Life is Strange Episode 5 Review: Consequences

With just as many questions remaining as answered, Max must face both the impending catastrophe her powers foretold and escalating danger of a much more personal nature.

I’ll try to stay as spoiler free as possible, but will be sharing some thoughts about the series as a whole and how it all came together.

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Episode 5 picks up right where the gut punch finale of episode 4 left off. The villain’s motivations are relayed by an admitted bit of “monologuing,” but it fits the character to want to gloat / explain as well as the situation Max is in. What follows are some interesting illustrations of the complications and limitations of Max’s powers, with a couple extremely clever complications. It was also nice to see choices from previous episodes remain somewhat relevant during these sections. I appreciate what they tried to do here, and was fairly riveted for the first half of the episode.

I became much less enamored once the stealth sections began. The intent for symbolism and atmosphere was good, but the execution was not. I couldn’t wait for this part of the game to be over.

I had a good guess about where all of this was going, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. There’s a lot of discussion to be had about the possible endings, but without getting into specifics I’ll say the finale is both fitting and a little disappointing. Certain things left in mystery were more interesting to me than some of the story threads heavily focused on, and there were definitely some convenient oversights made for the sake of plot progression. Also after an entire series of doing the “player’s choices have effects” thing better than I’ve EVER seen before, a single choice ends up mattering more than all the others.

All that said, there was internal logic to the crescendo and decision point, and the drama and emotional tension was sufficiently built to present a heart wrenching moment.

Life is Strange as a whole is something I’m glad I played and would readily recommend. It’s not perfect and the ending(s) will be off putting for some, but those same endings and the events that precede them are well done and thought provoking. There was more potential to Life is Strange than what was realized, but what’s here is still extremely good.

Life is Strange Episode 4 Review: Omens and Revelations

Impending disaster still looms over Arcadia, but Max has more immediate concerns building off the huge cliffhanger that ended episode 3.

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Several long running story lines reach culmination here, with a number of strong, impactful reveals and surprises.  Given the nature of where Episode 3 left off, I can’t talk about any details without major spoilers. The plot is building extremely well though.

The gameplay is again solid here. The immersion is as good as ever with the atmosphere getting creepier and and more intense. One of the biggest mysteries is largely wrapped up here, which is a good move because it let it get focus here while leaving the other major mystery to hopefully come to the front in the final episode. There were a couple of points where the characters made poor choices for the sake of the plot, but it can reasonably be chalked up to the emotional turmoil they’re going through.

The puzzles were fine, but the story and dialog choices are the big draw here. The important choices have much less of a “no right answer” feel then in previous episodes, but I guess that’s a bit inevitable as the series comes to a close. Choices from previous episodes still matter a great deal in terms of dialog choices and certain scenes, which is something that is usually weak in these types of games and the thing I love most about this series.

Dark Room cranks up the tension and emotional impact to fitting levels for the penultimate episode of Life is Strange. I’m a little worried about how much is left to address and explain with only one episode left, but at the same time I’m looking forward to it as overall I’ve enjoyed the series thus far.

Life is Strange Episode 3 Review: That Next Step is a Doozy

Things have certainly changed in the five years since Max left her hometown, and her return hasn’t exactly been a stellar success. She’s running into the limits of her unexplained and unbelievable new powers, and an impending disaster looms over Arcadia, but the biggest threats may just be more human and personal in nature.

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While Episode 2 of Life is Strange dragged a bit in the gameplay department, it ended with a pair of huge developments that affected a large portion of the cast. I was very anxious to see if the player’s choices and these results would continue to be carried over and well integrated, and I was pleasantly surprised and how often they were referenced and how it all actually affected the dialog and character interactions. Without getting into spoilers, the big event and Max’s subsequent accusations at the end of Episode 2 are not forgotten or mitigated in the least, and the consistency from episode to episode is one of the things I like best about this series.

The gameplay is solid here, with everything very atmospheric and foreboding, which helps the immersion. The puzzles tend towards the easy side but they’re still well done and fit the narrative. The big choices continue to have a “no right answer” feel, which is a wonderful touch in a game like this. There’s an underlying unease that builds and builds as more clues about what’s going on slowly unravel. I’m extremely curious to see how it all fits together. We end with a huge shake up to the status quo, providing an irresistible cliffhanger going into Episode 4.

Overall Chaos Theory was a great installment of Life is Strange and generates a lot of momentum going into the back half of the series.

Life is Strange Episode 2 Review

Max’s return to her home town after 5 years away hasn’t even remotely gone like she might have imagined. Cool as they are, her new powers have come with rather alarming visions of impending disaster. She’s let one friend in on her secrets, but both of them also have other personal issues to attend to… life2

Episode 1 of Life is Strange established a compelling mix of mysteries, characters, and atmosphere that I enjoyed quite a bit. For the most part episode 2 capitalizes and expands on the potential shown. One of the best parts is that the major decisions made in episode 1 carry over and influence a good bit of dialogue and some pieces of major developments. So far this is the best integration of this type of carryover I’ve seen. There’s a big, tough choice at the end that looks to have similar ripple effects going forward. The time mechanic is interesting and continues to be well implemented and integrated. Hints and foreshadowing are everywhere, but it’s hard to see where it’s all going. I love that kind of story.

The biggest weakness of this episode is in the middle where in an attempt to break up the tension a little there is a fetch quest that slows things down way too much and is frustrating to finish. It’s an unfortunate misstep that derails most of the momentum that had been built up. Things recover nicely though, with three harrowing scenes later one and the big choice I talked about earlier to finish. There’s still a strong feeling of “no right answer” to most of the choices, which is a great accomplishment.

Overall a good follow up and I’m still extremely invested in Life is Strange and eager to continue with the next episode.

Life is Strange Episode 1 Review

Max is a shy 18 year old photography enthusiast returning to her home town after 5 years away. She has a lot of normal high school concerns, like schoolwork, dealing with bullies, making friends, missing classmates, murder, and suddenly being able to turn back time.

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Life is Strange is an adventure game with great atmosphere. It has a strong opening that draws the player right in, cranks up the mystery, then settles down a bit to let things unfold. The story is intriguing and Max makes a compelling point of view character. The dialogue can be a little stilted, but it gets the point across and for the most part the characters do sound like high schoolers.

The gameplay is straight exploration, with a couple of extremely simple puzzles. The story is the draw, and I was particularly impressed with the use of decision points. It remains to be seen how much effect they’ll have (if any) if future episodes, but they felt important. Even more interestingly, there didn’t feel like there was a right answer. After either option for every major choice Max muses about why the other one could have been better. It’s a wonderful touch lacking in a lot of games that have a clear and obvious “preferred path.”

The environment is fantastic. It captures the feel of the locales perfectly, including a boarding school, associated dorms, a run down house, etc. I found myself stopping to look at all the posters and flyers as much out of curiosity as to find clues. There’s a significant amount of little things to poke around.

Some players will find it on the short side, but it had good progression and found a decent stopping point, and is after all just episode 1. I thought Life is Strange was great and will definitely be checking out further chapters.