Tom Plays: Life Is Strange

So, I’ve neglected this blog for a fair bit of time but I feel like I need to write about something and this seems to be the best place to stick my spoilerific musings on the video game, ‘Life Is Strange’. So, there are spoilers here, for those who haven’t played it. Warning.

So, Life Is Strange is a game I’ve seen many good things about but one which I had never got round to playing. The reviews seem to have been generally positive from both media outlets and the MetaCritic rankings – usually a better sign than relying on game magazines. Because who knows if they’ve been paid to inflate scores…

As a fan of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones”, I would class myself as a fan of these episodic point-and-click games – so taking on Life Is Strange over a year after it was concluded seemed like a welcome change to what was currently playing on my gaming playlist (Madden, Skyrim: Definitive Edition, Forza Horizon 3 and occasionally some Rocket League and/or FIFA17).

Taking full advantage of the game being available for just four measly Great British Pounds – considering each episode WAS that price, not only was it a bargain but it also meant I could play all five episodes at once and not have to wait a month before the next one came out; given some of the cliff-hangers they left the episodes with, this made me hella glad I waited.

So, the basic premise of ‘Life Is Strange’ is you play as an 18-year-old hipster girl named Maxine Caulfield who is a photography student at Blackwell Academy. Then, one day after class, she ends up witnessing the murder of a blue-haired punk girl in the bathroom – stepping forward to intervene, she instead goes back in time and ends up back in the classroom in which the game began.

Naturally, she’s confused as to what happened and then retraces her steps – of course, after taking the opportunity of one-upping the stuck-up Victoria Chase by answering questions you already know the answer to (time travel FTW) – and tries to stop the girl in the bathroom from being shot. She survives, because it turns out later in Episode 1 that she is her best friend that had changed a lot in the 5 years Max had been in Seattle – given the blue hair, tats and ‘tude, of course she didn’t recognise her.

Oh yeah, and this is without mentioning the impending tornado that’s set to destroy Arcadia Bay in just 5 days time.

5 days, 5 episodes. Genius.

I could go through each episode but I’m not going to because that might stop you from wanting to check the game out for yourself and, if you’re into really good games, I’d implore you to get it. Seriously.

Instead, I am going to witter on about what I really enjoyed about the game and then what I didn’t like afterwards. Maybe. I get the feeling this could become a mess of a post with zero structure. If that’s what happens…well…enjoy reading 3000+ words.

I’ve now played through the game twice – one to see what it was like, another to capture what I missed first time round. All of the optional photos and the gamerscore they gain being the main draw into replaying, naturally. Not true at all, in fact I wanted to play through again and try a different approach to each decision and see what the consequences of my actions change in the whole scheme of things.

Episodic games, like those I’ve mentioned previously, draw you in with the promise of “every choice matters” and, for the most part, it seems as though there’s a lot of decisions which seem to change the way in which certain characters interact with you – whether it’s siding with Chloe or her Step-douche or stopping/watching Warren kicking the shit out of Nathan Prescott (allowing it, also gets the gun out of his hands. So that’s something) – and it works 95% of the time.

The 5% I feel it doesn’t gets covered later on in this piece. Basically in Episode 3 and also the game ending. Like, you make choices, but they don’t really change much.

Or anything.

Except how much you cry.

Another thing that completely drew me into the game’s universe was the game’s characters. They are, for the most part, a likeable bunch of teenagers and adults. Some you actually learn to care about due to the in-game dialogue allowing you into their world – others can go to hell, in their own way, but I can’t think of a single game in which I felt so ‘attached’ to the main character.

I mean, I’m no American teenage girl…but, yeah…

The Maxine Caulfield character develops so much throughout the episodes – becoming more “fearless” and seemingly invincible thanks to having the power to rewind time but also coming round to the realisation that there are consequences for her meddling and interfering. The main being the massive fuck-off tornado that’s about to destroy her home town.

Probably why time travel isn’t a real thing, because everyone’s home towns would be destroyed with our constant changing of the past.

