Life is Strange is quickly becoming my favourite game of the year. Don’t get me wrong; technically speaking, I know that there have been superior games in the convention sense. I also acknowledge the narrative takes a lot of influence from established science fiction. But, even so, I can’t shake the personal connection I’ve established with Max and the old town of Arcadia Bay. It’s become a sort of comfort game, and something I look forward to playing when I’m feeling worn out with my own life. Of course, I’ve enjoyed games as a form of escapism in the past, but there is something so intriguing about engaging with an interactive drama that doesn’t rely on apocalyptic tropes to humanise its characters.
Forewarning, I’m going to discuss the first two episodes openly. If you’re not up to episode 3, I’d recommend coming back to read this at a later time. So, on that note, I want to start by talking about the incident involving Kate Marsh. In the previous episode, this story arc resonated with me more than anything else. Basically, there was an situation which involved Kate being drugged at a party, a recording of her doing something uncharacteristic, and then that video being plastered all over the internet. Social media in its current form came about after my own time in high school, so this is something that really opened my eyes to ever-growing ways that teenagers find to be absolutely horrible to each other.
As someone who has lived with and overcome depression, my heart openly went out to Kate; even though I knew she was fictional. I thought the entire scenario was very well written, and I liked that the game limited your powers at just the right time; forcing you to talk these issues out, rather than simply rewinding far enough to physically stop her from jumping. The use of a real-world solution was very encouraging to see. I also really respected the in-game message that reached out to any players affected by these topics by providing a link to a page with various sources for help. I’m almost certain this is the first time I’ve seen this in a game, and I wanted to highlight how genuinely great this idea is.
Having saved Kate, this episode kicked off with Nathan Prescott having been expelled (surely, that’s not going to go without consequence), and with the entire school now sympathising with and supporting Kate – a gross, disingenuous reversal. Of course, this is very believable; having seen this first-hand whenever someone gets sick or passes away. However, this particular story arc takes a back seat this episode, with Max and Chloe’s attention now focused on their investigation. After the events of the previous episode, the duo are convinced the disappearance of Rachel and what happened to Kate can’t be a coincidence. To get the answers they need, they intend to break into the school at night.
This episode is primarily about two things: Max and Chloe’s relationship, and, “Chaos Theory.” In terms of drama, episode 3 has some great moments; you’re going to walk away knowing a lot more about Chloe’s story and what she went through after her dad passed away. You’re also going to have to make some bold choices which will likely have long-term ramifications on their friendship. It’s always bugged how Chloe is so emotionally needy despite her hard-ass persona, so I appreciated being given a deeper look into why she turned out that way. Chloe is someone who blames the world for all her problems, and chooses to be self-destructive because it gives her control. It makes sense, sort of.
As a whole, I thought Chaos Theory offered slightly weaker choices compared to the previous episode; more black and white scenarios, essentially. Although, in saying that, the game also pushes us to experiment with Max’s powers in a new way which I thought was interesting. Instead of simply rewinding time to alter choices, this episode had Max doing and saying things in order to get information out of people, from which she could then rewind and use that information to exploit further information with new dialogue options. It’s great to see Max growing somewhat confident in her powers, albeit with caution. I also enjoy the concept of taking objects back through time to overcome obstacles.
This episode isn’t called Chaos Theory without a good reason, however. With bizarre incidents such as rogue snowfall and an unscheduled eclipse, we’re actually starting to believe that an impending tornado is going to hit Arcadia Bay. Weird things are still happening in this episode, of course, but this is the first time I’ve suspected Max and the tornado are tied together in some sort of paradox. I have the feeling I’ve seen this all before, and yet, because it’s coming from so many places, I’m not sure of where it’s going. Without any spoilers, the game is about to get a lot more interesting as the mechanics step beyond dialogue gimmicks. The lesson is always the same: be careful when messing with time.
As a stand alone episode, I’d say Chaos Theory is maybe a little too black and white in the choices it offers, but also stands strong as the bridge for the main story arc. I’m liking how distinct each episode is so far, and this one is no exception. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed high school life, and how you can use or abuse your powers in that environment. However, in saying that, it’s good episode 3 takes you away from that entirely, placing you in the everyday life of Chloe; who you’ll learn more about in the process. I think the big lesson to take away from this episode is that people aren’t always who they appear to be on the surface. I really like that Life is Strange isn’t afraid to explore new directions, and that’s where this instalment succeeds most. Prepare yourself for big changes, because this ride is about to get crazy!
EDITOR NOTE: this game was provided to us by the publisher, and reviewed on PC across 3 hours of gameplay. Please also understand that in an effort to be fair, we will not score an episodic game until the season is complete.