• Review: Life is Strange


    Single Issue XXIII (Written by Meelis13)


    Life is Strange


    Life is Strange
    Life is strange. Thats both an observation as well as name of Dontnod Entertainment's and Square Enix's game. Enjoy the review.


    Basic introduction


    Maxine "Max" Caulfield in one of her storm visions

    Life is Strange is choices-matter episodic graphic adventure game made by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix. First episode was released 30th january 2015, last one 20th october 2015 and it was released for windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox one.

    System requirements (from steam):

    Minimum:
    OS: Windows Vista
    Processor: Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent
    Memory: 2 GB RAM
    Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/ 512 MB RAM (not recommended for Intel HD Graphics cards)
    DirectX: Version 9.0
    Hard Drive: 3 GB available space


    Recommended:
    OS: Windows 7
    Processor: Dual Core 3.0GHz or equivalent
    Memory: 2 GB RAM
    Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/ 1024 MB RAM (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 or ATI HD 4890)
    DirectX: Version 9.0
    Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

    Story

    Max Caulfield and her BFF- Chloe Price, 2 main characters

    Story places you in role of Maxine "Max" Caulfield, 18-year old senior highschool student at Blackwell academy located in Arcadia Bay, fictional small town in Oregon, USA. Max- as she prefers to be called- has just returned to town she crew up in after living 5 years in Seattle.
    Anyways, that sets us up for the story's start- Max has vision in class of tornado hitting the town at end of the week. Not long after, she ends up witnessing a murder in bathroom (where she tries to take picture of blue butterfly, photographer as she is), when mysterious girl (soon to be revealed Max's old best friend forever Chloe Price) tries to extort money from local rich kid Nathan Prescott and gets shot. Trying to stop shooter, she reaches out and... finds herself back in the class listening to same lecture she heard before. Then it hits her that she can rewind time- which she does- and stops the shooter from killing the girl.

    Here where real story starts, with Max and Chloe (who she runs into bit later) trying to solve mystery of Rachel Amber, popular girl who went missing months ago and also to figure out how to stop tornado.

    So yeah, it might sound quite generic so far, but to be fair, main strength isnt the main storyline- however that is very good as well, despite it seeming like another mystery/american high school drama-ish at first- but the fact that LiS manages to create so many good subplots that are stories on its own is what makes it so good. You do get immersed quickly and developers managed to make you care a lot for the characters. Character development is also excellent.
    One thing that i really like about story is that it catches you bit off-guard: you have to remember details, unlike in most other games where you are holding hands with some thing that helps you remember stuff. It manages to catch you off-guard over and over again until you start doing that, keeping you more invested in story.
    In fact i would call it emotional rollercoaster of the decade with it lifting your mood up then gutpunching you with emotional train- i have cried over game/movie characters, but not nearly as much as i have while playing this game. And not just sad tears or happy tears- every imaginable type of tears were cried during playing this game. But you dont only cry but also feel just about every emotion- happiness, sadness, hate.

    But being choice-driven game by nature, you might wonder, how much do choices affect the game? Well, main plot still says more or less same, but there are points where choices you made make huge impact and even smaller choices- ones you might not even know you do- affect game. I mean when you water a plant and see "this action will have consecuences" message, you know that game got more interesting. Speaking of choices- usually in other choice-driven games you are given chance to form your character's personality. I dont feel this is the case here and i have to say- im extremely happy over it. Choices you make in this game are fitting with Max's personality, not like in say, TWD where you could have Lee answer nicely to one question and then completely flip it next choice. Of course hardest choice you'll have to face is wheter to have Belgian waffles or bacon omlette as breakfast ("NO EMOJI"- Chloe Price)

    One story element is rewind-mechanism itself- after you make choice (or mess up), you can usually rewind and try another solution, seeing all options without having to replay entire chapter. You might think this makes choice-making too easy, but believe me, it doesnt. For many choices you might not see real consecuence until later in story. But more on rewind in gameplay section.

    Another good thing about the story is that you can take your time in most parts (well, actually in all of it as time is on your side). It isnt fast-paced game to begin with, but it does offer you options to sit and relax time to time and listen Max's toughts on events. Or you could let her play her quitar. Or listen to music. Or just mingle around.

    Story has one very underappreciated strongpoint- it actually deals with several serious daily issues in a way we dont even notice and it manages to guide our attention to them, but not in a way we would be bored or wouldnt want to see them. Bullying, soldiers finding hard to come back from war, losing parent, teen pregnancy and much more are handled in Life is Strange, but you only realise lot later that they were handled in the first place, plus some issues are very easy to miss. So if after reading this section you rolled your eyes, that this is another "help people" game, dont, as it really doesnt intrude with story and actually helps it a lot.

    You also have diary, where Max writes about events that happened, locations and stores pictures she took (all those pictures are optional, with hints on how to find them as drawings), plus phone messages and Max's opinions about all major characters in game.

    There's also bad thing about story portion though. Lip sync has improved over the patches, but its still not good (though you do learn to tune it out).

