Life is Strange Review for PC: Episode 3 & 4

Developer: Dontnod
Publisher: Square-Enix
Platform: PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: Ep. 3 May 19, 2015, Ep. 4 July 28, 2015.
Price: $4.99 [Per episode]

Disclaimer: The following review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk. 

After playing through Life is Strange: Episode 2, I was starting to think the series was growing stale. This is important considering interactive media, like gaming, is susceptible to the adage “the sequel is never as good as the original.” This becomes even more true in an episodic adventure. Telltale Games has almost perfected its touch with various entries, but Dontnod is here to give them a run for their money.

Episode 3: Chaos Theory

The release of Life is Strange: Episode 3-Chaos Theory couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I had taken a break from the game after not seeing the episode update in my Steam library. Admitting ignorance, I didn’t know the release date and almost forgot about the series after checking back in every now and then. This was about the same time that I went back to watch “Jurassic Park.”

For those unfamiliar with the movie (you should be ashamed of yourself), it is more than just a movie about dinosaurs being reanimated in the modern age. One of the main themes of the movie revolves around the concept of whether or not humans should create prehistoric life given that in this universe they have the ability to do so. One of the main characters of the movie, a mathematician by the name of Ian Malcom, expresses his interests in “Chaos Theory.”

To paraphrase considerably, the theory suggests that one small alteration of past can have great consequences. So, playing creator of an extinct species of animal could have dire consequences.

Chaos Theory and cake, please.

The overall experience of Episode 3 is similar to baking a cake. While this might be an aside to the dooming “Chose Theory”, I still feel it relevant to the bigger picture.

chloe

There are various ingredients being mixed together. And, depending on the science of how you mix these, the outcome is varied. While you can mostly choose the said ingredients in the Life is Strange cake, you will still question yourself as a baker. No matter how you choose to mix-and-match sequences of events, you will still question whether or not you are altering time for the right reasons or doing it for the right outcome–or the additional self-expository to whether you are supposed to be baking at all. The same can be applied to Malcom’s comparison to the creator and the “Chaos Theory” itself.

whales
There’s something strange in the neighborhood.

That one time…

Many times, the application of time is encountered. The “if” to alter, the “when” it should occur, or even the “how” am I going to get out of this pickle. As for Life is Strange, that has been adapted over each episode, further entangling ourselves in the episodes and progress. This also ties into the main themes of the story, not to mention the strong undertones there are within each individual experience.

If you have ever encountered someone with a substance abuse problem, you may even find commonalities or similarities in behavior in someone like Chloe. These instances are powerful in that you may not have known someone personally with reliance on a substance for everyday function, but it puts you in a position to better understand it. Even if it is having to intake a few tokes of THC in order to enjoy a regular pancake breakfast. You may even wonder what caused such a reliance, even considering the “what-if’s” that would be involved to disrupt that dependence.

The episode starts to gain depth just as we were starting to get to know Chloe more-and-more. Having lost her dad at a young age, Chloe often reminisces of his swift departure from her life. Max discovers a new ability as she grasps an older picture of her and Chloe. She is then transported to a prior timeline, and now has the chance to save Chloe’s dad from ever missing out on her life. And, living true to the name of the series, this has some life-changing consequences.

I hear ‘ya

Regardless of the instances of the game, it seems to have a full grasp on the music involved to fully animate each scene. As much as time and choices are part of the experience, music guides you along the journey. This is one thing that I noticed in my early interactions and have since become more aware of how it impacts the game. There is one instance where Max and Chloe are laying in bed reminiscing about previous night. I found myself lost in thought about the times in my past where tunes were shared over lost thought with another person. I was intrigued before, but now I was fully locked in to the strange experience.

criminal

The episode ends with Max returning to the current tangent in time, having Chloe’s dad in tact, but Chloe herself confined to a wheelchair. Instead of her father being tangled in the metal of an auto accident, Chloe is instead the victim. There are other variances, such Max’s friend Warren not even being a close admirer of her, and David is just a creepy bus driver for Blackwell Academy.

One small variance has had a great outcome. And, the hook was inside me even more, having me prepped and floored to play the next episode.