There are a lot of recurring characters – Chloe’s family; her mother Joyce and “step-douche” David Madsen. They’re alright. I mean, I don’t really care that much for them, but I’m probably an evil bastard for that. They’re not hip enough for my attention. Chloe though…

Warren Graham. Poor, friendzoned Warren (well, if you choose to friendzone him. You can kiss him (lead him on) but I was cruel and left the bro in the zone. Because Pricefield rocks). He’s an OK character and has some big moments in the series, like kicking the shit out Nathan Prescott…and also getting the shit kicked out of him by Nathan Prescott. He’s not a major character, he’s just there most of the time. Pining for Max.

Poor guy. #Friendzoned

In fact I’ve read some “Warren Theories” (because this is what you do when you’ve got into a game so much, you read things like that…or even create such things. Or role-play. I have yet to do these things and don’t think I will do. But you never know) and he might not be as squeaky-clean as he appears in the game. Not saying he’s a raging psychopath like someone in particular but there are dodgy moments with him…but it’s not something DONTNOD didn’t explore/didn’t feel the need to explore. Shame.

Perhaps a bigger character than Wazza is young Kate Marsh. The troubled teenager. Her story escalates into a thrilling ending to Episode 2 – which I speak about a little bit later in this piece – but she seems like a nice character and one who we find a bit more about in said episode.

There’s a bunch of other characters you come across in the game, some better than others…here’s a quick-fire list and a one-word answer to describe my thoughts on them. Or a few words. Because fuck limits.

  • Victoria Chase – bit of a bitch but, depending how you treat her in E1, her dialogue towards Max becomes much more kinder and she shows genuine remorse for what she put Kate through. So, all in all, she’s OK. Unless you keep her as a bitch, then she’s a bitch throughout.
  • Nathan Prescott – a troubled guy. Seems like a psycho…and, to be fair, he brings a gun to school (‘murica!)…so obvious to see why you get that impression. Loves his drugs as well. But in the end he gets his comeuppance whichever way you go…
  • Frank Bowers – Looks like a proper nutcase and you have a few encounters with him throughout…but perhaps it’s best not to judge a book by its cover. If you know what I mean?
  • Brooke Scott – flies a drone. Drones on about Warren. Hook up, already.
  • Alyssa Anderson – you can save her from several situations throughout the game. Or not. I did. I don’t know why.
  • Dana Ward – Cheerleader.
  • Courtney Wagger – Vortex Club person #3 (after Nathan, Victoria)
  • Taylor Christensen – Vortex Club person #4 and minion of Victoria. Not as much of a bitch though, if you say the right things to her.
  • Daniel DaCosta – Artist. Draws a picture of Max in Episode 1.
  • Evan Harris – Artist. Shit man-bun.
  • Trevor – Sk8r boi #1
  • Justin – Sk8r boi #2. See ya later, boy.
  • Ms. Grant – teacher. Not yours though. Sign her petition or she guilt trips you forever.
  • Ray Wells – the Principal. Likes a drink.
  • Samuel – The janitor-type person. Likes animals.
  • Pompidou – Dog. Not sure if Samuel likes him as they never meet. (fanfic idea!)
  • Stella Hill – girl.
  • Hayden Jones – stoner.
  • Mark Jefferson – he’s just an art teacher. Boring…right?

The best character though, at least in my opinion, is Chloe Price. The dreamy punk rock chick with blue hair and an awesome tattoo.

The definition of bae.

Seriously, be my partner in crime…time…and everything.

Oh, wait, you’re not real.

Sad face.

Agree that her constant “Rachel” obsession – if you can call someone wanting to find a missing friend that means the world to them an ‘obsession’, probably a bit wrong – can border on annoying at parts. But, once they find out about her grisly demise, then her demeanour changes into someone wanting to get revenge on the killer(s).

I would as well, that Mr Brightside song is hella catchy.

When she isn’t moaning about Rachel, she’s out there delivering some of the best lines in the whole game; allowing you to understand how things were for her following the death of her father and Max’s abandonment of her when she toddles off to Seattle. I get that annoys a lot of people, how she appears so “needy” as it were, but maybe that’s why I liked her the most.

