following review contains spoilers about Life is Strange Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
If you have not played this game or seen a Let’s Play, it is recommended you do
Life Is Strange, a review
Episode 4: Dark Room
With over a million units sold, there seems to be no
stopping Life is Strange (well, other than the fear of a bad ending or some of
the worst translated dialogue to date). A new IP starring a female protagonist
with an interesting mechanic is giving the journalist press something to chew
on. Can they continue this streak or will this episode suffer the same set up
problems as Telltale’s Game of Thrones did? Let’s find out!
When we last left Max Caulfield, she kept investigating
clues that would lead to Rachel Amber’s mysterious disappearance. However, she
couldn’t help but get sidetracked by Chloe’s highly dysfunctional life and have it blow up in her face. Feeling
guilty, she unlocks a new ability to travel back in the past and alter history
and saves Chloe’s father. Now, Max wakes up in an alternate reality in which
she is part of the popular clique, the Vector Club, Warren is dating Stella and
Chloe is paralyzed in a wheelchair. What will Max do?
As Max explores her new universe, she sees the pain she has
inadvertently caused Chloe as well as her family. So much so, she decides the
best choice is to go back to Universe A and let William die. (Which… honestly
feels like a railroaded moment since Max could have resolved this in 100 other
ways that doesn’t result in Chloe needing constant medical attention or
becoming a juvenile delinquent, but whatever).
I guess my biggest disappointment with this episode is that
we’re never really allowed to explore this alternate universe outside of Chloe’s
house. I get the idea: obviously Chloe’s paralyzed state is so shocking to Max
that she doesn’t want to leave her, but after seeing all these other set ups (
Warren dating Stella, Max in the Vortex Club), it feels weird just to leave it
like that and reduce it to text messages.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to see the life of
someone who is paralyzed what with the physical difficulties and the mounting
debts, but it feels like this was only here just as a sort of ‘too shocking to
believe’ moment instead of something that pushes the plot along (other than
Max’s stating the obvious that playing with Time Travel could have
But when Max gets back, she beings some hardcore
investigating with Chloe with lots of choices and very interesting scenarios.
For example, there’s a confrontation that Chloe has with Frank, the
drug-dealer, that can end in several different ways depending on the dialogue
choices Max makes as well as previous choices beforehand. That’s impressive in
But even better is the way the game reveals information
through an organic way. I’m not the biggest fan of mysteries or puzzles, but
Life is Strange delivers it in an organic and really impressive way that made
me want to continue playing instead of throwing my controller down in
frustration. (It also helps that the game gives some alternate solutions in
case you can’t figure out that pesky passwords). This is what I wanted out of
The Wolf Among Us, but sadly that series was much more interested in quick time
Best of all, the villains and antagonists are written in a
way that feels organic. Victoria really shows there’s some humanity over her
ice queen routine, and even David, a character who’ve I’ve constantly
complained on being depicted badly is showing signs of empathy. The best
depiction is Nathan Prescott. A boy obviously in over his head, he’s resorted
to drugs and despicable means of getting his way, but also manages to show a
really disturbed youth. He’d be Dexter Morgan but without any of the skill or
craft of pulling any of this off.
Then the final reveal comes which will either break or make
this game for a lot of people. For the record, I’m on board with the final
reveal and want to see how it plays out. (Or if it’s an unfortunate decision
Dontnod had to make because their game got leaked).
The best way I could describe this episode is… complete. It
ends on a cliffhanger but it’s a satisfying cliffhanger that doesn’t jerk you
around with mysteries and allows you to come to the conclusion. This episode
could’ve have easily ended on a musical number and a shocking discovery, but
the game goes on and gives you more. That’s more than I can say for some
episodic game franchises.
I’m really excited to see how the series ends. Despite the
hipsterism or the hokey dialogue, there’s a solid foundation here that I’m
really enjoying. Here’s hoping Dontnod doesn’t blow it by the final episode.
Ending Spoilers After
Crazy Fan Prediction:
Chloe’s not dead
So, at the end of this episode, the real perpetrator (who I won’t
reveal) stabs Max with a needle, paralyzing just enough for Chloe to get turned
around and get shot in the head. It’s a pretty graphic death scene and feels
really terrible… until you realize Max has a specific power to prevent this unwelcome scenario. Remember her power in
Episode 3? She’ll use that, go back in time and prevent Chloe’s death.