Telltale Games isn't always known for taking the conventional path in game design. Sure, it deals with a number of conventional licenses, like "Back To the Future," "Jurassic Park" and "The Walking Dead," but the team's storytelling style allows them to blaze their own path and create interesting -- and entertaining -- new scenarios as a result. That's certainly true for "The Walking Dead," which stands as one of the best games from last year.

Now we have "The Wolf Among Us," a series adapted from Bill Willingham's "Fables" series. The first chapter, "Faith" is now available for download on PC and Xbox Live and is coming this Tuesday to PlayStation Network. Though it leaves some questions open for the next few chapters -- as well as some slightly needed tweaks with gameplay -- it definitely opens up a new saga that fans of Telltale and newcomers alike shouldn't miss.

The story focuses on Bigby Wolf, a sheriff that resides over Fabletown. This is a New York dwelling where several fantasy-based characters hang out, wearing "familiar" skin in order to fit in with the rest of humanity. Bigby just expects a quiet night to go by, but a run-in with a mysterious girl named Faith -- and a nasty battle with his adversary The Woodsman -- changes things in a hurry.

Since this is a Telltale game, it doesn't work with straightforward action. Instead, as you're battling enemies, you're prompted to hit the analog stick in a certain direction at times, like a Quicktime event, and guide an on-screen cursor to specific parts on the screen during other times. It's a system that takes some getting used to -- the cursor moves a little fast at times -- but it leads to great moments during each fight.

It's not all about action, either. Rather, it's about interaction. You'll deal with a number of characters in Fabletown, including a toad that slips out of his skin long enough to be spotted by Bigby, and a run-in with the Beauty and the Beast that isn't quite as expected. That's where "The Wolf Among Us'" charm mostly lies: in being unconventional, while at the same time telling a story that sticks with you.

The gameplay can drag a bit at times, especially during investigations, but it still sticks with you, mainly because the choices you make can change the story at the drop of a hat. If you're nice to a character, or meaner than expected, they'll "remember that," just like in "The Walking Dead," and it'll have an effect somehow later on. This dynamic works amazingly well here, and keeps you enthralled through the two-something hours of play. Who knows, you just might come around again to see where different decisions lead.

Another terrific aspect to "The Wolf Among Us" is its presentation. The cel-shaded design and seedy backdrops tell their own story here and really draws you in for this episode and those to come. Sometimes the action slows down a bit, but overall it's a great experience, right up there with Willingham's original vision. The music and dialogue are also high in quality, the usual Telltale standard, although there are a couple of groan-worthy lines put in just to keep the story moving. It's no big deal, though -- you'll stick around to the end, hungry for more. Just like a wolf should be.

Even if you've never read the "Fables" comics, "The Wolf Among Us" is a splendid tale that's worth experiencing. The gameplay style works well, if not perfectly, and the presentation is possibly some of the best stuff Telltale's done since its "The Walking Dead" days. This is something that's sure to grab our attention for the remaining episodes. Sink your teeth into it.

Score: 9

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