I’ll speak a bit more about one thing I didn’t like about Chloe in a short while but, for now, there’s a couple more things I loved about Life Is Strange. So hold that thought…or something like that.

SO. MUCH. STUFF

If you like reading/exploring a beautiful setting and finding out little tidbits of information that don’t necessarily make much of a difference to the story but immerse you much more in the games environment, then Life is Strange is the game for you.

Whether its newspapers, posters, letters, laptops with pages to read, random conversations with people in the corridors or outside the Two Whales Diner…there is so, so much stuff to do in the game.

As I say, they don’t always make an ounce of difference to the game but it gets you to feel much more involved. You might even end up thinking you live in Arcadia Bay. But then you find out it doesn’t really exist.

Sad face.

SOUNDTRACK!!!!!

I love my music. Whatever the genre, I will listen to it if I like it. And I like the LiS Soundtrack an awful lot.

So much so that I’ve even gone out and purchased the Limited Edition of the game, just so I can get the CD and have it on my phone to listen to whenever I’m walking through the corridors of my school.

Which might be a bit weird because I’m too old for school.

So I probably shouldn’t do that.

But I’ll listen to it whenever I feel like. Wherever I am, if I want to listen to the beautiful “Obstacles” by Syd Matters then I will. Or if I fancy Foals’ “Spanish Sahara”, I’ll listen to that. Or “Got Well Soon” by Breton…yeah, I’ll listen to that.

It’s such a good soundtrack and it seems to have each song in the perfect place in the story – surely not a coincidence. A nice morbid track when someone dies, yep that one hits you right in the feels. (Am I turning into a teenage White girl through the duration of this article or what?)

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever played a game with such a perfect soundtrack attached to it. It’s beautiful.

Like the game.

Like Chloe Price. Bae.

So, this game isn’t without its foibles and I have to say the worst one and thing I really don’t like is the option right at the end of the fifth episode of the game where you get one last decision to make; save the bay or save the bae (it’s actually a thing; #baebeforebay or #baybeforebay – for the bastards amongst you).

Choosing one option sees the duo riding off into the sunset, leaving the area decimated by a tornado. Choosing the other sees you teleport right back to the girl’s bathroom and you basically sacrifice saving Chloe to save the whole town – making the whole game pretty much obsolete. For a game that had a number of heart-wrenching decisions to make, this was by far the toughest.

Spending 5 episodes getting engrossed and completely involved in the Max/Chloe dynamic, how can you even begin to consider throwing all of that away? Yeah, it’s brutal that you kill thousands of innocent people in the process, but Chloe survives and it was a selfish decision.

My second play through, I chose the other option and hated myself. Still do now. Yes, there was the ‘Pricefield’ kiss (hella awesome) but that ending?

Fuck, man. I’m not scared to admit I started welling up in my darkened room (no, not my Dark Room. I’m not that weird) as the funeral procession played out in front of me…ugh.

The feels.

How can you kill Chloe off? BASTARDS!

Yeah she spends the whole game obsessed with the disappearing Rachel Amber thing (and finding out she was dead was another bit that ruined me. Man, this is a video game, pull yourself together!) but I’d overlook that because they were such a good on-screen pairing and had some brilliantly cheesy dialogue between them throughout.

“I’m so glad you’re my partner in crime”
“As long as you’re my partner in time”
…insert groan here.

So awesome.

Might even get that as a tattoo to honour this fantastic game.

There were a couple more that I was completely bummed after choosing them – go back to Episode 2 where Kate Marsh is on top of the Girls’ dormitories and ends up jumping to her death; you can save her but, on my first play through, I was unable to as I was too busy thinking about myself.

Or my Maxself. Again, selfish.

Plus I ignored her phone call. Bad Max.

On my second time through, I still ignored the phone call but I discovered a guide on the internet to save her from plummeting to an early grave. Cheating, most likely, but I regret nothing.

