Spoiler free section
Don’t worry I’m not getting all deep with that title. A few months ago I downloaded Life is Strange for free from the PS Plus monthly deals, it then sat there for a long time. I always wanted to play it but I had a feeling it would be emotionally draining and a bit depressing. I decided to finally bite the bullet and give it a go a couple of weeks ago, and you know what…? I was right, it’s depressing as shit.
Don’t get me wrong, just because it’s depressing doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s bloody brilliant but after I play through an episode I need to have some time to think about life, the universe, why we’re all here and why is humanity so bad sometimes? Life is Strange is all about Chaos Theory (or the butterfly effect, if you prefer), you can do lots of different things and they will all effect the future in a different way, sometimes the smallest thing you do will have repercussions, this is all helped along by the protagnist, Max, having the ability to ‘rewind’ time. I played this through with my other half so we were both controlling it at different times, which meant I made choices he wouldn’t have made and vice versa so I’m curious to play it through again (once I’ve forgotten a bit about the plot, if I ever can) without his influence to see what would change. Each episode is about 2 hours long as well (give or take half an hour, depending on how you play it) so it’s just like watching a TV show or a movie meaning it was fun to play together, discuss the plot afterwards and theorise about what we thought would happen.
This is actually really difficult to write about because I keep writing about the plot and then having to explain how I got to that point in the plot through the decisions I made and my draft post keeps turning into a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff so after discarding about 5 drafts of this I’ve given up and instead I’ll just list the things I thought were good about it and the things I thought were bad (and they’re not bad really, more things that I thought could be better). Be assured though that I really liked this game, it’s brilliant and I would highly recommend it to everyone.
HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD. SERIOUSLY, THERE’S LOADS.
- The story is so immersive, like I said before, it’s like watching a TV show or movie. The tone of it is great, the life that the characters have is so believable
- I love plots that let you develop your own theories as you go along and this left room for a lot of these. This might sound a bit pompous but at the end of episode 2 I did guess who the bad guy was, more on that later, but there were plenty of other things to think about and try to get my head around besides the identity of the killer/drugger/creepy dude
- Chloe. She’s a great character, at first glance she’s really cool and funny then she suddenly turns on you in random situations when she doesn’t get her way. If this was real life and I was Max then I would have just refused to do half the stuff she wanted. “Let’s go hang out in a dump!” No thank you. “Hey, try shooting this gun!” What? No. “Let’s break into your school!” Leave me alone. (That just goes to show what a bad video game protagonist I would be I guess, I would just rewind time to get an extra 5 hours sleep or something.) Chloe is a really complex character, which is always nice to find in a video game, and I ended up feeling a need to try and stay on her good side even though I didn’t necessarily agree with half the stuff she was saying. Chloe and Max’s friendship felt very real.
- At the end of every chapter you get to see what everyone else chose to do in key “rewindy timey” parts. Surprisingly a lot of the “big” choices (like helping alternate reality Chloe kill herself or not, or warning Victoria about the Dark Room) were split around the 50/50 mark, I kind of assumed that some of them would be skewed in one direction so it was interesting to see that most people were actually really torn on the choices. The most skewed choice was killing Frank’s dog where something like 96% of people didn’t do it (I like that that is the one thing almost everyone agreed on, poor dog), in a fit of panic I accidentally pressed the wrong button and threw the dog treat into the road where we heard the screech of brakes and I yelled “NOOOOO REWIND IT REWIND IT!!!” as Dan freaked out, questioning his choice in partner shouting “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! REWIND IT! HOW COULD YOU???” luckily I could rewind it and saved the dog but there was a moment I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to rewind and felt horribly guilty
- Making some of the choices was really scary, when it came to parts like trying to talk Kate down from the roof, helping alternate Chloe die or not, or the very end where you have to sacrifice Chloe or the whole town, my other half and I were basically playing hot potato with the controller trying to make the other person take responsibility for making whichever choice was to be made by pushing the button
- Representation: It’s always good to see real world issues portrayed in games. The issues in Life is Strange ranged from suicide to sexual assault to drug abuse… Then there was also the representation of sexuality, you can choose to romance Warren or Chloe, personally I went for Warren because he seemed very nice and sweet. I like that I have the choice to romance Chloe though if I want to, it’s something that is being seen more frequently in games but is still not totally out there and it’s still seen as a novelty rather than a normality.
- The bit at the end in the maze was so creepy, I couldn’t play through it because I’m a massive wuss, Dan had to play that bit. Having all the male characters tracking you down with the flashlights and multiplying until there was loads of them was so freaky.
Not really bad but kind of irritating stuff
- OK, I’ll jump right into the main thing that bugs me about this game. Once you wake up in the dark room the plot starts to unravel and gets a bit tangled. So we go back in time and get Mr Jefferson arrested, we also win the Everyday Heroes competition as a nice little bonus. Yay! Then we get to the best case scenario present. Jefferson is in jail, Max is in San Francisco, Kate is alive (we couldn’t save her in our game), everything is awesome. Then you get a call from Chloe who’s being eaten by a tornado. Well shit, we totally forgot about that huge impending apocalypse we kept getting visions about didn’t we? So now we go back to when we took the winning Everyday Heroes photo and we tear up the pic. Now we’re back in the present and… Hang on, back in the dark room??? How?! How does not winning the contest mean that Jefferson doesn’t get arrested? At first I thought it meant that we hadn’t warned David to come save us but no, he arrived so that still happened. If we hadn’t won the contest then someone else would have done and even if I hadn’t warned David, Jefferson would be flying with the winner to San Francisco, right? I don’t understand how this is the outcome of that… Maybe I’m missing something, if so please enlighten me!
- Filler missions. EUUUURGH. I do not want to spend half an hour looking for bottles just because you wanted to make more money by selling your game in separate episodes and needed to justify doing that by making each episode last about 2.5 hours. There was a filler mission in almost every episode (if not all of them) where you would have to find stuff. Every time it happened it would be so frustrating, it would completely ruin the flow of the game which was so immersive then suddenly “hey could you get 5 bottles for me?” Are you serious? I’m messing with time, people are dying and you want me to find 5 bottles?
- Max. She’s a bit of a dick in my personal opinion. I don’t like her. She’s a very sarcastic, “I’m such a nerd, I’m different to everyone else”, thinks she’s funny and occasionally some of the stuff she says gets a short “ha” reaction but mostly she’s not really funny, unless she’s talking to Warren and then suddenly she’s a social butterfly. She doesn’t make great decisions (when on auto pilot) and some of the stuff she says is not what I would have said in certain situations. She’s also really into her photography and examining her stuff gets really boring, “wow, Blahblah the great photographer that photographed things, so impressive, such great work, so little I care”. Not that I don’t appreciate photography, it’s cool, I just don’t want to hear about it when I click on almost every little thing. I kind of agreed with a few of the things Victoria said about her to be honest. Kim from Later Levels mentioned this before and she pointed out that she’s a teenage girl, she’s meant to be a representation of yourself in some way, she’s not perfect and she’s right, I’m so used to having a “perfect” protagonist that it was quite a difficult adjustment, it took a while to get used to, and I suppose I was a lot like that when I was a teenager (I cringe to think about some of the stuff I used to come out with, I used to consider myself an elite music know-it-all but thinking back to it now I just came across as horribly snobby and irritating, I would give teenage me a kick up the arse for sure).
- Is no one going to talk about the tornado that is slowly arriving to destroy Arcadia Bay? If I was Max that would have been the thing that got me worried, I would be trying to find ways of preventing the tornado or evacuating everyone, instead Max doesn’t seem to believe that it’s going to happen even though she’s been, you know, GIFTED WITH TIME TRAVEL, you’d have thought a random tornado wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility after discovering you can rewind time.
- As I mentioned before, Mr Jefferson’s great reveal as the antagonist was kind of obvious to me, he was the only person that made sense. At the end of episode 2 (or maybe 3) you see someone putting pictures away in a file with girls names written on it, so it’s something to do with photography, you also know there’s something sexual about it because all the victims are girls so you can assume that it’s most likely a man. Nathan is too obvious, he’s not smart enough to be the mastermind, you don’t really interact enough with anyone else that is male and into photography so by process of elimination that just left him. I did wonder if it would be Warren, just as a huge shocker, but I’m glad it wasn’t.
- Occasionally there are moments where people tell you way more than they usually would. The main example of this is when you see Nathan in the diner: We just got him suspended from school, accused him of drugging, sexually assaulting and driving Kate Marsh to suicide but after a little angry episode at Max he’s fine to spill the beans on everything and have a nice long chat. Occasionally with the word “bitch” thrown in to remind you that he doesn’t like you. This isn’t a huge deal really, it is something that usually happens in games, but it does detract somewhat from the immersive game play and makes you say “hang on, why are you telling me this?”
Again, those things weren’t enough to have me not enjoy the game, it was still great, it just could have done without them really.
I’m not really sure what I think of the new game, it will be interesting to play up to the disappearance of Rachel Amber as Chloe (I assume that’s what it’s going to be about) but without the rewind time power I’m unsure how the gameplay will be as that was the thing that ‘gameified’ the first one for me, otherwise all you would do is walk around and click stuff, maybe it will just be like a detective style thing? Guess I’ll have to play it to find out, oh no…
To finish off here’s the end of episode choice lists we made, if you’ve played it before then take a look and compare your own choices with mine! What did you do differently? Which decisions did you find the most difficult? What did you choose to do at the end?