Life Is Strange: Episode 3 Verdict-O-Chat

Man, I screenshotted the pool stuff so much - it's just wonderfully realised and directed

In the third episode of Dontnod Entertainment’s teen time drama Life is Strange [official site], everything changes. Now that the episode has been out in the wild for several days, Pip, Adam and Alice gathered to discuss the temporal wobbles and rocky relationships.

If you haven’t already played, avert your eyes – there are spoilers right up to the final moments.

Pip: WOAH. That was my main reaction. And then there was a bit more in the way of dissecting it and then also a concern. How on earth shall we even start with Episode 3?

Adam: Is starting at the end too obvious? Does the end overshadow the rest of it? I did a WOAH too but then I felt a bit disappointed because the WOAH wasn’t quite as satisfying as the little cry at the end of the other episodes. I’m not necessarily a WOAH person. I like it more after a couple of days’ thinking and whatnot though.

Who wants to explain exactly what happens? Or what it means? Or shall I do it?

Alice: WOAH there, Nelly. Episode 3 sees Max larking about with Chloe, and I guess also gaining the power to travel way, way back to before she even had the power by focusing on photographs. The chaos theory everyone’s been muttering about for three episodes comes stomping through everything when Max’s stops Chloe’s dad from taking the car journey that killed him, rewriting history so he’s alive in the present and gasp oh gosh Chloe is not remotely a sullen punk but in a wheelchair.

Pip: That latter is the only part that’s making me a bit uneasy – like, it had better being going somewhere considered with this reveal rather than it being treated as a shock tactic, you know?

Adam: I seem to remember we felt like this about certain aspects of Episode Two. Not exactly the same but there’s a nagging concern that some of the dramatic events are there for shock and drama, but don’t have any impact beyond the WOAH factor. And as I did last time we talked about Life is Strange, I’m going to make it clear right away that I’m really enjoying it and think it’s pretty goddamn great because I’ll probably sound like a huge grump at times here.

It doesn’t help that chaos theory plus Big Bad Butterfly Fuck Up reminds me of that Ashton Kutcher film, which I really really intensely dislike. But I also disliked the parts in that film where Ashton was larking about – I love the larking about in Life Is Strange. I’d definitely be playing it if the time travel and shocks weren’t there. It does good character.

Pip: Yes it does. I’d also like to register my enjoyment of and affection for Life is Strange – particularly the characterisation. It’s the only game I can remember playing where I recognise a significant part of myself in the characters. It’s a mixture of Chloe and Max but it’s something I’ve never had in a game before. Certainly not on that indie teen girl level.

Alice: Pip and I still haven’t settled which of us is the Max in our friendship and who’s the Chloe.

Pip: Although I did have an unfortunate moment while playing where I realised that the outfit of Rachel’s which Max was borrowing was pretty much exactly what I was wearing at that moment. Red plaid shirt, black skinny jeans. How embarrassing.

I own pretty much this exact outfit and was accidentally wearing it while playing the episode.

Adam: I am definitely a Max. And typing “a Max” makes me imagine horrible Buzzfeed quizzes about which character we all are. Nobody should be a Warren. In fact, I don’t want to be any of the guys and I don’t think I’m like any of the guys. But I’m enough like Max that I was offended in a doofy sort of way when Pip trashed Max’s lovably dorky series of fuck-ups early on. That was before she actually fucked up the continuum of time – at this point, it’s not loveable anymore. Spilling Every Drink is fine. This is a disaster.

Alice: In Episode 5 you take one of those oh-so-rude peeks at Warren’s computer, and his Fauxcebook page is full of rants about ‘the friendzone’.

Pip: I keep trying to cold-shoulder him but it feels like that’s one aspect of the game where Dontnod just won’t let me. I’ve been ignoring his come-ons but then there was no option to not let him hold you at the end of Ep 2. At least he’s gotten with that other girl when you’ve fucked the timeline good and proper.

Alice: I suppose that’s butting about against a constraint of what’s a pretty defined character. That’s such a Max thing to do. Whoever Max is now, in her new life as part of the Vortex Club. Not a person or a life she’d recognise, I wouldn’t think. Who’s anyone anymore? Chloe seems happier and that’s probably good and yet…

Pip: Should we go back a bit? That might also give us a chance to assess how we feel about Dontnod’s ability to deal with the fallout from shock events too, given Episode 3 picks up as everyone is trying to deal with either the suicide or the attempted suicide of Max’s classmate, Kate.

Adam: I think the tension in the storytelling is that Kate’s story is doing two separate jobs – it’s a thing in and of itself, but it’s also a method by which we’re exploring the limits of Max’s powers and ability to influence the world (with and without those powers). Obviously that’s how every beat of a story works to an extent but I do feel that Life Is Strange is doing two things very well but failing to convince me that they need to touch each other.
I could spend lots of time thinking about the implications that the extended powerset has – with the journey into a photograph at the end of the episode – and that’s interesting and fun, but I’m not sure if it adds to my understanding or appreciation of the actual mysteries or mundanities that I’m enjoying for the bulk of the time that I’m playing. I’m not saying that it has to for the game to succeed but I don’t feel that everything hangs together as well as I’d like it to.

