The latest craze hitting the video game scene: Episodic adventure stories in which the player controls a “choose your own adventure” style narrative. Immediately, any fan of the genre will think about Telltale games and their epic titles however, with help of AAA publisher Square Enix, Dontnod Entertainment is submitting a masterpiece into the race.
The game: Life Is Strange, and that is no understatement.
You play as Max – a quirky, awkward highschool student and photog. The first episode of this five part story introduces you to Max and her world and gives the player a little tutorial on the controls and gameplay concepts. As a story based title, you can interact with many things in the world, have conversations with almost everyone, touch things, do things and of course – all of your actions have consequences. Fortunately, before it gets a chance to fall into the same pile as its predecessors, Life is Strange adds an interesting and important twist: Max can rewind time. Yes, the mousey quiet nerd has a hidden superpower! Through a series of memory-like visions Max discovers that there is a massive tornado that will level her entire town. While navigating the mean kids, your friends, bummer parents and the underlying story arc of a missing student Max and her best friend must rely on eachother and this new power to save themselves and the town. Don’t let this “after school special” looking title fool you – the decisions, situations and feelings this game will pull you through will leave you haunted.
So why is this such a groundbreaking game after many developers have tackled the phenomenon of time travel before?
Traditionally, as learned by titles such as Heavy Rain, The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Tales From the Borderlands (Which are the most recognizable in the recent years) the player has the opportunity to mess up very badly. Killing off characters, pissing off potential friends, missing evidence and overall not making wise choices. Unless you want to do a quick shut off/reload to avoid that pesky autosave, you have to live with your consequences for better or worse. Not here. You get to explore more avenues and see more of the game and inspect the future you want, before committing. Yes! That’s right – You have the (unexplained as of yet) ability to rewind time while keeping the knowledge and world around you intact. Have a convo and get some information? Rewind and use your new found knowledge to your advantage! Have a time limit to completing an objective? Wait until you are almost too late, rewind time and you will have performed any actions, taken any steps and be ahead of the game. (Literally!)
Now, that being said the power isn’t limitless in it’s range. You can undo your last action or two but don’t expect to re-live an entire day. Major plot choices are made clear to the player, you can go back and change your mind many times but once you commit to one path, it is set in stone.
Life is Strange features some stunning visuals as well as an amazing and unique indie soundtrack which compliments the deep, thought provoking events of the game. The art style manages to stay soft, lifelike, colorful and bold while the background track-list keeps you engaged with the under lying tone of every situation.
The game itself is running on Unreal and it’s performance and gameplay have so far been smooth and easy to pick up. (Xbox One Version)
Solid gameplay, unique ideas, excellent visuals and a solid sound track aside – Life is Strange does one more thing uncomfortably well. Capturing the awkward high school experience from the perspective of a bullied geek. You deal with a lot of social issues that plague teens in real life – everything from bullying, pregnancies, breakups, the popular kids, suicides, disgruntled step-fathers and more. There are so many instances in which a person could relate to this story and these characters on some level, which only enhances the feelings you develop along the way.
My only complaint about this title is the wait time for the next release.
It…… Is……… Painful……..To………..Wait………..For………..The…….Next………Episode!!!
While it would remove the “episodic” from the adventure, I would really like to see developers start to finish a title and then release it. While it is great to have a chance to continually use player feedback to improve the experience, having to wait 2-3 months between episodes is viscerally painful for me personally. If I were smart, I would have waited to play this game until all 5 episodes were out and I wouldn’t be in this mess but alas – I could not resist. You shouldn’t either!
Pick up Life is Strange TODAY if you haven’t already (WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!) and let me know what parts of the first two episodes blew your mind, gave you feels and took your breath away! Find out more below with the Episode 1 and 2 trailers!