Life is Strange: a Groundbreaking indie game?

life is strange

Yes, we are going there. If most of this sounds like criticism, I’m sorry. Life is Strange has been in my heart for years so I already know the ending and story. I love it and want to talk about my experience.

What’s Life is Strange?

Life is Strange is a walking simulator with puzzle elements and a cool rewind mechanic featuring a wide cast of characters. It centers around Max, a young photography student returning to her hometown after moving away for a few years. The game presents you with controversial choices to make. Max keeps a journal that you can view here. One fateful day after class she finds out she has time travel powers and it goes all downhill from there. It was made by DONTNOD Entertainment, a France-based indie game studio.

Spoilers ahead!

Chapter 1: Chrysalis

This is the intro to Life is Strange. My goal for the game was to be kind to everyone even if they are mean to me. I talked to everyone or at least tried to. Basically, the chapter establishes Max has time travel powers and you save your childhood best friend’s life and the two of them reconnect.

Comments while playing the first chapter of Life is Strange

  • The look mechanics are not intuitive. I thought the game was broken at first not going to lie. It has you drag your mouse to the word look instead of looking at the object.
  • I wish it notified me when the diary updated. I never found myself reading it which can be good and bad.
    • Good – I get to make max my own and make decisions based on me, not her.
    • Bad – she doesn’t always act the way I would.
  • The outcomes of your decisions are not always what you expect
  • It feels like the puzzles force you to use the rewind mechanic when not always necessary.
  • I wish I had more opportunities to take pictures as a photography student. I don’t have the eye for the shots they had set up but I did take photos using F12 in Steam so…

Choices I made in Chapter 1:

  • Reported Nathan
  • Comforted Victoria
  • Intervened to help Kate
  • Stayed hidden
Time Travel

Honestly, I don’t remember anything from this chapter.

Chapter 2: Out of Time

This is the second chapter where we hang out with Chloe, our best friend. Max told her we have time travel rewind powers and now we *have* to test them out.

Comments while playing the second chapter of Life is Strange

  • Chloe is my least favorite. She’s possessive and toxic and this episode is proof
  • Saved Kate Marsh no prob. One thing I will say is that even though I chose all the good options it seemed like it reused other parts of the dialogue tree so it felt choppy. Like we’d be on the track chop then go back then we’re ok. I don’t blame the developers just didn’t feel as emotionally driven as it could have been.
  • There’s a point where you have to choose between Nathan, David, and Jefferson and I wish I could have seen all the options and ultimately chose David because Nathan is already after me.
  • Dialogue options are no buenos
  • I really like Warren and Kate. They are wholesome and I love them. Certainly better than Chloe–but I’ll go more into that in a second.
  • I chose to not shoot Frank, it’s better no one has the gun given how trigger happy they are but like Chloe said, Frank just wants money and I feel like Chloe + gun is more dangerous because of how irresponsible she is

Choices I made in this chapter:

  • I told Kate to go to the police
  • I answered Kate’s call
  • Didn’t shoot Frank
  • Saved Kate
  • Blamed David
Kate’s picture book is so cute

And that’s the end of chapter 2…

Chapter 3: Chaos Theory

Welcome to Chloe and Max the detective due: the chapter. AKA the chapter where Max and Chloe are trying to find out more about Rachel’s disappearance. It includes breaking and entering into Max’s school.

Comments while playing the third chapter of Life is Strange

  • I didn’t know what to do after pipe bombing the principal’s office door
  • More Chloe toxicity
  • It is amazing to see how much Williams death affects others
  • Bus rides are boring. Yes, the background is pretty but that doesn’t mean I like looking at it for 5 minutes.
  • Didn’t hurt the dog. Pompidou deserves better than that.
  • Hopefully, Chloe will give the gun back to David but I don’t think she will
  • Kate’s gratitude text ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Warren is such a good friend/love interest
  • Joyce is a great mom
  • When we confront Chloe it feels lackluster/feeble, we didn’t actually get anywhere in addressing her issues. All she did is blame everyone else for her problems.
  • The build-up to Chloe’s reveal is so slow when you alter the timeline to see what could have been

Choices I made in this chapter

  • Left the money
  • Didn’t kiss Chloe–I’ll come back to this
  • Sided with David
  • Kept Pompidou from harm
  • Chloe has David’s gun
The bus ride to meet Joyce and Chloe

Chapter 4: Dark Room

More detective work and the mystery unfolds. We also pop into a different timeline to see what could have been and the alternative is worse.

