25 Mar 2016

Life is Strange: The Beauty of Fate


Consider this your official spoiler warning for the 2015 video game, Life is Strange.

This week, I was introduced to a beautiful little game called Life Is Strange developed by Dontnod. This episodic adventure is about Max, a teenage girl who discovers she has supernatural time travel abilities, and uses those powers to improve the lives of she and her friends, whilst also solving the mystery of a local missing girl. Soon enough, Max meets her childhood best friend Chloe, and the two reconnect as they try to solve the Arcadia Bay mystery together.

The game is played in a sort of point-and-click style, where you control Max and interact with her surroundings. She will go on with the day, talk with her classmates and teachers, and hang out in her dorm. The "rewind time" feature allows you to fix mistakes you may have made in the past, which is an incredibly useful feature. For example, there is one part where another girl accuses you of being a stuck-up hipster that doesn't even know her name. Through dialogue choices, you can randomly guess a name. If you're wrong, she will become annoyed and correct you - but hey presto, just rewind back to before the conversation and answer correctly. Problem solved!

These time powers are also used for more dangerous situations, such as when Chloe gets stuck on a railroad track as a train approaches. Over the course of the five episodes, Max finds herself in many life-or-death moments where she can save the lives of herself and her peers by rewinding time and gaining a different outcome.

Now, onto a more philosophical discussion about the nature of the game. There were perhaps three main themes that I think the developer tried to evoke in this game.

First of all, the beauty of nature. Throughout Life Is Strange, Max really connects with mother nature in many ways. She encounters different animals such as butterflies, owls, squirrels, hamsters, dogs and birds. You are given the option to treat these things with care and love, and I think for a small town setting, it is really important to discover the beauty of nature. Arcadia Bay is a peaceful town, like something from a dream. I got major Twin Peaks vibes throughout. It's like content from a poem.


The beauty of friendship. The adorable relationship between Max and Chloe is something that isn't easily forgotten. The dialogue and characterisation is believable, well-paced and feels very real. The game stresses to you that you should treat people with kindness, and they may show it back. The way you shape your relationships with the supporting characters such as Warren, Victoria, Frank and David, was also a nice touch. These characters all felt like well-rounded individuals, and it honestly made me feel bad when I let them down, and happy when I cheered them up.


The beauty of fate. There's one rule in time travel. Don't fuck with it. It's pretty clear that Dontnod intended for the "Sacrifice Chloe" ending to be the canon one, or the true ending, with the other one being an afterthought. Max has to go back and undo the first change she made with her time travel abilities in order to save the town, but in doing so she loses her best friend. It was a very chilling scene, and the music ("Spanish Sahara" by Foals) was a beautiful touch.


But this also annoyed me. Both choices basically meant that none of your choices shaped the ending. It doesn't matter whether you saved Kate, or sided with David, or got Frank killed. Both endings either retcon those choices, or don't even show any repercussions from it. I was disappointed to see this was the ending Dontnod went for, however up until the end, it did feel like most choices you made mattered in some way, so that was nice. 

Ending aside, Life Is Strange was a perfect game of it's kind. It wasn't as lazily done as Telltale do their games, and the connection you feel to these characters is astounding. I honestly wonder why I didn't play it sooner.

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