    I do have to write about ending separately- short, but separate, so if you'd rather not see my opinion on end, dont check into this spoiler tag, though i do say for future reference as well, that if i do write about ending separately, its either good or bad

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Ending is very Mass Effect 3-ish. Ok, Life is Strange has been bought by fewer people, but if ME3 would've had that kind of ending, people would've raged even more. You get choice between 2 options, that define the ending- that in itself is quite ok in my opinion, but not when they make it as generic and obvious ending (i mean literally- you could see theories about ending from start) as they did. Very suprising, considering extremely high quality of story. However, i do say that despite bad endings (they are totally different, depending on final choice that i cant comment on more without spoiling), it kinda shows how good game is, because i still love the game despite the bitter taste at end.



    Gameplay
    Max's diary entry about herself

    Gameplay is quite typical for graphical adventure- you move around, talk with people and use mouse to make choices when those are given. Oh yeah, and you also have cool gimmick that allows you rewind time, which is quite handy in many cases.

    Rewind allows you to rewind time (well, big suprise here) to certain point (depends on situation), with actions being marked on timeline, if you dont need to go all the way back. In story, in many cases you can use it, but you dont need it, however in some cases you do need to use it to the max (pun intended). Obviously Max remembers what happened before rewind, but nobody else does, however it does have some interesting features. Namely, you can effectively teleport. Not in usual sense though, so dont get too excited. Good example is when you need to get other side of locked door without breaking it- you break it, move to other side of the door and rewind so that door is whole again. And voila, you are on other side of locked door.
    Other useful thing is that you can snoop around and then rewind time to use stuff you found in conversations.
    Rewind can also be used to obtain items stealthily, though this usually again requires not-so-stealthy option first, then rewind.

    Other than rewind, you can also interact with lot of stuff from posters to people, so there is lots to do. You can also- as already mentioned in story section- take optional photographs. I do reccommend it, as its quite fun to hunt them.


    Sound & Graphics
    Max can play that quitar quite well, i'd say

    Both sound and graphics are excellent. Graphics are well-drawn with beautiful and color-rich enviroments. Definetly fits the style of LiS game. As for sound... While voice acting of some characters can feel bit bland at times, in most part its amazing (though lip sync is disturbing factor). But soundtrack.. Just wow. Music really manages to support story and its feelings very well- its rare to see it done so well as here. This is something i do say- you have to try it out yourself, i cannot put into words how good the music is.

    Summary


    While having some faults (mostly minor), Life is Strange is one of those games that i call art in video game form. I have to admit, that i havent enjoyed a game that much in ages, but then again it is one of those games you dont see every year. The story, the sound, heck, even simplistic gameplay, its perfect. To hell with AAA titles, this is my GOTY and i wouldnt be suprised if this would be my game of the decade.

    Score: 10/10. Heck, i'd give it 3 times more than that.


    Gallery

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Near lighthouse, overlooking Arcadia bay

    one of down-times with Max on swing at Chloe's house


    Tornado-vision scene

    Class you find yourself in at start of game


    photo of Max's class

    Blackwell academy

    the butterfly that started it all

    Max on swing

    Chillin' time


    Hanging on rail tracks doesnt seem like best idea


    Night in Blackwell


    Comments 16 Comments
    1. FlagrantPilgrim's Avatar
      FlagrantPilgrim -
      Oh my god you have taste
    1. youngfool's Avatar
      youngfool -
      Easily one of the best $20 range game, and yes i agree 10/10 score does this game unjustly.
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by FlagrantPilgrim View Post
      Oh my god you have taste
      Why, thank you. From what i can see, you created whole account to say me that- that actually means a lot to me
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by youngfool View Post
      Easily one of the best $20 range game, and yes i agree 10/10 score does this game unjustly.
      couldnt agree more. Thank you for taking time to read and respond
    1. Haršurāšaz's Avatar
      Haršurāšaz -
      nice review
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Haršurāšaz View Post
      nice review
      Thank you very much! And you have nice profile picture
    1. Haršurāšaz's Avatar
      Haršurāšaz -
      tnx!
    1. alhoon's Avatar
      alhoon -
      LIS isn't IMO purely a game. It's closer to a good TV series... that is interactive. And not linear. But that's the feeling I get from it. Half the game is cut-scenes.
      I like it very much and I like this format of telling a story. I'd look for other productions by the developers in the future.

      EDIT: The final episode was not as good and ... there was little effect of my choices in the ending.
      Still, loved the game but it was a bit disappointing at the end; I expected my choices would seriously affect the finale despite the final choice.
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by alhoon View Post
      LIS isn't IMO purely a game. It's closer to a good TV series... that is interactive. And not linear. But that's the feeling I get from it. Half the game is cut-scenes.
      I like it very much and I like this format of telling a story. I'd look for other productions by the developers in the future.

      EDIT: The final episode was not as good and ... there was little effect of my choices in the ending.
      Still, loved the game but it was a bit disappointing at the end; I expected my choices would seriously affect the finale despite the final choice.
      I get the same feeling and frankly- i like it. Gets you more invested in story. And i agree on format of story telling- i'd definetly would like to see more similar games on PC.

