Put simply, ‘Life is Strange’ is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The level at which I connected with the characters, even from early on, was palpable. I put my headphones on, turned off the light, and got lost into the small coastal town of Arcadia Bay.
Like with Until Dawn, ‘Life is Strange’ is a game driven by your choices and the consequences that come as a result. Except where Until Dawn was focused around which characters would get brutally ripped apart, this game gets deeper into the relationships between its myriad of interesting people. Not only that, but you can even go back to make a different decision if you change you mind. This idea is a fundamental part of the game.
Life is Strange
You play the game as Max Caulfield: a photography student who recently arrived back to her home town to attend Blackwell Academy. After one of her routine classes, she witnesses a horrific incident in the girl’s toilets This incident shocks her into discovering a special ability she has – the ability to rewind time.
The mechanic of rewinding time is really well integrated into the game and is actually really fun to keep going back and making different decisions to affect immediate outcomes. Of course many decisions will have long tail affects which you wont actually see the result of until much later on.
As the game progresses Max learns more about what her powers allow her to do and the effects that her time jumping actually has – sometimes to tear-inducing effect.
Her powers give herself and her best friend, Chloe, a unique advantage as they begin to dig into the dark underbelly of Arcadia Bay and into the disappearance of local girl Rachel Amber.
A game of episodes
When I first heard about games being created as episodes my immediate thought was that it was a con; getting people to pay more money for what amounts to a single game. However, not only are each of these five episodes well-priced, but the way the story flows, you really do need a breather after each episode’s climax.
It’s hard to believe that breaking Life is Strange up into five episodes was because of budgetary constraints – the story benefits from this format and gives the player a natural place to take a break from the story.
Have tissues at the ready
You know that feeling of having a frog in your throat when you experience a really emotional scene in a film? Like the end of ‘Titanic’ or the bus singalong to Tiny Dancer in ‘Almost Famous’? Well this game has moments like that in spades. There is one climax in particular – the end of ‘Episode 3: Chaos Theory’ that choked me up more than in any other game I’ve played. Obviously I can’t go into the scene itself but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
The relationship between the two main protagonists, Max and Chloe, is handled beautifully. You are given decisions to make throughout the game, many of which are tied to Max and Chloe’s friendship. When I was forced to make some – often really hard – decisions with them, I found myself becoming more invested in that friendship, like I actually was Max.
Take your time and explore
This is not a game that you should want to rush through just so you can say you’ve completed it. You will be so thankful to take your time and experience Arcadia Bay in full. There are moments in the game where you can just lie or sit down, allowing you to chill. During these moments Max will think out loud about what she’s just seen and what she’s going through. You can even sit Max down and have her play her guitar for as long as you want. You can truly get lost in this world.
I encourage you all to play this game. At least play the first episode, which is now free on Steam and PS4. I guarantee that once you play the first episode you’ll be bulk buying the other four immediately.