Disclaimer: Given the story centric nature of this game, I will be keeping my views as spoiler free as possible. At most vague references to the plot may be made. As everyone’s sensitivity to spoilers is different, you have been warned.
Whilst looking for a new game to play, many people pointed me in the direction of Life is Strange. I was very aware of the game and heard positive comments about it. However I was unsure if the game was for me. But I put my unease behind me, mainly thanks to the limited edition, containing the entire season having just been released and very reasonably priced too.
Anyway, the game follows photography student Max Caulfield who after a certain ‘event’ discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. Over the course of the next 5 episodes you begin to discover the consequences of changing past, present and future. Now whilst that may seem cliché and vague, I’m reluctant to go into any greater depth to avoid giving anything away. The plot itself may not seem like much, but it uses this premise to delve into themes that video games as a genre normally wouldn’t touch and that is part of this game’s charm and last impact. One of the best way the rewind mechanic is deployed is to allow Max to navigate the best case scenario in social situations. This is an example of the game’s mechanics fitting the setting and characters perfectly. Let’s be honest if you gave this power to an 18 year old, their first instinct would not be to change history for the better but is likely they would be used for such selfish reasons
Its other headline feature is that much like the Telltale games, Life is Strange centres around choices the player makes throughout, that as the game reminds you, can affect the past and future. The game will clearly call back to your previous choices and thankfully not too heavy handed about it and avoids basically winking to the camera. The combination of the choice and rewind mechanics allows it to avoid a major pitfall of the decision based game. In most games, the only way to see all possible options to play out would be to replay the game multiple times which is time consuming. But Life is Strange’s rewind allows you in most cases to view all possible consequences before making your decision. Furthermore Life is Strange allows you to view the choices you made through your play through when you have finished. Thus if you did wish to replay the game to see what you missed, it would easier to make sure you make the alternative decision.
Due to the game originally being an episodic, digital only game, the physical collection is classed as the limited edition, containing an art book and soundtrack. The latter of those is the more significant factor. The soundtrack is a mix of existing music and original music created for the game. I elected to listen to the soundtrack when I was around a fifth of the war through, so I had yet to hear all the music in the game and in context. Despite this omission and the fact I’m not a hugely musical personal, I was struck that every song seemed to just ‘fit’, both in the world and the characters. In addition let me say this, once you’ve finished the game, some of those songs take on a whole new dimension.
Its biggest shortfall is that if you take the word ‘game’ to refer to purely gameplay mechanics, then Life is Strange is not a great game. On multiple occasions it deploys some of the least liked mechanics in video games, the fetch quest and insta-fail stealth segments. Whilst the mechanics are grating, a slight redeeming feature is it sets it apart from games like Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain predates Life is Strange by a number of years and also deals with more mature and darker themes. But many argue that aren’t games in the traditional sense and closer to interactive films. I would say that Life is Strange is enough of a game to earn that title.
The first episode in particular drew a large amount of criticism for the extent that slang is present in the dialogue. This isn’t necessarily a huge surprise given the age of the characters involved and the setting the game is going for. It is something of a shame given how great and well written some of the other dialogue in that game. But it didn’t bother me as much as other people and it reached a point where it just became funny as you thought, no one actually speaks like this do they?
Before coming into this game, the consensus I’d heard was basically, episode 1 was a struggle but get through it and it gets better. I don’t agree quite with that, episode 1 is probably the weakest episode, it’s not bad and the reason is it probably the weakest is that it has to set the characters up, thus the plot doesn’t advance a huge amount. Seemingly another case of ‘first episode syndrome’.
It may not seem like it, the game does possess a solid amount of replay value. It’s true the twists and emotional moments certainly won’t have the same impact as first time around. However unless you examine every little thing in your first play through, you will have missed things not to mention seeing how alternate options for key choices play out. Thanks to how well constructed the world and these characters are, you’ll find yourself wanting to know everything about them.
Due to the depth of Life is Strange and the fact I’ve had to keep this review quite vague. I’m considering a follow up article which will be a much more in depth retrospective look at my experience with the game that will contain spoilers.
Life is Strange, with its somewhat inconsistent gameplay mechanics as well as struggles at times to be a ‘game’ in the traditional sense. But the underlying fact is that misses the point of Life is Strange. The story, characters and themes that game deals with set it far away from the mainstream off games.
+ Deep and mature story
+ Very well fleshed out characters, with great performances by the actors/actresses
+ Great soundtrack
-Mechanically lacking in some areas
90/100 (100/100 for story alone)
Thanks for taking the time to read this, just a small note to say I’m currently trying something new linked to the site: live streaming. I am currently live streaming Life is Strange on Youtube around once a week. Here I’ll have a bit more of an in-depth discussion about the game, so I’d recommend only watching the stream if you’ve already finished the game.
To keep up to date with new articles and to find out when I’ll be live streaming, follow me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog