Smoke and Mirrors left off with both an appropriately tense cliffhanger and startling revelation. A Crooked Mile picks off right where we left off with Bigby at the seedy, blood-spattered brothel/hotel room now moonlighting as a crime scene. With a likely candidate for the prime murder suspect being deciphered through the discovery of some unsavory photographs, what follows is perhaps the most focused episode of Wolf Among Us yet.
Unfortunately accompanied by that laser-like focus comes an equally tethered and through-the-motions experience. Although we get a few brief moments of respite from the thumping pace of the episode with stunningly well-written conversational ‘quiet’ scenes between some key characters, the majority of A Crooked Mile consists of romp-stomping action and quick decision making.
A mechanic I really enjoyed from episode one makes a welcome return. Finding myself with three locations that held equally urgent business to attend but (supposedly) only enough time to visit two of them, I sat and stared down the branching screen of choices for a good five minutes weighing the pros/cons of my possible actions. Also as an added layer of goodness the order in which I chose to visit these places also held it’s own set of consequences and impact on the overall progression of the case. It was a wonderful utopia of weighing outcomes and guessing at the intent of certain characters, but turned out to be a short lived and illusory experience.
In the end I miraculously (and completely contradictory to previous information I was given) managed to find the time to make my way to all three locations without a hitch. While I understand that Telltale wasn’t prepared to toss a third of their hard-fought content for this section in the dumpster I felt like the episode went too far at times with this need to be all-inclusive. Although to their credit, attempting to remove a major moving part from a murder-mystery story is akin to chopping a limb off your proverbial narrative which has to run like a well-oiled machine at all times.
My own approach to interacting with this series parallels my favored alignment from my table-top days; chaotic-neutral. I enjoy walking the line between the caring, considerate Bigby and the reckless abandon of the Big Bad Wolf. I’m also increasingly interested in seeing how my somewhat random acts of alternating compassion and violence affect the attitude of my peers towards me as the season progresses. So far it seems that I’m treated with equal parts disdain and respect (fear) from the majority of the Fabletown denizens, except for Snow White who seems mostly shocked and sad for me and my spiraling moral compass.
At the episode concludes we have two very sinister, very legitimately antagonistic new players join the noir troupe in an explosive final encounter with Bigby and White that sets things up nicely for what’s coming next. There’s some good blood and mayhem to be had along with the usual cliffhanger goodness to hold us over till next time. After all it wouldn’t be a proper Wolf Among Us episode without a little Lycanthropic violence, now would it? The season is heading into its remaining installments with all the proper speed and intent worthy of the Telltale pedigree and I can’t wait to grab the next one as soon as it hits Steam.