      As for developer, only other game by Dontnod thats released so far is "Remember me"- from what i heard, it is ok game, though it has mixed reviews. Not tried it myself.

      As for ending, yeah, thats sadly quite true. Dontnod built up huge expectations with first 4 episodes and i get feeling they just didnt know how to wrap up (however there was perfect spot at start of ep. 5). Worst thing about ending though- it breaks one of most basic rules in writing a story.
    1. Destin Faroda's Avatar
      Destin Faroda -
      While the first four episodes were great and entertaining, the fifth one was a huge disappointment. The ending is extremely unsatisfactory and the nightmare scenes feel cheap.

      Just look at the Führer's reaction:


      So much stuff has been hinted at and was totally ignored in episode 5, not to mention all the missing explanations. Well, time travel and logic bite each other.
      My guess is that Dontnod ran out of money. After all, they're a small studio with a tight budget.

      One thing is sure though: Dreamfall Chapters can't possibly create a worse ending than LiS. Back to my post-LiS-depression...
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Destin Faroda View Post
      While the first four episodes were great and entertaining, the fifth one was a huge disappointment. The ending is extremely unsatisfactory and the nightmare scenes feel cheap.
      So much stuff has been hinted at and was totally ignored in episode 5, not to mention all the missing explanations. Well, time travel and logic bite each other.
      My guess is that Dontnod ran out of money. After all, they're a small studio with a tight budget.

      One thing is sure though: Dreamfall Chapters can't possibly create a worse ending than LiS. Back to my post-LiS-depression...
      more like they ran out of ideas how to close the game
      my reccommendation- play the game. End game at first big timechange in ep. 5.
    1. alhoon's Avatar
      alhoon -
      Since this is a review, I have to suggest this to new players:
      Consider playing only Episodes 1-4. And then make a smaaaall logical leap at the end of episode 4, or at the very latest, beginning of episode 5 about the fate of the central character. Assume her story stopped there. It would be totally plausible to actually end there... and it would have made a better story IMO. You get all the answers you need to get in the first half hour or so.
      And then the game starts getting unsatisfying, spoiling prior experience.

      Trust me: Play Episode 1-4 and just a bit of episode 5 to see the motives of the bad guys. Resist playing more. You'll wish you listened to my advice later.

      Others that played it, could you back me up here? Wouldn't it, at your opinion think it would be better if episode 4 was the final one? Along with some insight about the motives of the main villain?

      Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

      No seriously, that's a big spoiler. I'll discuss the main mystery of the game.
      This one is ONLY for those that finished it. And this comes from a person that reads the last page of a book before the first.
      Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

      My suggestion for a more fitting ending:
      Jefferson kills Max after killing Chloe. The end. Storm avoided.

      As Max is blacking out to sad music, unable to rewind, David, still tracking Chloe and Nathan arrives at the scene and arrests Jefferson, learning (in a 1-min monologue, not 15 dialogues) that he killed Nathan and the girls for his bizzare photo-fetish. David kills Jefferson at the admission or just waits for the police depending on choices (i.e. his mood).
      Or Warren, or Frank, depending on choices and on who has a gun. I remind you that when Warren beats Nathan, Chloe may grab Nathan's pistol.

    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by alhoon View Post
      Since this is a review, I have to suggest this to new players:
      Consider playing only Episodes 1-4. And then make a smaaaall logical leap at the end of episode 4, or at the very latest, beginning of episode 5 about the fate of the central character. Assume her story stopped there. It would be totally plausible to actually end there... and it would have made a better story IMO. You get all the answers you need to get in the first half hour or so.
      And then the game starts getting unsatisfying, spoiling prior experience.

      Trust me: Play Episode 1-4 and just a bit of episode 5 to see the motives of the bad guys. Resist playing more. You'll wish you listened to my advice later.

      Others that played it, could you back me up here? Wouldn't it, at your opinion think it would be better if episode 4 was the final one? Along with some insight about the motives of the main villain?

      Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

      No seriously, that's a big spoiler. I'll discuss the main mystery of the game.
      This one is ONLY for those that finished it. And this comes from a person that reads the last page of a book before the first.
      Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

      My suggestion for a more fitting ending:
      Game ends in San Fransisco, in front of Max's everyday heroes entry

      Edited suggested ending for those who wish to have happy one
    1. Ygraine's Avatar
      Ygraine -
      Thanks for the review! This game is awesome and really emotional!
    1. Meelis13's Avatar
      Meelis13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ygraine View Post
      Thanks for the review! This game is awesome and really emotional!
      Thank you for reading it! And i agree- game is definetly strong contender for best storyline in 2015 (i think GOTY is most likely some AAA title though- fallout 4 probably)
    1. alhoon's Avatar
      alhoon -
      Ygraine, I would say just trust us and cut the game short at "first big timechange in ep. 5." as Meelis13 suggests.
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