Game Review | Life is Strange | Season 1 | Overview
Season Summary: An awkward photography student named Max discovers her ability to rewind time, and reunites with her estranged best friend Chloe to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a local girl. (IMDb)
*** SPOILER ALERT – Do not read any further if you don’t want any spoilers ***
Okay, first up let’s talk about that ending – yes, that spoiler alert is very important this time!
When we get to the end of the game, Max is given two choices: allow the tornado to destroy Arcadia Bay and let Chloe live, or travel all the way back to where we were at the beginning of episode 1 and allow Chloe to die at Nathan’s hands, but saving the town.
First off, to dismiss one complaint, going back to allow Chloe to die doesn’t undo everything we experienced across the games. Yes, only Max will really have changed as a result, but she – and us – will still have had all those experiences, and she can still change things for the better.
The biggest issue I have is that the endings are too far apart in terms of what picking either ending means in terms of character growth. Save Arcadia Bay? Max is effectively a superhero, travelling through time and making a tremendous personal sacrifice to save the lives of an entire town.
Save Chloe? We’re suddenly comfortable sacrificing innocent lives as long as we get to keep our friend/potential lover by our side. Now, Life is Strange doesn’t have a karma measure or anything similar to judge how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you’ve been, so it just doesn’t seem to fit to put such diametrically-opposed choices in front of the player to decide which ending we get.
In Mass Effect 3, we get multiple choices again, but every single one has Commander Shepard saving the galaxy. Fine, the state of the galaxy afterwards and whether certain races survive is in the balance, or the galaxy might have to wait another fifty thousand years to be free of the Reapers, but Shepard’s actions still result in the villains being defeated.
So why in Life is Strange are we suddenly asked to choose between being either The Doctor, or Wilson Fisk - the Kingpin from Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil?
This final, strange creative choice really does seem to perfectly fit the series as a whole. The game looks great in still shots – especially the lighting – but the animation leaves a lot to be desired. The voice acting is generally even better than the visuals, which often can’t get across the emotion required.
The music is generally great, but never impacts the player apart from a few scenes in the first four episodes and only becoming integral to events in the finale. The story and characters are bland and uninteresting for so long, never fully stepping up to fulfil the potential that is obviously there.
There are so many areas where Life is Strange is close to greatness, that it’s frustrating to experience: I constantly found myself wondering during its best moments why the whole series couldn’t have been like this?
The biggest issue is the gameplay though, which is where I hope the developers devote more of their efforts next time. I do appreciate that the very nature of Max’s rewind powers necessitate a trial-and-error approach to things, the feedback from the game about exactly what you did or didn’t do is often irritatingly vague.
As a result, the flow of the game adversely impacts on the story when you suddenly hit a brick wall for no logical reason, so the best tip I can give is to have a guide or FAQ at hand. Life is Strange is good enough that I do want to play it again, but knowing what the game wants is the only reason why.
Life is Strange's first season has a lot more good moments in it than bad, but those lesser moments hold the game back from being great. it does also take too long to get going and the first two episodes really should have been just one, but once the series fully embraces the dangers of time travel and its potential consequences is when it really starts to shine.