Some of you might already know that I also like other types of videogames besides otome games and I guess this shall be the debut of my general videogame section of the blog and what pick would be more fitting for that than Life is Strange?
Life is Strange is a 2015 choice-based videogame, divided into 5 episodes, made by DontNod Entertainment and published by Square Enix. It covers the story of Max Caulfield, an 18 years old geek-girl with a passion for photography, who one day finds out she got time-rewind abilities while witnessing the death of a punk-looking girl, Chloe Price, and eventually managing to save her. Together with Chloe, Max is going to start diving into the mysteries of Arcadia Bay, which are not as trivial as they look, while trying to fix her own social life and figure out her own visions of an upcoming tornado going to destroy the whole town.
The game is available only as digital download from Steam HERE.
It can also be found on Playstation and Xbox markets.
Important to mention, Max’s relationships will differ based on how you choose to deal with the people around her. They will change their impression of Max and interact with her based on how she acts and what she does, as well as how much care she’s able to show. I could say there are two romance options available for her too, but I am going to further develop this later.
Review might include minor spoilers.
STORY – 6 (Fine)
I wished to give it more, really, but do not take me wrong! I’ll get to that! The first 4 episodes are actually great. The world is fascinating to explore: it’s really fun to waste time reading flyers, pamphlets, writings, newspapers and even though I was really excited to see what was going to happen next, it was never a bother to check all these things up. It gives the world deepness as well as a good idea of what the mentality of the Arcadia Bay people is, but also hints for possible upcoming events that makes it extra fun to read it all and theorize about it.
At first sight, the story sounds very trivial. Even the idea of time-rewinding to fix your answers or get to know new things sounds trivial in the Life is Strange context, however you’d never expect that to actually matter in the long run when you actually get entangled in a disappearance case and get to know some characters that turn out to be pretty suspicious and dangerous. “Then what is the problem?” you might ask. During the conclusive episode of Life is Strange, I couldn’t help but notice how initially the game was very busy putting “red herrings” in your sight in the past episodes, only to never be touched again at the end or not in the direction that the game initially hinted. Life is Strange can be categorized in the slice of life/mystery genre (with a spark of sci-fi butterfly effect) so “red herrings” are to be expected. In this case, it felt like they wanted to aliment players’ believes into thinking that everything was deeper than it actually was and as consequence, the last episode revealed this strategy and it was a huge turn off for everybody that actually really believed in those plot devices.
(Note: for those that aren’t familiar with the term “red herring”, it’s something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction. (Wiki))
Another thing to mention would be that the dialogues are sometimes not exactly cohesive. Some of them don’t really fit the actions that you chose to take and some of them just skip to different topics out of the blue that are not even related in the least to what is it that the characters were talking about. I found that quite annoying with Kate’s dialogue (at the end of episode 2) and Frank’s dialogue in episode 4, just to give some examples. I know that some people didn’t really mind it or cared to notice though. XD
Lastly, the endings. Whatever you do there are only 2 choices to make in the end. This is something that divided people in half and some people were really disappointed about it. I was part of the later. I expected that ending, but I wished for my choices to matter more than an A or B final option. It was somehow even more frustrating than the ending of Mass Effect 3 which came in a similar, out of the blue manner. The whole last episode felt like dragging only for that last final decision, which was less meaningful for me as a consequence. I got emotional, but not to the point that I expected…To its defense though, Life is Strange really likes to play on themes, the “hero“, the “destiny“, the “consequence“. What are you ready to sacrifice in order to be able to change “time”? You really become aware that being able to make a choice and being able to change that choice changes the perspective of the world of you, but also changes the world itself. What gives you the right to do that? Life is not that convenient so there is always that time when you have to take choices that you never want to take. You can’t change everything and you can’t make it better for yourself without being aware that it might make it worse for somebody else.
