One thing’s becoming clearer as we turn the corner for the final stretch of Telltale’s take on the Fables universe: This isn’t just about a murder investigation. It’s about an investigation into what makes an entire underground society tick and what is deeply broken about it.
Looking back, you can see how The Wolf Among Us cleverly sowed the seeds of this right from the get-go, although it’s only become more prominent in episodes 3 and 4. The deaths of two prostitutes in Fabletown (a hidden city within NYC) is just what gets Sheriff Bigby to go on a journey out of his comfort zone and into the lives of the residents. What he finds repeatedly are fairy tale characters who are unhappy, destitute, and without hope.
Episode 4 begins in the wake of Bloody Mary’s attack on Bigby and the traumatic injuries that she inflicted. Bigby’s onto the scent of her boss, the Crooked Man, but he’s definitely in over his head with everyone running circles around him. Plus, what he finds is that this isn’t a case of black vs. white — the Crooked Man has ardent supporters who have nothing but good things to say about someone they see as bringing stability and wealth to the town, and the business office, which Bigby represents, is portrayed as not being able to fully protect and care for its citizenry. When the good guys are indifferent and somewhat powerless to help and the bad guys are generous and effective, it makes for a scary situation.
While there continues to be little in the way of puzzle-solving or serious deduction, The Wolf Among Us has really excelled at putting me in the shoes of Bigby. I don’t ever worry about which dialogue selection or action I choose — I just do what he would do in that situation. It’s as close to actual roleplay as I’ve gotten in an adventure game and it’s scary how effective it is. I want Bigby to be kind and helpful, but there have been so many people who have walked over him due to this and worked against him that it’s sometimes just way more satisfying to threaten and be physically brutal in response.
In chapter 4 he’s hurt and angry and still lacking the information he needs, and I can’t fully blame him for losing his temper with the populace. However, there was a moment when the butcher was giving him the run-around that I left Bigby slam him around and squeeze his face hard enough to leave marks… after which I discovered that the butcher was really an innocent victim who was also walked upon by crooks who took advantage of his hospitality. It made me feel like a heel, to be honest, and I couldn’t stop looking at his bruises for the rest of the scene.
I’m dying to know how the story plays out because the twists and turns that bring Bigby to the Crooked Man’s doorstep have kept me glued to the proceedings. It’s a heckuva fine story that’s all the more effective for having some say in how it progresses, tonally if nothing else. I hope that it will end in justice for those killed and for those oppressed. Maybe it’s too much to hope that Bigby will get a little respect from those he’s been trying to shield during the whole quest, but let’s toss that in too.