Hey bbz

Pip: I really liked that Max spends time thinking about what happened with Kate and whether she deserves the “hero” label (Kate lived in mine) and that other characters are affected – the principal drinking, for example. Something that’s bothering me a little right now is that I don’t remember seeing Kate in that montage at the end of Ep 3 now that everything’s changed and so does that mean whatever you did on the rooftop is somehow meaningless at this point?

Adam: Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong but I have been assuming that there’ll be a pretty rapid reboot to the original (?) timeline in episode 4. I don’t see the big switch lasting for very long.

Alice: I suspect we’ll stick around long enough to feel dreadful about wanting the old timeline and our old friend back.

Pip: I already do – I really miss blue-hair Chloe. She was my friend. But also so broken and with her dad killed so I feel selfish for wanting the old timeline back.

Alice: Max confides to NuChloe “I have a gift: a magic power that will murder your dad, get you kicked out of school, and saddle you with a paranoid step-dad.”

Adam: I bet he is a better busdriver than he is a security guard.

There’s another whole thing going on as well – the apocalyptic stuff. Part of me expects to find out that Rachel was another incarnation of Max torn across timelines and that they’ve been meddling for so long, looping in and out, that everything is collapsing around them. And whales. And dead birds. Because. There’s a heck of a lot happening and I can’t decide whether I like that there’s still time for swimming pools and quiet or whether that’s just punctuation in a sci-fi story I’m going to end up confused and slightly irritated by. I guess it’s good that I’m happily trundling along toward whatever the end might be.

Alice: The Disaster is the third wheel to me. Almost everything we’ve done has been about friendship and small-town mystery. Every now and then Max mentions “Oh, I suppose a hurricane’s coming Tuesday?” then we get back to hanging out in her room. I assume The Disaster will work out fine in the end, so whatever.

What happens to the people is far more interesting to me. The Disaster could not be in the game at all and I wouldn’t miss whatever narrative purpose it serves – the mystery of Rachel Amber has so much more heart, and whatever’s going on with this new timeline (and the power freakout in Episode 2) warns about meddling.

Adam: The Hurricane is adulthood and the end of innocence. Or Warren’s eventual hard-on (also the name of a very passable math-rock band). I’m looking forward to the next episode more than any of the others so far because the title alone makes it seem like it’ll move the Rachel mystery along. That is what I want.

Pip: Have any of you been digging into the fan theories?

32 Comments

  1. Monggerel says:

    I’m still hoping Max will take a nose dive into “remorseless sociopath” territory. Oh well.

  2. MrBehemoth says:

    Why we all gotta be hating on Warren? I get that he’s persistant, and in some situations that would be creepy, but I also feel that Max kinda maybe likes him just as much as she kinda maybe likes Chloe, or neither of them, or both. Warren’s never done anything to violate Max’s expressed wishes. It feels to me like if Max told him she wasn’t interested in ‘that way’ then he would be happy to be friends. I know that ‘friend zone’ and ‘coin-op’ attitudes are real and genuinely toxic and dangerous, but I don’t feel that’s what Warren’s attitude is.

    • MrBehemoth says:

      Also, my wife just pointed out that in the alternate timeline, Warren is interested in Brooke instead of Max. The only change is that somehow Max has become a preppy socialite, and Warren clearly isn’t interested in that – so it’s her personality he’s interested in.

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        Harlander says:

        I mean, yeah, he does sound like the sort of person who could easily tip into the kind of Internet Nice Guy pathology mentioned in the article, but c’mon, save the hate for if that acually happens, huh?

        • Canadave says:

          I think people are putting him into that Internet Nice Guy slot, when in… reality (?)… he’s just your garden variety Teenaged Nice Guy. In other words, Warren is being an idiot because he hasn’t quite figured out how other people work yet. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience…

          • Philippa Warr says:

            For me it’s a game problem. You’re invited to at least make some choices as to how you want to react to Warren and to people’s suggestions that he’s into you. In my case I’m just not interested in him and Max getting together. But Dontnod then have some interactions which feel like they go against that – the most obvious being his cuddling up with Max at the end of ep 2. The effect of that mismatch and the fact you don’t have the option of an open conversation about it is that the Warren I have feels like a guy who can’t take a hint and I don’t really like being around him or asking him for things because it seems to play into a “Max is leading me on” narrative.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’ve never gotten the sense that Max has any idea that he’s into her in that way. Even when Chloe specifically brings it up she just kind of laughs it off. But in my game, at least, she seems like she’d be into it if she did realize that.

      • ChrisGWaine says:

        Warren was with Stella.

