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Life is Strange Episode 3 Review

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Episode 3: Chaos Theory

The story of lead character Max, her best friend Chloe, and the various people that cross paths with these girls in the small Oregon town of Arcadia Bay continues.  We are now on the third episode of five, which is the time where typically the twist of the season presents itself and the direction for the overall story arc begins to come into view.  I don’t know where Life is Strange is headed – the twist at the end I never saw coming and it only furthered my intrigue – but I am pleased to say that the flaws I was detecting in the second episode are quite absent this time around.  In fact, it feels like perhaps two different teams at Dontnod are programming episodes because Chaos Theory feels more like the first episode and might even be able to get by if episode 2 didn’t exist (save for a plot point or two).  Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this third iteration, although despite my gripes from episode 2 being resolved, all new ones have emerged that prove there’s still room for improvement on this project.

life_is_strange_ep3_1Whereas the last episode felt forced, without much care to the characters that inhabit the world and chock full of annoying parlor tricks, episode three starts right off with something we had yet to see in the series: stealth.  Frankly I’m getting sick of this mechanic being forced into genres it never belonged in – and this is no exception – but the time manipulation mechanic makes utilizing stealth an optional affair.  Crisis averted.  Another thing you start to notice is that your decisions of the past are continuing to affect the storylines of the present, which is quite impressive when you play two different save files for each chapter like I do.  There are facts about characters that one of my saves has known since episode one that continues to be a large driving force for why they act the way they do, but on the other save I’m completely oblivious to these facts and have an entirely different opinion of that person.  The same is true of plenty of side characters and as far as I can see the game has chosen, at least up to this point, not to reveal that info if you never discover it.  This impresses me and shows off that the branching information and slightly altered storylines aren’t so much smoke and mirrors like other titles, but rather just subtle differences that allow a streamlined creative process.

life_is_strange_ep3_2In the last episode I didn’t like the dynamic between Max and Chloe because it felt forced that two girls who, despite being best friends, had not spoken to each other in five years.  They connected too quick – this fact is even stated near the end of episode two by Chloe – but that didn’t prevent the plot from forcing this companionship on you.  Whether it’s the activities you do with Chloe in episode three or perhaps the reality that I’ve now embraced we are supposed to be close friends again, this deep friendship is much stronger and it felt more natural in this episode.  Chloe is very influential and whether this is the game’s design or my willingness to become a sheep, I found myself losing independence at times to succumb to her will and give in to her peer pressure.  With the character change comes that feeling of freedom that often accompanies doing things out of character.  I bring all this up because as each character develops, and we continue to see a rock solid job of almost all main players developing this time around,  so do you the player.  It may not be that big of a deal to most players, but I was taken with how I was developing and changing in my personality for Max as I spent more time with the characters of the story.

life_is_strange_ep3_3Another new change, and one that kept me playing this episode a bit longer than I would have liked, is a ramp up in difficulty.  To be clear, Life is Strange is not a hard game and with the rewind mechanic it can be downright impossible to find a death state, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck.  Yes, like the adventure games of the past, you might find yourself in a predicament where you don’t know what to do next.  This is developer Dontnod trying to test you about what you have learned so far and showing you that this game is about to get a hell of a lot more dynamic.  You need to know how to properly manipulate time and understand how freeing that can be, especially with complex tasks.  You need to know how to navigate a room, remember specifics about the people you interact with, and even know who to name drop to someone in order to get them to give up information.  It’s no Sierra point-and-click, but you will probably find yourself trying everything on everything at least once or twice throughout this episode, which was new for me.  None of the situations requires that much deep thought or you getting stuck for too long, so I urge everyone to try not looking up a solution to the situation so that when the answer eventually comes to you, you can experience that small rush of accomplishment from those days long gone.  It’s all just backing the fact that as the episodes continue to release, this game is evolving.

life_is_strange_ep3_4With the strong storyline continuing and my love for these characters also growing at an exponential rate, I can’t help but say I’m all in again.  The ramp in difficulty and new utilization of old gameplay mechanics is a misstep and prevents you from getting what you really want out of Life is Strange, which is more of the story.  Still, it’s not a deal breaker and provided that they reign it in, can be a welcome addition to future episodes.  I have to admit I was blown away with the direction the story takes at the end and while I thought I knew what the twist was and had it all figured out, the actual twist and direction for the next episode blindsided me.  I’m not saying it’s the greatest plot mechanic of all time, but it’s definitely raising the bar in terms of episodic storytelling in games.  I hope TellTale is taking notes because this new kid in town is showing me what I should be seeing out of future releases for all games of this genre.  I might have been disenchanted by episode two, but with this new direction I can’t wait for the final two episodes of Life is Strange.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

Given that this game is episodic, this review will continue to build upon itself per episode.  Posts of each episode will go on the main page individually but this link will stand as the comprehensive review for all episodes.  Each episode will be given its own score initially, but the comprehensive review will have an overall score that will update with each episode (and may not necessarily reflect an average of the scores as this is not the method to scoring).  This game was purchased by the reviewer and played on PC, however it is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (including Steam), Xbox One, and Playstation 4 at a price of $4.99 for Episode One and $19.99 for the entire five episode run.  It is assumed that episodes will be available individually for $4.99 each.

Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

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