Once upon a time, in a land far far away… Or in New York City circa 1986, lives a community of hidden fairy tales. Here the player controls one Sheriff Bigby Wolf, or The Big Bad Wolf. In The Wolf Among Us the player follows the story of Sheriff Bigby solving a case of murdered fable character, both known and unknown, to keep the Fable community safe from the outside world and others who wish to harm them. As Bigby, the player must investigate the murders by hunting for clues, interacting with Fables, and occasionally kicking some fairy tale butt. You can even “determine the fates of other characters.” One problem that first caught my attention with the game was the character interactions. Because the video games comes from not only the Fable comics, but also the original fairy tales themselves, I found myself as a player immersed in a pre-established universe that I had no knowledge of whatsoever. How am I supposed to interact with characters if I don’t know the value of their relationship with Bigby?
This question really impacted my gameplay. Any character I met I wanted to interact with based on my relationship with them, and the possible future relationship that I would need them for. Without any previous understanding of the characters relationships, I was left floundering around trying not to make a fool of myself. As a player, this changed how I valued each character. If they seemed like someone Bigby knew, and was possible friendly with, I aimed to be as nice and helpful as I could be. With other characters, specifically ones who seemed like I had pissed off in the past or someone who just generally disliked me, I cared less for how they thought of me. I just valued them for how they could help or hinder my investigation, though I still tried to remain on the good guy side with my dialogue choices.
At the end of the day though, it didn’t really matter what the previous relationship was with a character. All that mattered was what I was doing as Bigby in the present. If I had known this earlier on, I would have changed how I interacted with different characters, knowing that their value only mattered in the current time frame.
The relationships that I created within the games time frame did impact later decisions and gameplay options, but there was never really a change in how Bigby was viewed, which really irked me. If I am not able to change how characters understand and perceive Bigby, why then should any previous relationship hold any value in the current time line? While I do think it is important for backstory purposes, especially for people like me who had no previous Fable knowledge, including bits of it through the game dialogue just made interactions more frustrating because they had nothing to do with the current universe or problem. The value of the relationships within a game should stem from what you create within the context of the game, and not from an outside source that you have no control over. Backstory is all fine and dandy until it prevents you from doing what needs to be done.