The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf [Review]
At first, The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf seems like it’s going to end like a cop action movie, with a final showdown between Bigby and each of the villains he’s fought so far. This is a Telltale game, though, and while a fight between the heroes and villains would wrap things up neatly, a battle of wits is more their style. Fans of action and the suspenseful conversation trees that have made this company so much money will enjoy the final chapter in this run, as it’s a constant barrage of tension from all sides. Will you say the right thing? Land that punch to keep yourself alive? It’s relentless, and you’ll be unable to look away until it’s all done. When it does wrap up, though, you might leave with a little bit of bitterness in your mouth.
The game goes through a recap of the last few chapters to remind you of the shape that Bigby’s in. He’s seen better days, and is not in any kind of shape to fight anyone. So, when you find yourself starting the episode trapped in a small room with five of the villains from the series, you can feel that you’re in a rough spot. Even if you’ve been playing Bigby as combative and violent for the other chapters, this moment will give you pause. Now is not the time to pick a fight, but the conversation and atmosphere all seem like the situation’s about to explode no matter what. I felt like I had to keep things calm when they were determined to blow up, and my options were pretty limited. After all, I had to bring these guys in, but what exactly could one injured wolf do about it?
What follows is probably the most action I’ve ever seen from a Telltale game. It’s nonstop quicktime events and danger, and since it followed so much tense talk, it was a nice break to just bust some heads. There wasn’t much wondering if I was about to do the right thing, because aiming at someone’s face and then punching it is the kind of work I can get behind. It’s an amazing sequence of events that still manages to infuse some decision making into the mix to keep things interesting. Not only that, but it contains some really great moments and fights, with some real surprises when it looks like you’re in big trouble.
All of that being said, the last two chapters have been setting up a Bigby who is in danger – one who shouldn’t be fighting huge groups of enemies and running through the streets. So, why was Bigby suddenly fine to do this? I assumed that there would be some sort of difficulty in having a final chapter that heavily focuses on combat given that the last two chapters, and the intro to this chapter, went on and on about how hurt he was. Should he really be doing all this? Even moreso, should he be doing all this without the game ever hinting that it’s tiring or taxing? It felt like the story was leading in one direction, but just tossed it out the window so we could have a spectacular finish in the final chapter. It was quite the finish, don’t get me wrong, but the story just didn’t seem to be leading that way.
Another thing that was established a few chapters ago was that the enemies knew how to hurt Bigby. One of the more interesting aspects of The Wolf Among Us was that Bigby had been set up to seem invincible during earlier chapters, and so I wasn’t afraid to make certain decisions with him. When I found out he could be hurt and killed, the tension in the series rose, and the next two chapters had me playing carefully – a little more afraid that I might screw up. Here, during an extremely violent sequence, we see no sign of the weapon that is his only weakness. It doesn’t make any sense since the enemy used that as their trump card in an earlier chapter. Why would they suddenly forget about it and not use it now? Nothing else worked on him before. Was it left out because of how easily it dispatched him, again making it difficult to end with such a combat-heavy sequence? It just seems like Telltale conveniently ignored some things so we could have a half hour of action, and while highly enjoyable, it soured much of the final chapter’s impact.
If this had been an action movie, it would have ended with this sequence, but this is a Telltale game. So, once you’ve got the villain captured, you’ve got to make sure he sees justice properly. This meant a trial for him, and all of a sudden we switched from Beverly Hills Werewolf Cop to Phoenix Bigby: Subpar Attorney. The villain and the people of Fabletown get to have their say, and you get to try your best to guide the conversation toward a guilty verdict. If you can.
This was far more intense than the action sequence, as while I love me some fistfights and chases, I never felt like I was as close to losing as I did during these moments. The villain actually has quite a convincing case, and there has been one fatal flaw in your whole case that you might have been neglecting the whole time – one I realized once the villain told me something. As it turns out, Bigby isn’t that great of a cop, and now you’re left trying to get a hold on a situation that is falling apart.
Negotiating this sequence felt a bit like treading water with an anchor around my legs. You realize very early on that, despite being captured, the villain is still very much in control. You need to work pretty hard to sway the crowd in your favor despite what they all know about him, and every sentence feels wrong. I pretty much didn’t want to choose any of the dialogue options at this time, having the feeling that none of them were helping. It felt like all of the work of the previous chapters had been a huge waste, and that no matter what, I was doomed to fail. It was quite a finale sequence, one that felt like a final boss done with only dialogue.
The tension during this exchange was incredible. I felt outmatched, and that I just wasn’t ready for this showdown. I felt like everything I’d done before wasn’t enough, and that I couldn’t overcome him. I had to try, though, so I kept playing around with the dialogue, hoping that I could come up with something to help or fix things. I loved that sense of hopelessness against him, but at the same time, I knew something that could turn the whole case around. At least, I hoped it would.
This is one of the issues with this style of game. I knew someone who could fix things, but the game wouldn’t exactly let me present that information until it had been set up by the storyline. As such, it felt like the solution appeared in the game without any input from me. The last testimony that I needed came from a character who just walked on-screen in a moment I’m assuming was supposed to surprise me, but that I’d been expecting since the trail began. Everything I had been able to say until that moment was just treading water; keeping the dialogue flowing until Telltale felt that they’d built up enough tension and could then do their big reveal. Instead of the player getting to deal the final blow, your job is just to keep the words coming until the game decided it was done.
This was where the game could have used a nice fail state, or a bad ending. The dialogue in these games seems good at guiding the story, but it rarely is. This was one moment where it needed to let me take the reigns if it wanted to maintain the urgency it had worked so hard to build up, and be willing to let me fail if I didn’t know the answer. I do like the story they told, but as a player of a game, I wanted to feel like I had a bigger part in the finale. I wanted to be able to call that last witness to show that I was a good enough detective to know to do it, but instead I had to feel useless and impotent when I knew what the answer was. I was getting mad because I knew what to do, but the game had no option to let me do it. It was a frustrating end to an otherwise interesting game.
I liked The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf‘s mixture of action and dialogue. It made for an exciting finish that should have appealed to everyone, but both segments revealed flaws in the narrative and the way the game is played. It’s still good as entertainment, but I’m disappointed at the moments when the game could have kept to its story a little better, or when it could have risked a little bit of player failure in order to be more challenging for my mind. I had fun playing it, but on reflection, it’s a weak finish to what could have been so much more.
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf is available for as part of the season pass ($24.99) on Steam.