Wolves In The Walls review: one of the best storytelling VR content I have ever tried

Today I have been able to have a preview of “Wolves In the Walls” by Fable Studio, and I have been truly AMAZED by it.

(Disclaimer: if you go on, you may find mild spoilers)

Wolves in the Walls is a storytelling experience by Fable Studio, that talks about the story of an 8yo girl named Lucy that hears strange scratches and wolves’ noises coming from behind the walls of her house. She hears those sounds, but no one else does and so no one believes her. During the story, she will try to find some evidence about the existence of these wolves, until at a certain time… Ehm, well, I can’t spoil you everything.

Lucy has a big fantasy and this is what permeates all the experience: everything that happens feels a bit unnatural, and a bit magic. It is a bit like if you lived in a dream. An example? Well, you have no idea of who you are in the story: you have no body, and no one sees you. Anyway, you can interact with the objects around you, and you can do stuff together with Lucy. The most probable scenario is that you are an imaginary friend of her… and this contributes to the fact that all that you see and hear around you is all created (or at least, modified) by the imagination of the little girl.

wolves in the wall review vr
The official description of the experience (Image by Fable Studio)

The story is made to make you create a deep connection with Lucy. She has emotions (fear, joy, etc…) and she interact with you all the time. She is the only one that can see you, so she is the only character you can truly connect with. You are the only one that believes her, because you, exactly as her, can hear those scary sounds. She relies on you and this makes the bond even stronger.

It comes as no surprise that Fable Studio is working now in creating credible avatars you can interact with in your life: something similar to what Magic Leap is doing with Mica, but not necessarily so realistic. Fable wants to fill your life with synthetic characters you can interact with, with which you can create a bond and with which you can live new adventures. Lucy is the first example of this new path and well, she is fantastic.

I have anyway to say that my bond with her has not been as deep as I expected… I don’t know, maybe because she’s a child and I’m more used to interacting with adults… maybe because I didn’t find the fact that no one believed her so moving… anyway, I developed a connection with her, but not that deep. When I was in VR, I took care of her, but when I removed my headset, I have not thought about her anymore.

In any case, it is not a matter of quality: she’s really well crafted and really behaves like a little daughter. She’s amazing… maybe it’s me that I am a bad person… šŸ˜€

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Two things have literaly amazed me of the whole experience.

The first is the incredibly high quality. It is an incredibly polished experience, developed with Unreal Engine. The use of UE4 makes sure that you can move inside the scene and also guarantees a fantastic management of lights, that are one of the key points of the experience. High quality is not something new for Fable: the studio has been founded by people that were inside Oculus Studio (RIP), the studio behind Henry and Dear Angelica. They are really masters of storytelling: Dear Angelica is still my favorite storytelling VR experience out there. Wolves in the Walls has been selected as one of the best experiences at Sundance festival 2019, and for sure for a good reason.

wolves in the wall review vr storytelling
Artwork related to the experience (Image by Fable Studio)

The second is the creative solutions that they have found. The experience is a continuous surprise of innovative and original solutions. And the fact that all the space and time around you is probably shaped by the imagination of Lucy makes everything possible. Fable has not been forced to create something realistic and credible, and this has let them create freely. Do you want some examples?

Well, I’ll give you some. At a certain point, Lucy tries to give you a camera to let you shoot a photo. That’s great… but there is one problem: you have no body, so how can you take it? And here comes the genius: she draws two hands for you with her chalk and after that, the drawn hands become your hands. I was literally in awe when this happened. It has no sense of course, but if you are just living by imagination, well, this is possible.

And then there is movement in time and space. Making you move in VR could make you feel motion sickness or to stumble on objects. In this experience, all the movements happen a bit magically. Objects disappear and then others re-appear around you and in some seconds you find yourself in a different position from before. A place slowly fades away and you find yourself in another place and another time soon after. It is a bit like in a dream, where there are different sequences that have no exact relationship between them. You move in the experience, but actually, you stay fixed in space with your real body. So there are no side effects for the viewer.

This has been made by playing with lights and transparences. There has been a great work on this and I really loved it. The transitions that I mention above are not made with a simple fade to black of the whole scene, as in all movies, but with objects disappearing and others appearing… it is like a 3D cross-fading, I even don’t know how to explain that.

Other amazing technical solutions are for instance the camera that Lucy gives you… and that actually works like a real camera!

Or the lens… that one is interactive too…

The experience is full of interactions of this kind, that makes you feel more as part of the story. This is something well known in VR storytelling: the more you do, the more you interact with the characters and the objects around you, the more the sense of presence is increased. And in this experience, it is very high.

There are also various transitions between 3D CGI animations and drawing made in black and white with chalk and/or pencil. There is a lot of new and innovative solutions going there, and I think that everyone that wants to do immersive storytelling should live this experience to learn some new ideas.

The sound is amazing as well. I am not an audio expert at all, but when something is good, well, I can recognize it. Just when the music started at the beginning, I thought “this is going to be a great experience”. And it actually was.

Cave Digger VR
Cave Digger VR

As all XR storytelling experiences, I have felt various emotions while being there: empathy, fear, anger… I have lived a marvelous imaginary adventure with my imaginary friend and her little puppet pig. This sense of being part of the story is enhanced by the fact that at the end of it, during the final credits, you are required to enter your name. Because yes, you were part of the story, you were one of the main actors.

The problem of Wolves in the Walls is that… ehm, it doesn’t end. This is just the first episodeĀ first and second episodes merged in a single experience, and in fact, the experience leaves you wanting for more. Now I won’t be able to sleep at night until Fable releases the final third episode. And I hope that it will happen soon.

(Header image by Fable Studio)



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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I'm not giving up: I've started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)