Comments while playing the fourth chapter of Life is Strange

  • Got to see Kate!!! Yessss
  • Chloe is less toxic in this ep but I still don’t like her.
  • Alice the bunny??? Cute. Is it supposed to be an Alice in Wonderland reference?
  • I’m glad Victoria is not shown as 1 dimensional
  • Can’t wait for Kate’s children’s book
  • Brooke, I can’t control Warren. Why are you mean to me because you like him?
  • Finding Rachel’s body and Nathan’s bunker was the most emotional part so far. I actually felt sick to my stomach.

Choices made this chapter

  • Accepted Chloe’s request–hard decision but if I was in her shoes, I wouldn’t want to suffer
  • Stopped Warren from beating up Nathan. He needs help not the snot beat out of him.
  • No one got hurt
  • Didn’t warn Victoria. I didn’t think she’d listen to me.
Pretty scenery

Chapter 5: Polarized

Tying up loose ends, trying to get the perfect ending. However, Max is more traumatized from her journey and you go through a nightmare sequence capitalizing on all of her fears and regrets. All leading up to the final, crucial decision.

Comments while playing the fifth chapter of Life is Strange

  • Loathe Jefferson even more
  •  Hate nightmare dream sequence, is there any way to skip it?
  • The exception being the hallway puzzles tho. Cool and intuitive same with a backward hallway.
  • I had to ask my sister who has played more FPS than me to do the sneak section. The stealth section is the worst part of the game. Why would you include in a game that has had no/little gameplay up to this point?
  • Thank God we don’t have to collect bottles again
  • Walk down memory lane is really cool and powerful but not emotional and I think it’s because I knew what was coming.
  • To me, the final decision was an easy choice.
    • the rain looks really cool here
  • How could Max stay quiet while Chloe dies? Not even a sound to stifle herself? Headphones? Something? Or is the idea that you’ve seen her die enough times throughout the game that one more is nothing new to Max?
  • Why does Max end up alone when they show what happened since Chloe died? Where’s Kate or Warren?
  • The music doesn’t fit the funeral scene. It’s some indie rock song that’s not or even a ‘Lil somber. Where’s the emotion? Where are the audible cries of Joyce? The words of the preacher? Why does Max look so blank here?

Choice made in this chapter:

I sacrificed Chloe for the many people of Arcadia Bay. The lives of the many outweigh the life of Chloe. I think it would have been a harder decision if she wasn’t her personality the entire game. If it was Kate Marsh, I would have struggled more.

Before the funeral, probably wondering what could have been

Chloe

She’s the source for most of my issues with the game’s plot. I do have good reasons and the following video explains a lot of my issues with her and I have similar feelings:

Video about how I feel about Chloe

In one of my many semesters of college, I had to take a literacy credit and I chose to take a short story class. Something about Chloe’s “moment of grace” reminded me of one of the stories we read. It’s called “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. It’s about a family taking a road trip with Grandma who is terrible. They get into a car crash and run into some famous bandits who kill off the family members one by one leaving grandma for last. After killing grandma, the leader of the bandits says, “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” As terrible as it is to say, Chloe is at her best when she makes Max choose whether she lives or dies in Chapter 5.

Similar to the video, I couldn’t find a reason to pursue a romantic relationship with Chloe. You can tell me six ways to Sunday she’s your childhood best friend, that doesn’t mean she’s the same person–in fact, she’s blatantly not–nor should you pursue a relationship with a character you don’t feel an emotional connection with. The nail in the coffin is Chloe’s emotionally unavailable to enter a new relationship. The game never explicitly states Chloe and Rachel were girlfriends but if you look at her near-obsession with finding Rachael and how she talks about her…Not to mention the events that happened in the prequel.