Episode 4: The Dark Room

After the series of events of Episode 3, I was very eager to play Episode 4: The Dark Room. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next, something an episodic adventure should strive to do considering the way in which it is released. With that said, I thought Chaos Theory has been the best episode yet. There were extreme tugs on my heart strings, and it probed me to question even outside the game what I would do in the same situation.

In this alternate reality, Chloe hasn’t seen Max in a while and spend some time watching a movie together like they did in the old days. This is the second time waking up in Chloe’s room, again reminiscing of past events. After seeing Chloe in the state she was in, administering morphine to aid her discomfort, you are pressed to help her end her life. In my case, I chose to end her life after first dodging the question and choice.

party

Am I a softie?

Amongst the questions of the game, there is also a presence of finality that comes with decisions. You start to wonder: Is this permanent? Can I rewind this situation? What is going to happen next? While I watched Chloe drift off into her sleep, I knew that this wasn’t the last time I was going to see her. At least, it wasn’t over yet.

Grasping a photo left on the lap of our recently deceased friend, Max is able to use her recently learned ability to jump back to the day that she made the choice to save Chloe’s dad, thus altering current situations. After this transpires, it is back to the grind in finding what Nathan Prescott is really up to and the odd events plaguing Arcadia Bay.

As we start to dig more and more into the beached whales, missing people, and strange eclipses, more light starts to dawn on the shadiness of Arcadia Bay’s inhabitants. Of course, we have an inclination that Nathan Prescott is behind it in some way. I thoroughly enjoyed the discovery and investigation more so in the last two episodes, as I felt it was more intuitive, something of which I wanted to see more of in the prior episodes. I also felt events were a lot more streamlined, transpiring with a more stitched together feeling.

Mo’n’Mo

As we start to see more areas of the campus, we are also introduced to new places outside the familiar areas of town. We see this as we investigate more of Frank’s RV, then as we see beached whales from a distance again when its parked near the shoreline. At this point, an interaction with Frank can go two ways: with him being shot or giving up the information asked for by Chloe and Max willingly.

This was a surprisingly challenging, yet satisfying interaction to finally get right and walk away with no one hurt. The glimpse’s of alternate realities painted a far, more vast depiction of how each piece fits into the totality of Arcadia Bay. I was genuinely surprised to see the vastness of options within a single conversation, but also tread lightly on the options I did choose, fearful of the outcome.

After the information from Frank is acquired, there is another investigatory element brought in. Using all of the information gathered thus far from snooping around the school, dorms, and list of clients from Frank, a location is found off in the hills. And, of course, more is revealed about Nathan Prescott’s affiliation with the turn of events, so much so that we are event tasked with finding Victoria in order to warn her of his possible attempt to drug and end her life as well. We are also under the assumption that Rachel is in fact deceased, thanks to a binder full of pictures of her drugged and gagged, leaving us to bolt from the secluded house to her alleged whereabouts.

The depth of story at this point has gone beyond just a point-and-click adventure with outcomes for choices. It is now a murder-mystery, action-adventure where choices can be made for a slew of outcomes based on choices. Although there were spoilers that laced the better part of this review, I didn’t find it necessary to divulge all of the information about the ending to the episode. Although, I can say that my jaw dropped and it was probably the most “what the f#$!” moment I’ve had in a while.

The Bottom Line:

Life is Strange has picked up some major steam in the latest episodes. Episode 3: Chaos Theory is, in my eyes, was the best episode in the series. That is, only to be trumped by itself by Episode 4’s cliffhanger ending.

The level of exploration has been expanded upon, opening up more areas of Arcadia Bay. The game even promises a more gripping story in the next episode as things start to take focus even more as to what all the strange events mean, or how they are tied to one another.

While I do feel Life is Strange has made great improvements, it is by no means perfect. Certain character encounters are sometimes dwarfed, and others left open like day-old mayonnaise.

With that being said, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be playing Life is Strange, especially after both of these episodes carried such gravity to them. Seriously, the struggle is real and there is Arcadia Bay chalk-full-o-mystery.




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