I really wasn’t planning on writing this blog post about Life is Strange, but after I completed it recently, I realized I had things I wanted to say about it. It should be noted that I’ve never written a post like this about a video game, so if this seems all over the place, I hope you’ll understand. Also: the following post contains spoilers for various plot elements up to and including the final episode. If you don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest you stop reading this post.
Let’s start with some basics, shall we? Life is Strange is a story based game where you play as Max Caulfield, an 18 year old who moves back to her hometown to attend a boarding school. Once there, she reunites with her childhood best friend and gets wrapped up in a murder mystery. As Max, you explore the fictional town of Arcadia Bay and make choices that influence the outcome of the game. I played Life is Strange on my Playstation 4, but as far as I know, the game is also available on PC and Xbox One.
My favorite things about Life is Strange is the art, the soundtrack (which set the mood perfectly) and the voice acting (everyone seemed to be perfectly cast).
Despite enjoying the voice acting, one bit of weirdness I saw was that the lip syncing was way off. The characters’ mouths only vaguely moved when they were speaking; their mouths made nowhere near the shapes you’d expect them to make if they were actually saying the words they were supposedly saying. Further, if the game didn’t want Max to interact with specific characters, those characters would ignore Max in ways that were almost comical. You, as Max, could walk right up to a character, practically get in their face, and they’d just look past you with a vacant expression.
Another issue I had was that there didn’t seem to be the ability to manually save progress. I had to either wait for the game to auto save or replay portions of the game I had already played.
The thing that was really hit or miss for me, though, was the writing. Don’t get me wrong, there were things I liked about the writing. I really enjoyed exploring Max’s relationship with her childhood friend, Chloe, for example.
The dialogue, however, was fairly awful. A modern day teen wouldn’t really say something like “I’m ready for the mosh pit, shaka brah,” would they?
I mentioned in a previous post that I felt like I was living in a YA novel while playing Life is Strange – and that’s mostly because Life is Strange is full of many of the same tropes you’ll find in a YA novel. There’s the mean girl, the bad boy, the overweight girl who gets picked on a lot. It all felt very familiar.
What really bugged me was when the plot didn’t make much sense or important elements were conveniently left out. In the first episode, Max discovers she has time travel capabilities. We never learn, however, where these powers came from or why she has them. Worse, there didn’t seem to be one set of rules that applied to each circumstance and the powers seems to come and go without explanation as to why. For example, there was never any explanation as to why Max couldn’t rewind time when she was on the roof with Kate – other than that that what was convenient.
I, like others who have played Life is Strange, was frustrated with the final choice presented Max. My frustration stemmed with having so many unanswered questions. What if Max chose to save Chloe in that moment? Arcadia Bay would be destroyed, but would Chloe continue to die by various means indefinitely? Would Max continue to have to be faced with having to choose between sacrificing Chloe or sacrificing others? Does Max continue to have rewind abilities in either or both scenarios? What would happen If Max chose to sacrifice Chloe, but then chose to use her rewind abilities in some scenario unrelated to Chloe in the future? What would the consequences be?
And I was very confused by Mr. Jefferson as villain. What exactly was Mr. Jefferson’s arrangement with Nathan Prescott? What was Mr. Jefferson’s master plan? We learn in episode 5 that he was Life is Strange when he drugs and kidnaps Max. So..he drugged people and tied them up so he could take pictures of them because he liked the way they looked drugged? What was he planning on doing with these pictures? Surely he couldn’t have possibly expected to show these pictures publically and put his name on them? At best, they prove he drugged and kidnapped people. At worse, they make him look guilty of murder if the people he photographs turn up dead. Like, was he really going to take pictures of Max, kill her, and then show the pictures at some gallery somewhere? And he didn’t think the police would show up and be all “hey, so this Max Caulfield chick disappeared/died around the time these pictures were taken. What do you know about what happened?”
That said, I was unclear as to what the evidence they ultimately had on Mr. Jefferson due to all the jumps back and forth in time. I think we’re supposed to assume Max tipped off the police, but if that’s the case, it’d be really interesting to hear her explain how she got her information from. Remember that up until Mr. Jefferson kidnapped Max, the evidence we see Max and Chloe collect suggests that Nathan Prescott – not Mr. Jefferson – is the guilty party. Sadly, the only information we’re given is that Mr. Jefferson was arrested.
I’m sure I could keep going, but I think I’ll end here.
Have you ever played Life is Strange? What did you think of it?