The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors

Posted by Jenny Rouse.
First posted on 15 February 2014. Last updated on 16 November 2014.
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The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Life in Fabletown is no longer so simple.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
No love is lost between Bluebeard and Crane.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Georgie takes advantage of Fables down on their luck.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Nerissa has fallen on hard times.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Beast versus Wolf!

The Wolf Among Us

The season is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode 1: Faith

Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors

Episode 3: A Crooked Mile

Episode 4: In Sheep's Clothing

Episode 5: Cry Wolf

The second episode of The Wolf Among Us (Smoke & Mirrors) picks up immediately after the events of the first episode (Faith). An unknown murderer is on the loose, killing Fables and decapitating them. Having discovered only a head at the previous episode's cliffhanger ending, Bigby soon learns that the rest of the body has been recovered, which sends his investigation spiraling into unknown directions—and hits close to home. Outside of the murder of Fables, Fabletown is in the middle of a political upheaval—relationships between governing bodies and constituents are at an all-time low. Financial troubles have hit most of the town's residents, leading some of them to turn to the pimp Georgie Porgie to be rented out as strippers or prostitutes.

Unlike in the previous episode where moments of humor balances out the otherwise heavy storyline, in this episode such brief moments of relief are nowhere to be found. Rather, the storyline in this episode is decidedly darker and more serious. Additionally, gameplay for this episode has shifted from that of the previous episode. Gone are the quick action moments, replaced by scenes that focus on detective work, whether investigating a crime scene, searching a body, or interrogating witnesses. While I personally welcome these new additions, some players may feel that the absence of overt action scenes (with Quick Time Event challenges) may be slowing down gameplay in what is already a slow burn of a story.

The narrative element I enjoy most about The Wolf Among Us thus far is the sense of all that is happening outside of the purview of the main character. Fabletown is a living, breathing world. Characters flit in and out of Bigby's life when necessary to the plot, but they all have their own issues to deal with: Beauty and Beast's marriage is in trouble because they are keeping secrets from each other; Mr. Toad's parenting skills are questionable; Nerissa, the Little Mermaid, has fallen upon hard financial times. In other adventure games, such ancillary characters are often not well developed, feeling as though they exist to convey information to players as needed and little else. Here, I find myself caring about Beauty and Beast's martial future, wondering if Mr. Toad can change, hoping that Nerissa can find another solution for her financial strife. Perhaps more importantly, these characters tend to convey their stories not through long monologues but by more subtle cues in their actions and words. The environment feels natural and is not there solely as an information dump, which is a hallmark of strong writing—and only makes the story more compelling.

The decision matrix present in the previous episode returns, though the effects of players' decisions have yet to become apparent. While Bigby's decisions in the previous episode mostly impact on the lives of others in Fabletown, the decisions Bigby makes in this episode reflect mainly himself. Will Bigby try to coax information from a suspect or beat it out of him? Will Bigby push a clearly traumatized child to remember a horrifying experience or let him go? Often, it is a decision between destruction and diplomacy. The game plays around with Bigby's "Jekyll and Hyde" nature—quite literally, particularly at times when Bigby starts to fully transform into his Big Bad Wolf persona. The Wolf Among Us, while a prologue to the comics, implies that Bigby has been sheriff for quite some time and that he has not recently fled from the Homelands. I therefore cannot imagine that his struggle with the wolf is indicative of his adjusting to his new home and role in life—neither can I imagine any other reason to focus on Bigby's alter ego.

The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors continues to keep the story at a simmer, offering a few more clues to the overall mystery while fleshing out background characters and letting Bigby stretch his legs as the playable character. While the episode is short (the game can be completed in less than 2 hours), it is certainly engaging and keeps me waiting for the next episode with baited breath.

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