Platforms:PC/Steam, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, XBOX 360 | Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment | Publisher: Square Enix | ESRB: M | Controls: Keyboard, Gamepad
[alert style=”grey”]Warning: This is the third episode of a five episode game that relies heavily on its narrative and the player’s choices within that construct. If you’re this deep, you’ll need to expect spoilers as I talk about the latest installment.[/alert]
The second episode of DONTNOD’s Life is Strange was a difficult and unsettling experience to say the least. The story within the story of Kate Marsh nearly came to end in one of the most disturbing ways possible. In fact, for me, it did end that way. It made me so upset, that after a brief few moments of hand-wringing and silent “Oh my Gods”, the odd “Holy Shit” — and yes, maybe even a tear or two — that I did something that I rarely ever consider on a first play-through. I reloaded the game, to make different choices and see if I could save Kate from herself. From suicide.
Fortunately for my psyche, I wasn’t far off from saving her, or more accurately from showing her that she could save herself. It’s not something I regret doing. What it does is provide me additional incentive to play out the story differently once Max and I have completed our journey. This is the true strength of the series: the weight of decisions are consistently palpable. In creating a game that provides that feeling the player is able to share in the experience of Maxine Caulfield, rather than simply play out her story. We are active participants.
If you were looking for answers to the conspiracies and heavy mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rachel Amber and the goings-on at Blackwell Academy, well… you’re not going to get them here. Life is Strange continues to point the finger in a myriad of directions. One of Max’s lines in the game strikes me. “I think we’re all partly responsible”, she says when discussing Kate’s suicide attempt. I expect the series to continue to explore this avenue of thought process.
While I feel fairly certainly that the story is going to continue throw us off the trail of the truth, none of these distractions are truly red herrings. Whether Rachel Amber is dead, kidnapped or simply a runaway, each character in this story had some part to play in getting things to that point. While there may be an individual or individuals directly tied to the end-game scenarios, everyone’s circumstances and how they react/reacted to them bare some of the weight for the final outcome.
Life is Strange continues its pacing in similar manner to the previous episodes. The wider goal is of course, solving the mystery, but mixed in are moments of a girl becoming a young woman, hanging out with child-hood friends, reminiscing and regretting the past and of course experimentation with her new found power.
Not content to simply let this mechanic be something that influences the story, Max’s new-found skill wholly changes everything drastically in the episode’s ending sequence. The way DONTNOD chose to close this entry was a shock. Albeit a different one than that of Kate’s situation, the change is nearly as drastic. In these moments the game takes head-on the challenge of dealing with the impact of altering time. If we can change time, should we? And, if we do, how much will that impact the future? “Be careful what you wish”, for comes to mind.
The series continues to impress with a deep mystery, and believable if somewhat stereotypical characters. For those of you that are annoyed with Chloe and the dialogue, those feelings will either increase, or finally be broken when you realize this is still a young woman who is unable to deal with the death of her father, combined with the feelings of being stuck in a dead-end town… or not. The voice acting, music and writing remain top-notch in my opinion.
DONTNOD continues to work well within their art-style, providing some easily screen-cap worthy and cinematically styled views. The interface still feels clunky from time-to-time, which is strange given that it is the core of their exploratory gameplay experience. The story, which is of course the heart of the game, remains able to triumph over any negatives and again leaves players eagerly anticipating the next episode. My worry here, which is small, is that the tale is swerving towards Law and Order: Special Victims Unit territory – a show which I actually like, but one that is sometimes cliche, wrapped up rather too quickly, and scenarios we’ve heard before.
Life is Strange: Choas Theory is the third episode in the five episode series and is available now. Game was reviewed on the PC from a personal copy.