Characters – 6 (Fine)
Life is Strange manages to both excel and fail at the characters category. Let me develop that. The main characters, Max and Chloe, are the most roundabout characters, of course, because they’re the main characters and their relationship was nicely executed, but the other characters? Not too much. DontNod Enternaiment made it clear that Life is Strange characters are based on American archetypes, but archetypes that develop their own “human” personalities and that is true for Max and Chloe to a degree and maybe even Nathan and David, but I have trouble saying the same about the rest of this huge cast. Everybody has something to him or her, yes, but in the end, we don’t get enough time to see something beyond what they look like. Either that or they are simply used as tools for convenience purposes. I am looking at you, Warren. Rachel Amber is also worth mentioning for being a character that we never really meet but that we feel like actually knowing, and the game treated her character pretty much okay.
Another problem, but a problem I can partly justify, is the overall overreaction of the characters about everything. Chloe is particularly annoying when she manages to guilt trip Max about every little disagreement (but these two overreact over each other in particular too XD), Juliette always overreacts when her boyfriend is involved, Victoria is too busy to overreact the “bitchy rich girl” stereotype etc. I partly consider this bad character writing, however we can all agree that we also can overreact about certain things that are important to us, even if for others it might look corny, but that’s because they don’t understand and nobody can 100% say that a person can’t under any means react in a certain way. There are real live drama Queens and Kings everywhere in the world about stuff that are important only for them. XD
And that brings us to relatability. Life is Strange characters are very relatable to most of the players, Max being the first on the list for her shy, geek-type behavior. Personally, I partly found myself in Max and partly found myself in Chloe; Max because of her loner-type personality that always observes and is often awkward and Chloe because she isn’t scared to say what’s on her mind even if that makes her annoying to the rest of the world. Details from their personal lives are very relatable for me as well because I’ve been through it too.
Now that I got to mention the characters, you can make Max pursue two romance routes through the story: Chloe and Warren (in other words, homosexual or straight options). This is something that I actually very much looked forward because of my love towards otome games and it was exactly what I needed to make me enjoy this game more. However, the thing that overall bothered me was how clear it was that the game was biased towards Chloe from episode 3 onwards, to the point that I wondered why did we even have Warren, a guy that Max seemed to have friendzoned from the very first episode. It makes me think that the creators were scared to make a lesbian relationship as the only possible option. In the end you can also choose to pursue a “friends-only” relationship with Chloe if, for any reason, homosexual romances make you uncomfortable. That, however, won’t change their overall “touchy” attitude towards eachother, so I must say that the romance options are not very well developed eitherway if it was supposed to let you choose.
OST – 10 (Masterpiece)
I absolutely ADORE it. The OST gives a very chill atmosphere to Life is Strange, the way it’s supposed to be. The song choice was perfect for every moment, happy or sad, suspenseful or serene, but every one of them with a nostalgic note that prevails throughout the whole game.
Graphics – 8.5 (Very good)
They look quite cartoon-ish (but this is not a problem XD) and the lip-sync really sucks, characters move unnecessarily much and their moving pattern all looks the same for everybody in dialogue events. However, the designs are very pretty and the level designs quite polished which is amazing on itself.
Replayability – 6 (Fine)
Your choices don’t matter through to the end. Unfortunately, the game ends up with a A & B type of ending, as I mentioned before, that was a turn off for me in particular after all the care I put in every reply, so it doesn’t actually matter very much what you choose through the game, because it’s going to end up the same way eitherway. What does change are Max relationships with the characters around her. Chloe can be less bitchy if you constantly show your care for her, Alyssa can trust you or consider you a prick that always looked at her getting hit without doing anything, Nathan’s view on Max can be bad or less bad depending on how much you choose to pick on him etc. If I wanted to replay it, I would replay it for the characters’ reactions, not for the possibility of the story changing. (Which I actually am doing currently XD)
(Note: I don’t feel like I should speak about gameplay for these types of games since they’re very minimal)
To conclude, my enjoyment towards this game was high for the most part. The last episode was a disappointment, but I really liked the first four episodes and I got very attached to both Max and Chloe. Chloe is on my official list of “fictional characters Neko would date” and “fictional characters Neko would go gay for” list and I don’t plan to ever remove those titles from her; THAT’S how much I love her XD
Now it’s your turn to speak. Did you play this game? Heard about it? If you didn’t, will you be willing to give it a try? What did you think about it? I await feedback. :3