I genuinely don’t get why people have such an issue with Telltale and their style of games. I really don’t. Maybe it’s because the games are episodic, and people have to wait for new episodes. I partly get that. The biggest thing that frustrated me with Life is Strange was waiting for new episodes. But that aside, this game was so worth it! Granted, I got this game all at once, so I didn’t have to wait for new episodes, but still. So good! No joke, part of me really hopes that these rumors about there being a sequel are for real. Because I am going to be all over that! I want to see what new mystery can be done in one of the most visually and narratively interesting games I have ever played.
For those who didn’t know, this game is based on the Fables comic book series, which tells the story of a mass Exodus from the world of fairytales, with the creatures and characters of that world now existing in our reality. However, they have to work hard to keep hidden, with many of them using glamours to keep their identity secret. Those who live on the outside mostly live in a run-down neighborhood in New York City called Fabletown. It’s a very harsh place, racked with poverty and lack of opportunity. The person in charge of keeping order in this part of the world is Bigby Wolf. A fable with a very bad reputation, who does what he can to keep the peace. But when a murdered fable lands at his doorstep, he has to contend with corruption, schemes, and the local populace to solve the mystery.
What I want to talk about first is the art style of this game. The noir tone is all over this game, and I am absolutely in love with it. This game is a much grungier form of the old detective stories, but that same atmosphere is everywhere in this production. The world of Fabletown is believably-unpleasant. It was clear that this game had minimal resources for production, but the extreme sense of style still makes it work. It makes all the strange characters come to life so much better than I think any other style could. The strangeness can put some off, but from where I’m sitting, it works so very well.
Which brings me to the thing that makes this game work – the characters. I have said before that character-driven plots are my favorite kind, and this game had so many memorable characters. My favorite is, naturally, Bigby. This guy is so much fun. He’s very much the archetypal noir cop, but thankfully I love that sort of thing. Whenever you see him light a smoke and give someone a look of, “I don’t have time for this shit,” it felt so right. Then there is Bigby’s convict in hiding, Collin. The two’s banter is so fun, and even though their friendship may not make a whole lot of sense (given their history), it is still enjoyable. Especially in later episodes. If there is a character that I had to say I didn’t like, it’s Snow White. She is WAY too goody-good for me. Not to mention, her relationship to Bigby gets very muddy by the end. I thought that the two were developing something, but it kind of sputters and dies by the last episode. Odd. Though, to be honest, I am hoping that Bigby finds himself a gal who is more open to his way of doing things, because that is so much more fun!
A lot of people have gotten on the QTE combat segments of this game, but you know what, for all the times that it was annoying, then there are times when it’s awesome! Like how you become more and more of a badass as the game goes on, because he is progressively losing control of the ability to remain human. When you see just how insane his wolf side can get, it is the greatest thing ever. Even if that part of the game is frustrating, it is totally worth it when you get to see the full majesty of what Bigby really is, that he works so hard to keep in check. But the ensemble is excellent, and you can’t help but like even the biggest dicks in the game. There’s something to be said for that.
The choice aspect of this game is pretty good too. I won’t claim that it can shift everything. This wasn’t on the level of Until Dawn, but there are some neat little bits of plot that change, depending on how vicious you conduct yourself. There are some major choices, and some of those are so unpleasant that you do question what you did. By the end, a lot of the character that Bigby becomes is defined by the actions you take, and the amount of death and chaos you leave in your wake.
I will say that something that may be an issue for people with this game is the fact that the narrative does often get lose in the struggles of the people in this city. They never stop reiterating how ugly things are for those who live in Fabletown. Even the ending to the murder mystery segways with that message. Sometimes it can feel preachy, but thanks to the fact that the characters are all so likable and relatable, you get why they feel the way they do. You understand what poverty has done to this community, and led to the rise of very bad people. This isn’t SJW perspective of a social issue. Don’t worry about that. They do take it seriously, and even the villain can make a good point about it, even if that person is a complete piece of shit. If this sort of thing ruins a game for you, then you won’t like what you see here. But if you stick it out, I think you’ll find a lot to like.
And that’s what I can say about the game overall – there is a lot to like. The style, the characters, the investigation. People keep saying that this style of game is dead and should remain that way. But from where I’m sitting, this game was so fun to play that I am very pleased with what I got, and I hope that there is more to come.
8 out of 10