Life Is Strange: Episode 5 – PC
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10 (but wishing I could use 15 out of 10)
“Time to change time.” – Max Caulfield, Life Is Strange
Max Caulfield has graced our screens once again for the final episode of DONTNOD’s Life is Strange and I couldn’t be more heartbroken, which is quite the feat considering my heart is black and icy.
With high-strung emotion, dramatic themes, and brilliant storytelling, Life is Strange is a “hella” great game; and here’s why:
I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Not since the Mass Effect trilogy have I been so invested in the storyline of a game. Life is Strange has a story that is original, quality content and will forever have its own personal space on my mental bookshelf. If you’re not up to speed on the plot, I’ll update you right now, spoiler-free: Max Caulfield is a high school senior at a prestigious private high school named Blackwell Academy. Blackwell
Academy is a historical landmark for the town of Arcadia Bay, and as Max is learning very fast, Blackwell is also the center of strange happenings about the town. Young women are going missing, the weather is unprecedented with snowfalls and eclipses, and Max is still plagued by visions of a tornado destroying Arcadia Bay. Max is a photography student who, although very gifted, is not sure of herself and her ability to make a name for herself in the world of art.
After a haunting vision of a storm tearing through her town, Max awakens in her photography class, assuming it was just a dream. When class ends, Max heads to the bathroom so no one will see her anticipated mini-meltdown. When she enters the bathroom, however, a bright blue butterfly catches Max’s eye. Not being able to resist a photo opportunity, Max hunkers down in an hidden corner to capture the strange occurrence.
Just as she snaps the photo, one of Max’s classmates, Nathan Prescott, bursts through the door. Obviously mentally disturbed, Nathan frantically talks to himself, blabbering things that make no sense. Max stays hidden in the corner as a mysterious young girl with blue hair also enters the bathroom and threateningly confronts Nathan about what seems to be a drug deal gone wrong. Push comes to shove and Nathan pulls out a gun and shoots the blue-haired girl.
Max jumps out of her corner with her right hand out as if she could try and stop the bullet herself. What happens instead is Max blacks out and wakes up in the same class lecture she was just in moments before. It doesn’t take long for Max to discover that she can rewind time and possibly try and save the girl in the bathroom. The rest of the game’s events are a result of the player’s decisions and Max’s conscience.
Though the story may not be as grand as Mass Effect’s, it’s in its own niche of epic. Every decision the player has made as Max has an effect on some part of the ending, as if all of your decisions were drops of dew on a spiderweb, slowly trickling down to meet at the center. It all comes together for a beautiful and fitting ending. DONTNOD has
stated before that they have taken special care to tweak and perfect the writing in Life Is Strange, and I just love how powerful the writing is, especially in this final episode. Character development is at its peak, taking high school archetypes and turning them into relateable and generally well-rounded characters. Even some of the antagonists in Max’s story draw compassion from the player. Most notable is Max’s character development from a shy, doe-eyed teenager to a brave and intelligent young woman. Her dialogue has evolved along with her character, and this brave new Max is the reason for a lot of “fuck yeah!” moments in this episode.
Something that I’ve also noticed in Life is Strange is how strongly the themes are emphasized, especially when it comes to friendship, memories, and innocence. Max’s friendship with Chloe is written so intimately and with passion that you feel as if you’ve known them personally, and Max’s taking significant moments of her past and relating them to what she will do with her future makes her even more human and not just a run of the mill video game character. An extreme turn of events forces Max out of her girlhood and into a tumultuous start to her adulthood by exploitation of her innocence…
Which leads me to the villain of Life is Strange.
I won’t give anything away, but I’ve never seen a villain so sickening out of all the games I have played. The most sickening part being that this type of person could exist in real life, and the writers (Christian Divine and Jean-Luc Cano) have written them well. The vocal performance, the dialogue, and motivations of this antagonist are so nerve-racking that I was stuck at a point where I didn’t understand them at all, but at the same time completely understand what they were trying to do. When a game has you contemplating a character for a immeasurable amount of time, a job was done right.
There’s nothing really new about the gameplay in this final episode except that you utilize Max’s time rewind power to its full capcaity, even to a point where you’re in the “past within the past,” and it becomes dangerous to Max’s health. Although, if you’re playing on a PC, I highly recommend playing with a controller. While playing the PC, it can become tedious to constantly click and drag the cursor over decision prompts when it would be easier from the beginning to just be able to click on the options. However, that’s only my nitpicking that can be remedied very easily.
Everything that has ever been written about time travel, alternate realities, and the butterfly effect has been encompassed in a visual love letter in the Life is Strange finale. Which is a huge deal since Life is Strange is not big on graphics but more of the atmosphere it creates. Life is Strange has never been about high-quality graphics for the sake of eye candy, but to provide a setting that inspires emotion.
And on one last note, I’d like to talk about the soundtrack (haha, see what I did there?) The soundtrack really adds a unique indie folk flavor to the game, with artists like Syd Matters, Amanda Palmer, Alt-J, José González, Local Natives, and Breton all add to the overall feel and tone of the game, and even though I never thought this type of music would be something I listen to on my own time, it’s still good music on its own merit that deserves recognition.
Now that Polarized is finished and I’ve had time to digest the ending, I can safely say that Life Is Strange is one of
the most important games of our generation because the story and characters are beautiful, gameplay is simple and easy to comprehend, and with a stellar soundtrack and atmosphere. It goes without saying that I’m excited as hell for DONTNOD’s upcoming second season of Life Is Strange, and I can’t wait to see what they do next with this premise.
So, why are you still reading this review? Life Is Strange should be installing on your PC/console right now!
You can even take a gander at my commentary/walkthrough of the full game here.
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