GOTY 2014 - Top Ten - #10

Here it is: our list of the top ten games of 2014. The result of dozens of hours of preparation, discussion and debate, this list represents our consensus on the ten best and most-significant games of the year. Don't miss out on any of our Game of the Year coverage. Check out our full schedule here, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for instant updates.

2014 GOTY - 10 - Wolf Among Us
2014 GOTY - 10 - Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us

Telltale Games | October 11, 2013 (Episode 1) - July 8, 2014 (Episode 5)  | Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, Android

Though Telltale Games and its brand of adventure games aren’t particularly new, my introduction to their formula was 2012’s excellent The Walking Dead: Season 1. And because first impressions are always strong, I never thought about the possibility of applying that game's conventions to other genres. Imagine my surprise when Telltale ties up with another comic book series to produce a new adventure game, and it takes a very different spin from Walking Dead. I shouldn’t have been so surprised—great writing, pacing, and characters help propel The Wolf Among Us into our Top 10 for the year.

While Lee and Clementine’s story in The Walking Dead was one of survival and always pushing forward, the story that you guide Bigby Wolf on in Fabletown starts small and unravels into a film-noir murder mystery. Using the universe of the comic series Fables, the characters are all familiar storybook tropes twisted and turned through the lens of early ‘80s New York City. The player controls the Big Bad Wolf, and encounters the Woodsman (from the story of Little Red Riding Hood) early on. Snow White is the deputy mayor under the acting mayor, Ichabod Crane. There are even more familiar characters, too, and they’re all brought into the contemporary world in interesting ways.

So how does this game succeed? While The Walking Dead perpetually teases a new safe place for the player to find, The Wolf Among Us instead focuses on getting closer to the truth. Each episode peels another layer away, until in the final act you get to the core.

It’s hard to think about this game in our 2014 Game of the Year context and not compare against The Walking Dead Season 2. While Walking Dead continued well from the previous season, it wound up feeling like more of the same, and it was only redeemed by a strong second half of the season. On the other hand, The Wolf Among Us introduced a new world and characters incredibly well. It started strong and continued at a steady clip throughout the season. The Wolf Among Us proved that a whodunit can be as interesting as a survival adventure. I found myself much more engaged with the characters of Fabletown than Clementine’s new crew. As well, the requisite “your actions come back to you” sequence in the final episode of The Wolf Among Us was incredibly engaging and earned. It felt less like a moment in time and more something earned over the course of the season.

By now, it seems like a Telltale episodic game is a genre unto itself. I exploded in glee at just the possibility of the Game of Thrones series; I know the formula, and appreciate the different flavors it takes. And for me, it provided what I love most about games: An interactive story that feels responsive and alive. – Doug Bonham