There are many games that excel with their amazing graphics, fantastic combat system, well made leveling and RPG aspects. But, there are some games that wrap you up in a compelling story that makes you want to see it to the end. And that is Life Is Strange.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead for Life is Strange, Life is Strange 2, The Walking Dead, And Detroit: Become Human.
Life is Strange is a interactive time manipulation game released in 2015 by Dontnod studios, published by Square Enix. The game takes place in the fictional Arcadia Bay, a small town that houses a boarding school where most of the game takes place. We play as Max Caufield, a photographer in the making and the protagonist of the story. A slightly bland unoriginal girl, until she gets the power to rewind time after seeing her close friend “Chloe Price” get shot in the bathroom. With these new found powers, Max and Chloe set out to discover the disappearance of Chloe’s friend “Rachel”.
The games plot, which is one of its strongest points is intriguing and entertaining until the very end. With constant building to the revealing of Rachel’s disappearance, and the constant choices you will have to make within the game. Many choices will effect characters relationships, jobs and even the lives of a few. One of the major points of the story is the ability to reverse time. In certain moments, you have to make a choice whether to do one thing or the other. The effects of your choice most of the time are not immediate, but they do have many lingering effects that could haunt you in later episodes of the series. The game is a five episode series in which each episode links to the previous and the next episode, all leading to a climax in the final moments of episode 5. Many will be reminded of this from games from TellTale, like Tell Tale‘s: The Walking Dead, Batman, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones. Games that span episodic chapters like a TV show.
The gameplay is very simplistic. There are not any major issues or systems you have to be wary of, but the major focal point of the game is the ability to rewind time. Max can do this after conversations with people, gaining new dialogue options to use in conversations. You also must use the time reversal ability to solve slightly tedious puzzles within the game, they’re subtle but you’ll notice them when you do. The issue with time reversal and games like this, is that the choices you make that could affect you can easily be undone, giving you more free range than it should because it lessens the blow of choices that truly matter. For example, you can choose whether to side with David or Chloe in a scene in an episode, the choice is important as it will affect the relationship of David, Chloe, and Joyce (Chloe’s mother and David’s wife). But you can simply rewind time if that’s not the choice you really want at the end.
This issue really downplays the effect of choosing, because if you can simply rewrite the last 5 minutes then your choice really doesn’t matter if you can just rewind to choose another path. This isn’t an issue in games like The Walking Dead, for example. Choosing to kill Larry by helping Kenny or trying to save him by helping Lily. Lee can only do one, he cannot reverse time to see the outcome of one option, you have to make that choice regardless. You can’t go back, you can’t rewind, you’re in that moment and in that moment you have to make a choice. It’s compelling and fantastic. It’s the same way with Detroit: Become Human. Protesting against the police, you cannot go back if Marcus dies. It’s a choice you have to live with. But in Life is Strange, you can just go back on major choices to do something else. It breaks the feeling that making a tough decision has weight to it.
The characters of Life is Strange is the biggest thing that I absolutely loved about the game. Each character felt real. I’d love to break down each character and why I enjoyed seeing them, even the minor characters like Ashly, Evan and more. But that would take way too long. Many of the main cast are phenomenal characters that make the world of Life is Strange feel real. Max is your typical nerdy introvert, but she has this authenticity about her that makes her a character you want to root for. Chloe is a almost word for word blue haired punk rocker that has this wild side, but under all of that cool faux is someone who truly just misses her best friend and her dad.
Each character has some baggage, nobody is perfect. That’s what makes a character real, they’re not perfect. Kate feels hopeless and lost, Nathan feels troubled and is torn mentally, warren is heartbroken and feels for Max, David is a hard ass (or a step-douche), but wants the best for him and his family. No character is perfect, but they’re perfect to me. Everyone has regrets, fears, things they love and hate. And it’s all for you to discover.
The art style for Life is Strange is heavily criticized for its slightly muddy character models and colors, but I think it adds to the beauty aesthetic. The characters are hand drawn, and rendered by hand. That’s why they look so colorful and not realistic, it makes them feel more explosive. The areas you can explode in the game all have their own feelings to them, the school is full of color and has an array of different characters. The junkyard has a darker tone, with more brown and deeper saturated colors due to the old and broken things lying within the ruins. The dark room is a contrast of darkness, but the flash of lights gives you a visual of what horrors lie within this room that has caused so much suffering. The art style is a little choppy and people can rightfully dislike the colors, but I cannot help but see them explode with vibrancy sometimes.
The soundtrack for Life is Strange is personally one of the best soundtracks for any game. It’s been years since I’ve first heard some of these songs but I still listen to them daily. Bands like Local Natives, Syd Matters, Mud Flow and Message to Bears. All of these bands had their hand in creating a soundtrack for an amazing game. The original score composed by Jonathan Morali takes the cake, each of his themes feel so unique and they’re all compelling in their situation. From “Kate”, to “Timeless”, “Night Wall” and “Golden Hour”. Each song fit so perfectly in tune with the game and the scene.
Life is Strange is a beauty to behold and a game that really makes you care for each character. The time travel fault is an issue, but if you could see past that: It’s an emotionally driven game that’s painfully beautiful. The fate of Arcadia Bay rests in your hands.