeard was our suspect,
but one of the big decisions at the end of the game is whether or not you’re
going to chase…I don’t know if it was Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dumb or the Woodsman.

JAYLEE: Oh, I definitely chased Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb,
because after the bar scene, I just felt bad for the Woodsman.

STACEY: I know! I felt that way too, but then on my second playthrough,
I chased him just to have something different, and I was surprised that in the
‘Next time on the Wolf Among Us” segment, he seemed to know all kinds of things
I didn’t think he would know. So that also makes me wonder if the Tweedle… brothers
are another misdirection. But I clearly have no idea what is going on,
but I’m really looking forward to it.

JAYLEE: So that does it for our Water Cooler discussion.
If you have thoughts or opinions on the Wolf Among Us, on where you think it might go,
or what decisions you chose, definitely put them in the comments,
get a little discussion going, and also check back next time when we discuss
Bioshock Infinite’s new DLC, Burial at Sea.

CLIP

“Come on, you’re scaring the lady.”

“Don’t worry about me.”

Credits:
Edited by Jaylee and Stacey
Music by DJ MapReduce
Footage from The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, and Burial at Sea

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