The third episode of DONTNOD’s Life is Strange promised answers, new powers, and more.. And oh boy did it deliver, and then some
After what happened in the last episode of Life is Strange, I didn’t think the game’s story could get any deeper, but I was wrong, very wrong. This episode is all about answers and that’s something that certainly gets delivered, but the answers were to questions you never though about asking.
Finally the game takes a focus to what I initially believed was the core concept of Life is Strange: the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber, Chloe’s best friend who kept her company while Max tackled Seattle. Rachel has been a bit of an afterthought in the first two episodes which I thought was a bit odd, but there’s good reason. DONTNOD wanted you to experience exactly what you can do in the game and how your actions affect the story before throwing something too gritty at you.
The story begins the night following the events of the last episode and how those events had an effect on the characters. This time I managed to remember to water my plant, but guess what? The bugger is dead. That’s right, the first of my poor choices have finally come to bite me in the ass. The plant I’d neglected to water had croaked it. Thankfully there’s a new living thing to neglect: a bunny! Had that been there all along? Honestly I had no idea. Life is Strange made me realise I’m a terrible person. For those about to dial the video game equivalent of PETA, I’ll have you know I fed the bunny. This little sod isn’t going to die on me.
Speaking of death, the events in the last episode keep coming back to haunt you throughout this episode, which at first is a dark reminder that your actions have consequences. However near the end of the episode when it’s mentioned for the thirtieth time, it does get a little “yeah, yeah, shut up already”, which I’m not sure is because I’m annoyed at hearing about it again, or because I’m annoyed that I let it happen. I both hate and love DONTNOD for letting this get to me like it has. I’ll say it again, this is some truly fantastic story writing.
Now, unlike the past episodes, episode 3 is all about solving problems and further developing the story’s characters. We have a rough idea as to why Chloe is this “off the rails” rebel, but we’re to assume it’s because of her step father being such a hard ass. We know little about her past other than her and Max used to be friends, then Max left, and Chloe turned into a bad ass. In this episode, while it’s solely focused on getting to the bottom of Rachel Amber’s disappearance, it’s also more of a deeper insight into Chloe’s past – in more ways than you think.
Aside from story and character development this episode also has a keen focus on puzzles. There’s a lot more to do in this episode than in past episodes in terms of things to solve. Whether it’s your standard ‘collect all of the pieces’ puzzle, or using Max’s time bending skill to get what you need. For those who prefer the puzzle solving to the story, which admittedly can at times feel a little adolescent, then this episode will have you hooked, especially when you’re asked to find your own ingredients for breakfast. Who leaves eggs out in the hallway? I knew I should have picked waffles..
This far into the game it’s hard not to talk about it without giving too much away but there’s a lot I want to sat about Life is Strange. It’s one of those games you just have to talk about but with so many disastrous outcomes, it’s hard to truly discuss the game with someone who has no idea about it. To be critical however, the game does feel a little like a teen soap opera, there’s a lot of exaggerated teen drama which at times feels a little unnecessary, like a brief scene with Victoria and Mr. Jefferson where Victoria comes into, then tries to blackmail the teacher to award her with the best photograph in the class competition. Something about it felt a little.. For show. But if you can look past these uncomfortable moments and take in the games main story, then you’re in for a treat.
Like I mentioned in my last episode review, the writers Christian Divine and Jean-Luc Cano have done a truly amazing job of invoking my emotions in this game. I actually feel for the characters more than I have in any other video game. In fact, I’ve never reacted to a video game quite like I have with Life is Strange. The last episode which had a truly disastrous ending, at least for me, was pretty heart wrenching, but this episode has topped that.
Minor story spoilers to follow:
Remember the name of the episode? “Chaos Theory”. Well you may or may not know that the Butterfly Effect is a more common name for The Chaos Theory which basically means: any changes to the past will alter the present in many different ways. So far Max’s changes haven’t been all that effective of the present, but let’s be honest, rewinding time from two minutes ago isn’t going to have a disastrous effect on the space-time continuum. That is until a new power is discovered.. The ability to travel back in time using old photographs as the catalyst. And this time shit gets real.
It seems in Max’s mind, the only way to make Chloe happy is to bring back her father who died years before Max left for Seattle, and now she’s found her perfect opportunity to make sure he never leaves that morning, by changing the course of history itself. This is when things quickly head to shitsville. When you eventually succeed in your mission to stop Chloe’s dad from leaving you quickly discover that back in the real world, everything has changed. And I mean everything.
DONTNOD. You’ve outdone yourself.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Life is Strange provided to us by Square Enix