The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors (X360) Review: Deception Personified
The ability to release episodic content instead of a complete product can have both positive and negative effects. On one hand it means you are delivered a story at the pace the developer wants you to consume it, you have time to think things through and speculate what might happen next and are left chomping at the bit for when you will be given more. On the other hand it can slow the pace of a story down as you can't completely remember all the intricacies and you could lose interest in a story that perhaps you would have been gripped by, where it say a book where you can read it at your own pace.
A four month gap is not what Telltale would have wanted for The Wolf Among Us
and I have already said this shouldn't happen for the next episode, so does it impact the story? It is testament to the writing that so far I am still very invested in the characters and world, even though I maybe had hoped for a little more in the long awaited return of the series. In today's world of TV box set marathons and Netflix binges it's rather painful at times waiting for new content but if you have the patience, you definitely won't regret it.
Following Episode 1 was always going to be tough as it was so excellently executed in nearly every area. Being introduced to all the characters and their back stories as well as setting up what the main plot of the story will be was fantastic and trying to build upon that foundation is no easy feat. With a massive cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1, fans have been dying to find out more and that's where expectations could have possibly exceeded what you should have expected.
A twist shortly after the episode begins does somewhat negate the impact of it's predecessor but in the long term I think it makes for an even more interesting story, even if we are heading in a different direction to the one you could have possibly been speculating on for the previous months. The world and it's rules are really starting to take shape now and feel very fleshed out. If the term "Glamour" isn't a regular part of your vocabulary by now then maybe this game isn't for you.
Bigby is becoming more interesting and layered as time progresses and is really starting to become one of the great video game protagonists. Choosing to be kind to some while mean to others is not just a basic button prompt but rather a personality trait that you are learning to develop. I find myself for the most part being nice to someone in the beginning as I would like to think people are willing to cooperate with a sheriff in the middle of a murder investigation. But if someone won't help after being asked nicely or is being irrationally aggressive, I'm not afraid to get physical. Hell, last episode I ripped a guy's arm clean off for being a jerk.
The supporting cast also isn't just there to fill up the numbers but rather integral in both setting up the story and the key to solving what is going on. I am starting to feel sorry for The Woodsman after initially being very hostile towards him and wonder how many people know more information than they like to let on. Mr. Toad is still an hilarious character which is very well voice acted and it was nice to see repercussions from the actions of the last episode.
The introduction of Georgie is maybe the best scene in the whole episode as we see him in his natural habitat and are immediately filled with different emotions on how to deal with him. It is most likely that you wanted to hurt the guy and I don't blame you, but ultimately he isn't the worst person we will encounter during time in Fabletown. Perhaps the only flaw is that the entire cast can't all get an equal amount of screen time. Where is the love for Colin?
Once again the only complaint to be had is the frame rate issues and lag that like to rear their ugly head on a rather unfortunate consistent basis. Prevalent in both the previous episode and in The Walking Dead
, it seems to just be a problem with Telltale's engine on Xbox 360. It is not enough to ruin the flow or break the gameplay but a seemingly small problem that, if fixed, would just make an enjoyable experience that much better.
The adult nature of the story continues in full force showing that Telltale really isn't afraid of pulling any punches. We are tasked with examining a corpse, interrogating (with the option of torturing) someone for information, visiting a strip club, and also searching a murder scene. The dialogue again is excellent whether it's Bigby's interactions with Magic Mirror, Mr. Toad and his love of F-bombs, Georgie and his unique turn of phrase or Beauty with her almost heart wrenching pleas of innocence in the face of danger. The exceptional voice work combined with fantastic writing helps every single character develop their own personality which is the key to establishing the tone and setting.
Smoke and Mirrors
is a fine episode that is keeping with Telltale's high standards of late and is definitely a worthy addition for the season. By the time the entire season has been released I don't think it will be remembered as the best or the worst but rather a solid entry that sets up more than it progresses. A long wait does unfairly impact this episode more than it should as I really wanted more, another unfortunate consequence of Telltale creating such a fantastic story. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and am already looking forward to the next one. Let's hope it comes sooner this time around though.