The news of The Wolf Among Us’ episode three release was quite a surprise. Only two months separate this episode and the previous one back in February. Compare that to the four months between the first and second episodes.
My first reaction was excitement at the prospect of continuing Bigby’s story looking for a murderer. The excitement increased when I realized how short the time had been since the previous episode, thinking (hoping) that maybe this would become a more regular interval of time in between Telltale project’s episodes.
However, upon the completion of this episode I am more inclined to argue that the passage of time between episodes is necessary. This episode felt rushed. Everything from the story, scenes, sounds, and gameplay felt hurriedly put together. Not exactly without care, but without a certain level of polish and refinement that is necessary for something this short. It is not as if the episode is ten-twenty hours long, where missteps are much more easily forgiven.
One of the first things I realized while going through the episode is that the game became more and more about just choosing dialogue options. Throughout the episode there are few instances where you get to explore an area as Bigby, inspect things, initiate conversations, do some kind of puzzle solving, or the QTE combat. Each scene’s purpose seems only to be to facilitate conversation.
When you did get some semblance of exploration and player agency, it was very short – and ultimately didn’t amount to anything. It was not as if I, as Bigby, were trying to figure something out. That certain clues were being put together to direct me somewhere else. Instead, it felt like I was exploring these few areas until I found what was needed just so that I could move on.
It felt more than ever that I was an observer and not a participant in the story, which should never happen in a game like this, as the entire point is to feel as if you are part of the story. Actual gameplay, in other words, was minimal.
The lack of exploration may be explained by the few scenes that take place in somewhere new. This episode features many of the areas one will be familiar with, as they were featured in the previous two episodes. The new areas themselves were relatively small in size and, with the exception of the final scene in the episode, very little time is spent at each. Of the new areas you do get to see, just one was particularly interesting anyway, and it was probably the one you spend the least amount of time at in the whole episode!
The last episode left us with quite a cliffhanger, which while that did not go underutilized, it went poorly utilized. The progression of the story in this third episode is relatively small and drawn out. It takes the entire episode to reach a realization/interaction that should have come near the beginning of the episode. That realization could have come as soon as Bigby had time to just pause and think about what he had just discovered in the previous episode, realizing it didn’t make much sense. There was plenty of opportunity for that realization at the beginning of the episode.
Instead, much of the episode is spent chasing something that seemed, not a waste of time, but not an impactful use time. There was little sense that the payoff for actually reaching the end goal that Bigby was searching for throughout the episode was worth it.
This is probably due to the fact that the story was highly predictable, even more so if you are familiar with the Fables series of comics that the game is based on. The entire episode you chase down a lead for a reason, that as a player, you likely realize is the wrong one. It was easy to understand that something much bigger was going on than just chasing the one man Bigby spent the entire episode worried about.
Considering Bigby, at least in the comics, is relatively good at his detective skills, he appeared much less capable in this episode. There was even a point in this episode where Bigby shows off those skills, which has a certain irony, as in the grand scheme of things he was falling woefully short. Realizations and certain “twists” in the episode should have been plain to Bigby, yet you as a player are forced to play along in his dialogue options as none offer any indication that Bigby has a clue what is going on. You are forced into his ignorance, which would be fine if that fit the character, but that is not characteristic of Bigby – which the episode itself tried to show off.
The redeeming factor of the story is the end, which itself is mixed. The episode ends by introducing the mysterious man who seems to be behind much of the troubles Bigby has himself in. That mystery, who he is, what is intentions and desires are, will be what bring me back for episode four. In other words, it finally feels like the real story is beginning – the real mystery – three episodes in. The episode felt needlessly drawn out – or rushed.
The Wolf Among Us’ dialogue has been fairly good throughout the series so far, capturing the characters of the Fables series quite well, in addition to Telltale adding their own flair. I bring that up, because a certain villainous character, one not present in the comics, appears at the end of the episode.
This character gave Telltale a chance to do something totally unique to themselves and create a character for this wonderful universe. Instead of a wonderful character, we got a completely stock villain that all will recognize as it has appeared time and again in many games, movies, books, TV shows, etc. Instead of an interesting and unique villain/character, we got a character that is arrogant, condescending, and speaks largely in bad guy cliches. Telltale is better than this. And while we were only introduced to that character briefly, I sincerely hope some kind of change/development happens in the final two episodes to bring it out of the stock and static nature it appears to be in at the moment.
While the overarching story of the episode is largely not engaging, there are a few moments throughout the episode that keep a sense of mystery alive and make you wonder about what certain things mean and where they come from. Those moments, sprinkled sparsely throughout the episode, will keep you interested just enough to keep you going.
On a more technical side, the game is still good to look at. There are some cool things you can see, with the few new areas, but even when you visit old areas there is at least some level of difference – like seeing it from a different angle, or focusing on a different part.
Some sounds were off however. There were a few instances where the sound felt like it didn’t fit, or it didn’t exactly match what the character was doing. There were also some syncing issues throughout. All of those issues are most noticeable in a certain bar scene. However, the voice acting is still done very well – no significant issues there.
All in all, “A Crooked Mile” felt as though there wasn’t enough content to fill it and that it was dragged out to accommodate what will happen in the final two episodes. It created a false sense of drama and tension, believing that the players were not smart enough to figure out the episode’s supposed “twists.”
'A Crooked Mile' is not at the level one has come to expect from Telltale, however, has just enough interesting moments and intrigue, particularly at its end, to keep you interested in what is to come.