First time playing, I felt shitty seeing her die and, to make matters worse, I couldn’t rewind time to try to right the wrongs and stop her from perishing.

Instead I just sat there thinking “what the fuck”.

I had to stop playing and consider what the fuck just happened.

Brutal stuff.

The good thing is that, should you save her, you get to go and see her in hospital as she recovers from the emotional trauma of bullying and having a video of her drugged-up escapades going viral.

In amongst all the death and mystery, it certainly seems out-of-place but it’s a touching moment to say the least. Look at me, going off on one emotional bit again…dork.

Another moment that left me bummed out was in Episode 3 where you’ve gone into an “alternate timeline” where Chloe’s dad William ends up not dying in a car crash – after you chuck his keys out the window and force him to take the bus to meet Joyce – but it’s not all good as it turns out that Chloe is now paralysed after getting hit whilst out in her new car.

Your best friend (that you’ve left abandoned for 5 years with minimal contact…so, not that best, really) wheelchair bound and with a respiratory system that is failing, not what I was expecting for sure.

So kudos to the writers, I didn’t see that one coming.

Then comes the gut-wrencher.

After spending the night and falling asleep whilst watching Blade Runner (yeah, it even has that effect in games), you’re asked by Chloe to basically end her life and stop the suffering.

Euthanasia, in a video game? All I can say is I respect the developers for tackling it in such a respectful manner. Something I’m torn over whether it’s right or wrong but not something I will go into much detail on here. Because reasons.

It’s a horrible thing to even consider doing and, on my first play through, I was dead against the idea and basically refused. Because I thought that would be it, there would be no more Chloe the rest of my adventure.

Turns out, being an alternate timeline, it doesn’t really matter what you choose because you end up going back to the day William dies and then leaving his keys where they were…and then we’re back to the present day and Chloe and her fabulous blue hair are back in our lives and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Sorry, proper spoiler there. I did warn you right at the start though…

Perhaps the biggest twist in the whole game occurs right at the end of an intense Episode 4 where, after receiving a text message from Nathan Prescott (apparently), you and Chloe head back to the junkyard and see that Rachel’s body is still there.

Then Max gets drugged and Chloe shot…for the 2nd time.

Damn it girl, stop dying on me! You wouldn’t have this problem if we lived together in Stoke, Miss Price.

Oh, wait, you’re not real.

Sad face.

There’s everyone expecting it to be Nathan Prescott. But it isn’t. It’s someone else…someone you probably least suspect.

No, it’s not Daniel DaCosta. I’ll give you that hint for free.

On a second play through, you pick up the hints as to who it is a bit more – but, of course, you have the knowledge of who the person is anyway and I don’t think there’s any way of changing the villain. It just escalates. Quickly. Still, I didn’t expect it and it’s a heck of a twist to anyone who hadn’t seen any spoilers.

In fact I’m so kind that I won’t spoil that bit for you. You’re welcome.

As if I’ve spent over 3000 words on this piece. I felt inspired to write something about this game though.

THIS GAME IS AWESOME.

Episode 5 might be a bit of a strange one but that doesn’t take away from the epicness of what DONTNOD Entertainment created with Life Is Strange.

I know it’s been out for a long, long time and I feel like I missed the ship – no, not Pricefield, that will live on forever thanks to Tumblr/Deviantart – or, rather, the boat when it comes to giving this game the credit it deserves.

It’s seriously hella awesome. Based on the storyline alone, I am struggling to name a single game that comes close to it. A work of art.

I know there’s rumours of Life is Strange 2 coming sometime in the near-future but without Max. Or Chloe…which makes sense, cause she might be dead in some people’s minds. But not mine. Bae.

Whatever they do with LiS2 (or, as I saw on Reddit, a much better idea of ‘Life Is 2 Strange’), at least I’ll be at the front of the queue this time round, hoping that it lives up to the amazing thing that is Life Is Strange.

Life might be Strange. But it’s also hella awesome.

And Chloe Price is bae.

LIFE IS STRANGE = HELLA AWESOME

T.

 

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4 thoughts on “Tom Plays: Life Is Strange

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