When the first episode of Telltale Games’ fairytale-infused noire-esque thriller The Wolf Among Us first latched its jaws onto the PlayStation 3 last October, we were completely blown away by how well its comic book source material translated. Thankfully, the agonising four month wait for the story to continue has now concluded – but has it been worth it?
As you may expect, Episode 2 – dubbed ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ – begins with a cutscene outlining your choices and some select highlights from your previous outing with protagonist Bigby. Unfortunately, as with other titles from the episodic developer, the ageing engine is immediately obvious. Long load times, frame rate drops, and out-of-sync audio all impede the opening moments of the adventure, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of it.
Mercifully, much like the premiere of The Walking Dead: Season Two, these issues are less noticeable during the meat of the escapade, but as the developer’s ambitions grow between franchises, it’s becoming increasingly clear that its technology needs an overhaul. Yes, we know we sound like a broken record, but it’s worth keeping in mind before splashing out on this series.
As for the latest instalment itself, though, it’s much slower than its predecessor, placing the hairy hero at the heart of the story in more of a Cole Phelps role than the John McClane-style rouge that was seen jumping out of windows and breaking legs previously. That’s not to say that it’s without its fair share of action, but this is where the mastery of the ‘tailored by your choices’ school of design comes into play. Indeed, you could quite easily go the entire episode without raising your voice or throwing a punch, instead opting to use your wits and deductive skills to get the people that you visit to talk.
On the other hand, you can choose to smash everything in sight and beat up everyone until you get the answers that you need, but you’ll earn disapproving looks and snarky comments that will almost certainly come back to haunt you later on. In this sense, the choices that you make in this series may not be as immediately obvious as those featured in Lee and Clem’s campaign, but their subtlety allows them to affect the narrative in a number of ways that really make it feel like you’re making the game world your own.
It’s a real shame that the engine issues in The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 – Smoke and Mirrors are far less discreet this time around, but that’s genuinely the only flaw to date in a series that’s rapidly catching up with its undead other half. It may be more lethargically paced, but the revelations remain shocking, the crime scene investigating is stimulating, and the plot continues to thicken with each new piece of evidence that you uncover. This second chapter picks up the ball from the first episode and runs with it.