My biggest issue with this game

My biggest issue with the game is Max hangs out with the wrong people. Kate and Warren are awesome. Dana and Juliet aren’t bad, despite being a part of the Vortex club–something Life is Strange could have explored. Alyssa, Luke, and Justin aren’t bad either. Victoria starts off as a bad person but has more of a character arc than Chloe.

Maybe Life is Strange tried to tackle too many topics.

Say we focused on our renewed friendship with Chloe.

She could start as she is, we reconnect, talk about Rachel, have an actual conversation about why she feels the need to blame everyone for her problems, Rachael’s body is found and she properly grieves for her lover. Maybe David could open up about his time in the military, maybe he lost a friend too and shows some compassion and sympathy. We could still have her owe Frank money and maybe we start to see a shift where Chloe starts to take responsibility by taking up a job or two. Max enters the contest and wins. Oh no Chloe’s deadline is coming up and the player can choose to give the prize money to Chloe or not.

Maybe throw in a conversation about if she’s using drugs and alcohol as a form of escapism to numb the pain of her father–and now Rachael’s–death. The player could choose to try and convince Chloe to return David’s gun. David could be mad but recognize she’s going through a rough time and maybe offer to teach her how he deals with his grief and pain and offer to properly teach her how to use the gun safely but emphasizes that he’s not trying to be her dad or overstep her boundaries. David could say how proud he is of her for coming clean about the gun. Chloe gains a best friend, another father figure, and maybe a support group by the end of the game.

Say we focused on school setting.

We could still have Nathan and Victoria pulling their usuals. Consider if Life is Strange was a game about learning who your real friends are and you can be more than the clique you are a part of. You can befriend Kate who seems like a sweet girl and yes the video could still happen but maybe she acts like it doesn’t bother her. She can eventually open up about her struggles and you can encourage her to keep fighting. Maybe talk about your religious differences and her bunny and her dreams as a children’s book artist with the game giving you a complete children’s picture book by the end.

Warren and Brooke befriend you.

You learn about their passion for STEM and the things they want to do to change the world. You subtly learn Brooke has a crush on Warren and you can choose whether to set them up or take him for yourself since he’s clearly interested in you.

Say you become friends with Dana and Juliet.

You know they are a part of the Vortex Club and maybe they are dramatic. But then Dana tells you about her pregnancy and you have to choose whether or not to tell the father and what to do afterward. Have a conversation with Juliet about why she was so quick to accuse Dana of sleeping with her boyfriend. Maybe he has cheated on her or she had a previous lover who did cheat on her and she carried that into her current relationship.

You befriend Alyssa.

Maybe she struggles to feel self-confident because of her weight, now struggling with an eating disorder. You notice other’s comments towards her. You could have a conversation about what it means to be your own kind of beautiful and food is not her enemy. Imagine tackling this issue in a video game. Maybe it takes a while since she’s a private person.

Say you becomes friends Victoria.

She starts off her usual personality but eventually lets you in. She doesn’t share a whole lot at first and you can choose whether or not to share some of your personal life thinking it might encourage her to open up. Maybe she betrays you and shares something personal. Choose to confront her and have a conversation about how she strives for perfection. Maybe how she struggles with the pressures of her peers, her parents, and her personal goals. What if she doesn’t actually want to do photography? Maybe she finds herself unable to say no because she wants to be well-liked and she envies Max because she has talent. (Similar to their convo at the party). All of it ending in an apology and Victoria finding what she wants to do, not what other people want her to do.

Final Thoughts:

I hope the length of this review is enough to tell you how much I love Life is Strange. I remember watching MatPat play it for the first time my freshman year of college and bawling my eyes out over Chloe’s death and Kate’s almost suicide. There’s such a difference in watching someone play it vs playing it yourself. Even though I knew the story, I don’t think it ruined my experience but allowed me to look at it objectively.

Thank you for reading “Life is Strange: a Groundbreaking indie game?”, I appreciate it. Comment below who your favorite LIS character is. If you like my content, consider subscribing to my mailing list and if you want another video game review, click here.

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