Game Review | Life is Strange | Season 1, Episode 5 | "Polarized"
Summary: Max Caulfield learns that time is impossible to control and that her power carries many consequences as she moves inexorably towards the most agonising decision of her life. (Life is Strange wiki)
*** SPOILER ALERT – Do not read any further if you don’t want any spoilers ***
And so the final episode is here, becoming my favourite episode overall thanks to the constant time-travel and reality-warping going on. Throw in a few crazy dream sequences and some great character work and this was definitely an enjoyable episode to play through.
The only problem is that it feels like it’s from another series entirely, rather than an appropriate ending for the story told in the previous four episodes. It’s certainly up there with the end of episode 3 and start of episode 4, which also dealt with time-travel causing alternate realities, but with so much of Life is Strange being more concerned with personal drama, this ending feels a little too… out there with how it wraps things up.
If the rest of the series had been along these lines, then this would have been a fantastic way to finish things off, but it just makes me wish that we hadn’t wasted so much time in the first two episodes with so little craziness compared to the last two.
To the point, the episode begins with Max as a prisoner and making use of her powers to try and escape. As in the episode 3 ending, she uses a photo to escape into the past and over the course of the game, we are treated to multiple different timelines including getting to experience a tornado hitting Arcadia Bay first-hand.
There’s also an interesting dream sequence once Max has returned to the ‘prime’ reality where it is hinted that the other timelines we’ve visited have continued to exist after Max has left, leaving us to wonder how things turned out there (potentially horrifying for the alternate Max suddenly finding herself beside the body of the euthanised Chloe from the beginning of episode 4).
The sequences are really enjoyable this time out for the atmosphere they create and the constant driving forward of the story - and no pointless, time-filling blocks, although the actual gameplay does its best to continue frustrating you.
I will also point out that this episode is the first time I thought the soundtrack really enhanced what we see on the screen. Up until now, the music has been good, but really just there in the background to create a little atmosphere and not really adding anything to the experience. This time, there are a couple of strong sequences that the music lifts even higher and really come across as powerful, memorable moments as a result.
The thing is, that’s kind of emblematic of this episode: there’s so much good here, and so much to like, that the annoyances and frustrations of previous episodes really stick out. We really didn’t need to meet as many people as we did, wasting time on a lot of really, really minor characters with no impact on the story at all.
The only real sticking point in this episode is the ending, but not because of simply being presented with a binary choice. There are many who have already complained long and loud about how similar to Mass Effect 3 it is, with a final choice apparently overriding everything else we’ve experienced up to this point. However, much like ME3, I think that’s crap and an incredibly reductive way to look at it (and also an argument for another time).
I’ll go into more detail about the ending in the overall series review, but it’s not exactly a nail in the coffin or even anything serious enough to make me want to mark this episode down at all. Rather, it’s just an odd creative choice that can significantly change your view of the series as a whole.
"Polarized" is a strong finish to a season that I really didn't get on board with until the third episode. Maybe it's because this episode is a little more 'out there' with the time travel and less so on the characters, but even they're not so bad when the rest of the game is so much fun.