It’s been a long and agonising wait for the next part of Telltale Games’ take on the Fables comic book series, especially after the tense cliffhanger that the first episode finished on. I’ve lost count of how many times I typed “The Wolf Among Us episode 2 release date” into Google, and that in itself is telling of how well the first chapter managed to sink its claws into me.
The longer-than-expected wait is finally over, and episode two - Smoke and Mirrors - is finally with us. I’m pleased to report that it’s lived up to - and perhaps even surpassed - the game’s stellar debut last year.
Most striking about Smoke and Mirrors is its focus on a continuous plot. While the first season of The Walking Dead had an overarching narrative, each individual episode was, for the most part, self contained. Judging from Smoke and Mirrors - which picks up right where Faith left off and carries on as though there was never a break in between - Telltale are going in a different direction with The Wolf Among Us.
Doing this with an episodic game could have been a risky move, especially given the unexpected delays between the first two episodes, but Wolf undoubtedly benefits. The continuity allows for a more intricate plot than a standard episodic structure would allow, and means that events can play out in an organic fashion, without needing to be cut short due to time constraints.
As you might expect from Telltale, though, it’s the writing that makes Smoke and Mirrors truly brilliant. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on a Sherlock Holmes kick lately, but I can’t help but compare the script to BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary TV shows - it masterfully combines the complex and intriguing criminal plots of the former with the deeply human character growth of the latter. The murder mystery gets eminently thicker, while the seeds of Bigby’s internal conflict and relationships with the rest of the cast sown in Faith begin to grow.
Smoke and Mirrors is more conversation focused than the episode before it, with only one action scene, and this is to the episode’s credit. Like I said before, the strength of The Wolf Among Us is in its writing, and the sparse use of action scenes allows that to shine through.
Additionally, given that combat in the game essentially boils down to quick-time events, throwing in extra fighting and chases for the sake of appealing to the trigger-happy masses would quickly undermine the rest of the game. The rare use of physical conflict also means that it’s more impactful when it is present, and this is something I’d like to see more developers catch on to.
Smoke and Mirrors still suffers from the mechanical flaws of the first game, and particularly struggles with frame rate drops around scene changes, but these are minor annoyances in an otherwise top-notch episode that ups the ante for a game that had already gotten off to a great start. The release schedule alongside The Walking Dead: Season Two might condemn The Wolf Among Us to sit in the shadow of its big brother, but if it continues along the path its on, this could easily be Telltale’s best game this year.