I’ve been wanting to make this review for some time now but I decided I’d wait for all 5 episodes to be out (I could only wait till episode 4 so up till episode 4 is written in August) so that I could give an honest review of the series. This review will contain SPOILERS so if you haven’t played the game and care about spoilers do not read any further. I’ll be reviewing the game episode by episode.
An overview: Life is Strange is an episodic game where the player plays as Max Caulfield, an 18 year old photography student at Blackwell Academy. She finds that she has the ability to rewind time when a punk girl is shot by the school rich kid.
When this game first game out back in January I had never heard of it. A few days into February I was browsing down YouTube and some guy was playing this. I accidentally clicked on the video and ended up watching a few minutes of it. I was hooked. Not in the sense that I had to go and play that game immediately but in the sense that if I didn’t go and play the game for myself a small part of me would nag until I did. I’d played many episodic adventures before but I’d never played them while they were actually being released. I’m glad Life is Strange was my first experience of that.
The same day I watched the video I asked my dad if I could buy the season pass on my PS4. He accepted and in the same day I completed the first episode and got all the trophies for that episode. I went to go and click the next one before realising it wouldn’t be out yet.
The first episode wasn’t absolutely amazing but it was something that made me hooked. It was like a drug that I told myself I could control but then very quickly I was looking up when the next episode was to be released. My next point still stands after 5 episodes, the writing isn’t great. In some places it feels like an adult trying to depict what a teenager would say, which in reality it is. But putting the writing aside the game is fascinating. Sure the lip sync isn’t great but Dontnod Entertainment said that they were more interested in telling the story than the actual lip sync of the words coming out.
This one really was a hard one to play. By the end I was almost distraught. Episode 2 was for me the one that changed my view of the game. I started to care for the characters in Arcadia Bay and I wanted to know more about them. I found myself spending more time with each character, exploring the possible dialogue, and spending time in the settings finding bits of information I’d normally overlook. This game does that brilliantly, normally I’d speak to the character get the job done and leave but where an episode usually takes 2 or 2 and a half hours I found myself being in that game for 3 or 3 and a half hours. I’d scan a room 2 to 3 times just to make sure I’d got everything and had read everything carefully.
This really factored into the ending of this particular episode where you are tasked with trying to talk everybody’s favourite cinnamon roll Kate down from the roof of the girl’s dorm. How she gets there is told throughout this episode. I managed to pay attention to the options and thankfully picked all the right ones and so my episode 2 ended with Max helping Kate down from the roof. I was so pleased since Max temporarily loses her ability to rewind time in this scene so whatever happens, happens. And dear god did that scare me!
For me this one started out as kind of in the middle. In this one we delve more into what happened with Kate and Rachel Amber. Max and Chloe sneak into Blackwell at night to see what they can find out. They then go and use the swimming pool where they are promptly stopped by David but he doesn’t know that it is them. This was kind of a strange scene for me as I had to wonder why any sane person would break into a school for information and then go and swim in the swimming pool. At the end of the episode Max goes back in time even further through a photograph taken the day that William died – William is Chloe’s father who died when her and Max were young teens. She changes the past so that William lives and everything really does change. The whole future changes and you wake up in an alternative Arcadia Bay. But the real shocker is that when Max goes to visit Chloe, Chloe in this alternate universe is in a wheel chair. And that is how the game ends. With us finding that bomb shell and then it just rolls to credits… cliffhanger or what!
This came out and the day I realised it had I downloaded it. I didn’t get a chance to play it until around 9 pm and when I did I didn’t stop playing it until the episode was over… I was playing until 1 am. I do not regret a single moment of it! The ending wasn’t a shocker for me because I’d accidentally read it somewhere while looking up a puzzle I was stuck on in-game. In this episode we get to see Max and Chloe in the alternative world… but that isn’t really for very long as Chloe asks you to kill her as she is dying but no one would listen to her request. I’ll keep my own choices disclosed for now but to make a long story short whatever you pick you end up back in normal world with Max rushing to hug Chloe as she finds out her friend is alive and well. This episode centres mostly on Nathan, the Vortex Party and the Dark Room.
Even though Mr Jefferson shot Chloe and drugged Max and absolutely took the pictures of Kate and Rachel Amber I still love him and he is still my favourite character. He interests me and I hope they don’t just kill him off. I hope we find out why he does what he does, how he chooses, how he’s managed to keep it all under wraps and all that kind of stuff. I think it’ll be hella interesting to hear exactly why he does everything. Or he may just get killed off and no one will know why he does what he does – that’ll be super annoying. But this episode, apart from the first one, was probably my favourite as it really changed my view on some characters and shaped episode 5 up for a brilliant release.
So I’m writing this on October 20th 2015 the day that the final episode came out. I actually stayed up until midnight for the release, spent 20 minutes downloading it and then spent another 3 hours playing it. I’ll be totally honest, this episode wasn’t my favourite, that still goes to the first one. Episode 5 was kind of difficult to follow at some points and you were flipping from alternative universes almost every 10 minutes but it did have the most Mr Jefferson time so I was very happy about that – still like the guy even after everything he did. Of course one of the things I was actually not so happy with was the fact that Rachel Amber was not touched upon as much as we wanted her to be and Mr Jefferson’s reasons and motives were not disclosed properly, it was only said by him that he liked to capture people at the height of their innocence. It would of course have been wonderful to find out why he did what he did but we did find out how Rachel Amber died (an overdose administered by Nathan).
Episode 5 was an absolute whirlwind of emotions and definitely kept me saying ‘Oh my god’ throughout my play through of it. And of course that ending decision… it broke my heart in many ways. I knew which option Max would have picked but as this play through was for me I picked the one that I thought was right. I’m still unsure if I chose the right or wrong choice, but I guess that’s the best bit about episodic adventures – there are no wrong choices.
Life is Strange ends up not only telling a fantastic and fascinating story but it also has opened my eyes to a lot of good music. I managed to pull up a playlist of all the Life is Strange music and as I sat there listening to it I recalled where it was used and what was going on at the time. My personal favourite is ‘Obstacles’ by Syd Matters which is used at the end of episode 1 when the snow is falling and the characters are all stopping what they are doing to look at it. I love this moment, it brings such a peace to the little world of Arcadia Bay. Also the moment in episode 5 where Max asks Mark (Mr Jefferson) to play music and this amazing song comes on that I cannot find anywhere online… very sad about that but oh well.
Of course being a rather lazy completionist I had to 100% the game and get all of the trophies. After the trophy popped and my platinum came through I couldn’t help feeling both elated and disappointed. The only reason I was disappointed was because the game was over and there was no more main story to discover… but I’m sure I’ll always find something new to discover in Arcadia Bay.
Though some people dislike this game I personally think it has been one of the best games of the year so far. It’s rather a beautiful game and though it can easily be knocked as a hipster game with no real purpose it is rather the opposite… okay maybe it is rather hipster but in no way does it hold no purpose. I definitely learnt a few things about loyalties, people and time while playing this game. Well done Dontnod and Square Enix on a brilliantly captivating game that I am more than proud to have on my Trophy list.
Thank you for reading,
I’ll see you in the next post, take care 🙂