Stumbling at the Finish – Life is Strange

Life-Is-Strange-Episode-1-2

The quick version of this review is to say that the first three episodes of Life is Strange were brilliant and the last two episodes fell apart but let’s be a little more detailed than that, shall we?

Life is strange is about the strange life of Max Caulfield, a teenage student of Blackwell Academy. She is back in her hometown after having lived in Seattle for some time. It would be difficult enough coming back after five years and having to adjust to everything and how it has changed but it is even weirder to do so when you can control time. Max finds that she can rewind time and thus has the ability to change decisions made by her and other people thus changing the future.

Some have compared this game to Heavy Rain and some of those comparisons are justified. For me, the game played like Mass Effect sans shooting action but with a plot like Donnie Darko. The decision making gave you slightly different paths to follow as the game played out but just like Mass Effect you come back to essentially the same ending no matter what. The comparisons to Donnie Darko with the time travel and relative weirdness are pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen the movie and for those that haven’t seen that movie – what is wrong with you?!?!?

The game does involve some good production. There is an argument to be made that the graphics are low quality but I would prefer to think that this was a choice made to emphasize its style rather than try to be photo realistic. It was my feeling that the water-color-esque graphics enhanced the dreamlike feel of the game. The game was also augmented by its soundtrack. Nothing on this soundtrack would wow you or probably be a hit on its own but the music used in the game complemented the scenes very well.

With all the good you have to take the bad, however. There were times when the dialogue sequences didn’t match up with the choices made in the game and made the progression feel awkward. It felt like the pieces I had didn’t fit together but then were just crammed in to make them work. At times the main character felt as catty and terrible as the people she was complaining about. Then again, the fact that I am a man nearing middle-age does make it hard to relate to a young teenage girl, so this probably isn’t that much of an issue and you know what they say – bitches be bitches.

There were a few items that I found questionable about the game. There was a strange aversion of sex, there was obviously no scenes involving it but there was an odd feel to any time it was even mentioned or implied. Balance this against the fact that drugs and alcohol were prevalent throughout the game without question. Also, in a world of body shaming and unreal expectations, it seems a curious and flawed choice to have all but one or two of the characters be rail thin. There were times when the decision making, a key aspect of the game, was taken out of the players hand for some reason. Take the pool scene as an example since you weren’t even given the opportunity to chose to go there or not.

The real disappointment in this game was the last two chapters, so back to where we started(see how I just made you time travel?). The story goes from a very well done illustration of a teenager’s life to a crayon created mess consisting of zig-zags and over-lapping swirls. The first three chapters were strong and consistent in tone and story. Whereas the fourth chapter jumped all over the place in what seemed to be a rush to bring things together for the finale. A finale which was confusing and frustrating which led it to be unsatisfying.

Life is Strange was an ambitious and beautiful diversion from other games. It offers character and style rather than action. My only wish is that the last chapters had been done better. Perhaps if they had extended it to a sixth episode they could have let things play out better and not had to have forced so many points.

 

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

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5 thoughts on “Stumbling at the Finish – Life is Strange

  1. The last episode was definitely my least favorite. It seemed to steer away from what made the game special, in a quick attempt at tying up loose ends and diving in to the finale. There was little in the way of dialogue choices or puzzle solving, which sucked. I enjoyed episode 4’s cliffhanger, and having to wait for the final episode was rough… but I wish the last episode was more engaging.

    • I really felt it fell apart at episode four since it felt like a forced attempt to bring things together. I’m no expert but I just feel like things could have been parched out better and not as forced. The fourth episode seemed forced or rushed in an unreasonable manner. It was a big let down compared to the first three episodes. Great potential became a great let down.

      • I’m with you, I was in awe of the game during the first three episodes, and then it started to lose me at five. Have you played Tales from the Borderlands yet? Incredible adventure game, like Life is Strange but more coherent, better pacing, and pretty damn hilarious.

      • No, I looked at it and thought “I don’t want anything to do with Borderlands games”. I can’t bring myself to actually finish the ‘prequel’ game I already paid for much les buy the Tales game. I don’t want to speak against it other than a personal desire to avoid it.

      • Thankfully it doesn’t connect in story to any of the other games, but you’d recognize some of the key characters. It’s really well written, and a nice adventure game that plays similar to Life is Strange. If you can find it cheaply, I’d highly recommend giving it a shot. Especially if it’s the gameplay that gets in your way of enjoying Borderlands games.

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