Life is Strange: Episode 2 is full of hard decisions..
*pleasurable grunt* Life is Strange has one of the best soundtracks to a game that I’ve ever heard. Jonathan Morali and his band Syd Matters who are behind choice of music and the original score together are a genius. I could spend hours just wandering through the town of Arcadia Bay exploring every nook and cranny with this in the background if I weren’t already overly invested in the story, and this time the choices aren’t as simple as we first experienced in the debut episode.
I’ll warn you now though, if you haven’t played the first episode, expect many spoilers in this review. You have been warned, so don’t be grumpy.
In the last episode we left Max, Chloe and Arcadia Bay in the midst of a snow storm, a completely freak event which really shouldn’t be happening. That’s because there’s a storm brewing and Max knows exactly what’s going to happen. This episode starts off with Max climbing out of bed to start her day, much like a typical teenage girl it’s time to shower, freshen up, and begin a long day of learning. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite go as planned.
Remember in the last episode when we decided whether to help Max’s friend Kate or not when she was being harassed by David Madsen? Yeah, well I decided not to step in and take a picture instead, y’know as evidence. Unfortunately that decision is about to bite me in the ass as Kate isn’t happy with Max at all. But it’ll be all right in the end, right? After a fairly awkward conversation in the shower room and an equally awkward shower scene, we start to discover exactly why Kate is so upset. Good old Nathan strikes again.
As you know from episode one, Nathan seems to be a bit of a serial rapist. Though that isn’t revealed so bluntly, that’s heavily implied from both Chloe (that’s the reason why they had the altercation to begin with), and now Kate as she confides in Max later on in the episode after word reaches you that Kate is in some sort of soul destroying and embarrassing viral video. And depending on what you decide the outcome can drastically change the future of the episode.
Much like the first episode, Life is Strange throws you into the life of a modern teenager today, with gossiping, teenage angst, bitter rivalries, social networking and viral videos. It’s a testament to the struggles teenagers are likely experiencing nowadays, and as someone who hasn’t been in that environment for around ten years, it shows you just exactly how things have changed.. or not so much. DONTNOD have done a fantastic job of capturing life as a teenager, there’s no doubt about that.. even if they’re still struggling to get the speech and mouth movements to sync up.
One of the main things we’ve been told about Episode 2 is that your decisions will matter much more in this episode and that couldn’t ring truer. Episode 2 is full of really, really difficult choices most of which I feel will again come and bite me in the ass in the third episode. This particular episode also sets the player up well in terms of getting them to grips with the time bending controls. The first episode focused on introducing them, the second briefly allows you to get back up to speed with things with challenge to prove to Chloe that you really can rewind time. This also lets you into a little secret, you really need to pay attention to what’s happening in order for you to make the right decisions in the future.
So Max and Chloe set off on an adventure to further manipulate time, at this point Chloe is using Max’s power to have a bit of fun, something that Max isn’t too happy about as it seems continuously bending time to her will seems to be doing more harm than good. In a bit where Chloe is using Max’s power to shoot bottles with the gun she stole from Madsen in the last episode, she decides it’ll be a good idea to fire a trick shot off an old car bumper, that is if you don’t decide to shoot another part of the car quick enough. Of course this goes wrong and the bullet lands in Chloe’s chest. So you bend time some more and choose somewhere else to shoot quickly.
This gives Chloe and you, the player a god-like feeling that no matter what happens, we can do it over again but make the right choices, I mean, that’s the point of the game so far, every choice that we’ve made, if we don’t like the outcome we can rewind and try again. This is even more apparent during a scene where Chloe is trapped on the tracks, and you must figure out a way to free her before she gets flattened. Though with this feeling of God Mode, I had the temptation to see what exactly would happen if I stood there and did nothing.. I felt the same god-like sense when given the choice to shoot someone or not.. I almost immediately went for the shoot option, fortunately there were no bullets.
I’m starting to feel that this game is just meta as hell and has made me realise what sort of person I am when I know my actions can be reversed. The developers have also done a fantastic job of making you forget that this power could come and go at any point, even allowing us to forget that each time Max spends too much time rewinding time she’s causing harm to herself. This is something that becomes apparent in a fairly poignant scene featuring Kate, where you see her fall to her death a number of times.
Sadly your rewind powers aren’t enough to stop Kate from jumping, so somehow Max discovers a way to stop time completely as she makes her way through a crowd of onlookers into the girl’s dormitory up to the roof. Unfortunately at this point you’ve used your power enough today, Max writhes in pain and her nose becomes bloody to the point where she feels her power has disappeared completely. Now, you’re on your own, and at this point I’ve never shit myself this much at a game knowing that the choices I make will result in someone living or dying.
So with multiple choice answers and no way to rewind time and say the correct thing, I know I’m fucked. I discouragingly go through the first few answers and things start to look good for me. Kate is smiling, she’s confiding in me, it’s all going well, until I answer a question incorrectly and boom, of drops Kate from the roof.
I sat staring at the screen for a good ten minutes filled with absolute regret. I know it’s a video game at the end of the day, but being put in a position where you’re the reason behind someone’s death, is pretty hard, actually. Especially when you’ve tried so hard to do the right thing for this person. Shit just got deep.
You end the game with one more decision, and that’s who to put the blame on and help the police and the principal understand why Kate did what she did.. Fortunately your time bending powers have returned enough to decide who to point the finger at, with each decision having pretty dire consequences, though it seems you won’t find out how it’ll effect the world of Arcadia Bay until the next episode, something that I’m already pumped for.
Has Life is Strange lived up to the hype I’ve had for this game so far? Fucking yes it has. Never have I played a game which has sparked such emotions, a game which offers such self reflection, and a game which has left such an impression on me. DONTNOD are quickly becoming one of my favourite developers.
This review of Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time is based on the Xbox One version, provided to us by Square Enix.