Sheriff Bigby’s investigation — which is chronicled in Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us — begins to reach a head in its latest episode, In Sheep’s Clothing. And that’s appropriate, considering that there’s merely one more instalment to go after this one.
As much as In Sheep’s Clothing does right in terms of continuing to develop an intriguing cast and story and delivering choices with no easy answer, as a whole, it may be my least favorite episode of the series so far. Not for reasons like having a disappointing plot or constantly bad technical performance, but because it falls victim to an unfortunate trend that I’m seeing in Telltale’s most recent work: It’s over far before you expect it to start wrapping up, and with how engrossing and enjoyable each episode has been, this is the last game you want to experience that with.
After facing a setback in his investigation, Bigby is both recovering physically from previous injuries and increasingly frustrated. Thankfully, he and his returning partner Snow White aren’t facing a dead end for too long, as fellow Fables begin to come out of the woodwork, admit to some serious secrets, and begin offering the possibility for Bigby to put the pieces together and find out not only who is behind the recent rash of murders and crimes, but also what their overall agenda is.
This episode does a good job of reuniting Bigby and Snow with numerous returning side characters, including several that we haven’t seen for a while, like Colin, the chain-smoking pig who offers some welcome comedy relief. With the stakes ramping up, Bigby is forced to make some tough decisions regarding his friends and what to do with them, and following in the series’ tradition, it’s up to the player to figure out how to best go about it.
Though initial scenes are more about setting things up than being intense, it doesn’t take long at all for things to get very interesting. We get to see some intriguing new sides of characters we’re already familiar with, as well as some that we aren’t. As always, Bigby and the player have to think about how to react during conversations, decide which possible lead is the one worth pursuing first, and engage in some brutal fights with less cooperative Fables.
The choice-based dialog and decision making works as well as it always has here, though with one notable exception. Despite continuing to try and make Bigby as levelheaded and fair as I could, there were occasions where some of the dialog choices resulted in unexpectedly harsh deliveries from him, complete with cursing and threats. On a story level, it makes some sense, since the character is getting pushed to his limits at this point, but from the perspective of trying to get you to identify with your character’s mindset, it came off as jarring. Ironically, the last time I had this problem was also with the fourth, penultimate episode of the first season of The Walking Dead. I can’t help but wonder if this will become a trend when the fourth episode of that game’s second season releases.
In Sheep’s Clothing runs fairly well, at least on the Xbox 360. Stuttering in-between camera cuts is less frequent, and the whole experience generally feels smooth. Characters are also as expressive, three-dimensional, and well-acted as ever.
Going further, the plot is still engaging, especially since this episode finally starts to make it clear who’s behind everything and what they’re up to. The fight scene towards the end is appropriately intense and brutal, as well.
Still, this entry is far too brief for its own good. Previous episodes averaged a total play time of three hours, but I reached the credits for this one in a single hour-and-a-half play session, and let out an audible reaction of frustration when I realized the credits had started rolling. It doesn’t quite repeat The Walking Dead: Season Two‘s recurring problem of abruptly cutting things off in the middle of an action scene, and the way the final scene is set up and delivered still has me very interested to see what happens next, but the episode’s unexpected brevity definitely soured my overall opinion of it.
The closest example to this in Telltale’s previous games is the last episode of the original Walking Dead, but that at least made up for its two-hour length with plenty of action, pivotal plot moments, and its now-infamous ending. The fact that The Wolf Among Us is likely saving some of its biggest moments for the finale means that there isn’t quite enough here to make its length easily excusable.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that, as previously stated, it still does so many of the things that we’ve come to enjoy the series for, like naturally building upon its plot and cast, and letting the player have an impact on certain key events. That just makes the issue of its length sting even more.
All that being said, you should still play In Sheep’s Clothing if you’ve been enjoying The Wolf Among Us. I just think that, after being able to mostly brush aside problems with previous Telltale episodes’ length, this occurrence was too frustrating to do the same with. Maybe other players won’t have the same issue I did, but here’s hoping that we can get a meatier adventure when the conclusion arrives.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 4 - In Sheep's Clothing does a great job of setting things in motion for the conclusion, but its unfortunate status as Telltale's shortest episode yet sours the overall experience.