  3. Banks says:

    I liked this episode a lot but I’m afraid that the whole plot Is heading to a stupid twist, shyamalan style. And It’s getting so obvious that It won even be a twist.

    We’ll see.

    • ribby says:

      Any guesses?

      We’re back in time before the start of the game right?

      What I’m hoping is we now get to save Kate at the Vortex Club and find out what happened to Rachel as things fall to pieces? Maybe those plotlines aren’t going anywhere now though?

      • Allenomura says:

        Except, back in time is practically bizarre-world, so Kate and the Vortex Club could run very differently.

      • Jigoku says:

        My personnal guess :
        It starts with a butterfly.
        And it ends with a tornado.
        And this episode is called “Chaos Theory”.

        So… at some point, Max realizes that the only way to stop screwing things over is to stop trying.
        And to stop playing with time because it’s always getting WORSE. Doesn’t she get the signs?
        Snow, eclipse, dead birds, and now dead whales? THEN a tornado?

        So in my opinion there are only a few options :
        – she have to let Chloe die in the toilet ;
        – she choses to sacrifice herself to make sure that it will not happen.
        – last, twisted option : she goes back in time.
        She becomes the Rachel Amber she now knows everything about, when no one knew who Rachel Amber was.
        She befriends Chloe. Then she disappears (dies?) in order for the original timeline to work again – “saving” her friend despite all the sorrow it will cause to her.

        Somehow I hope Dontnod will let us chose.
        Can I stay with the “happy” Chloe and her very alive father?
        Can I become a spoiled b–ch of the Vortex club?
        Can I go back to my blue-ish punk friend?
        Will I have to confess to her that in order to do that, I basically “murdered” her dad?

        I really hope this game will have multiple endings.

  4. caff says:

    So far, this is my favourite game of 2015. I am totally hooked on it. I even start the game then just alt-tab out just to listen to the menu music for a few minutes. Very chilled.

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      zapatapon says:

      The score is by Jonathan Morali of Syd Matters.
      You should give a try to the rest of their music. One of my favorite bands as far as I’m concerned

  5. ribby says:

    Well I hated Episodes 1 + 2 but 3 really clicked with me.

    I think it’s because the game revealed that it knew how unbearable Chloe was being, and that some of the ‘grr stereotypical bad guy’ characters turned out to have more depth.

    I think I’m even sort of getting used to the slightly janky dialogue- although ‘nosh’? Really? One use of the word was excusable but the second was just weird and it really wasn’t in the right context- something along the lines of “I’m about ready to nosh”…

    A minor thing that really irks me though is something that Liam of the Super Best Friends pointed out and that is the grafitti- that it’s always about a person, often the writer is clearly identifiable and it’s always about one of the twelve or so characters- which makes it seem like Blackwell only has about ten people in it.

    • MrBehemoth says:

      I find the general feeling everyone has about the dialogue to be a bit off, which is to say I like the dialogue, personally. I know several youngish people who do speak like that. Heck, I often speak like that, but then I am thirty something… Umm… I think I just ruined my argument :)

      • ribby says:

        Oh… Really?

        I’m a teenager and I hate to think that people think that teenagers talk like this…

        • Stellar Duck says:

          There are teenagers all over the place. Slang and the like vary like hell from region to region.

          Hell, the way we spoke when I was a teen back in the dark ages was different from how they spoke in a city 30 km away.

  6. ribby says:

    “She was my friend. But also so broken and with her dad killed so I feel selfish for wanting the old timeline back.”

    Let’s be honest. Chloe was an awful friend. And so awful to her mum, who would clearly be suffering just as much as she would :( I felt so bad for her. The moment where I was like, seriously? Is when she freaked out about Max accepting the call from Kate.

    • ribby says:

      “I recognise a significant part of myself in the characters”

      Oh god really, Pip?

      I remember watching videos of this and then someone talking about a twist coming up and a minor spoiler of someone lamenting about something bad happening to their favourite character.

      My first thought was: You have a favourite character??

      And then when the timetravel scene started I was horribly frightened that Chloe’s dad would be alive but her mum would be dead.

  7. ribby says:

    “There was a puzzle in Ep 2 which was just an exercise in observation and rewinding over and over – there’s none of that tedium this time around”

    This just isn’t true. The computer scene for example.

    Okay, well it is if you get the password quickly I imagine it’s fine but that’s down to chance and if you don’t- it locks you out. THen you rewind back, try another one, it locks you out, try another, locked out ect ect ect for about 6 minutes.

    • MrBehemoth says:

      Or you tap the undo button 3 times and have 3 more guesses. Including looking around for clues, that puzzle took about a minute and a half, and the correct answer was the last one for me. (I assumed it was set up to always be the last one.)

      • malkav11 says:

        I’m pretty sure it’s a specific one of the dozen or so choices it gives you. But what he chose tells you something about the character – reinforcing that he does care, he’s just so very bad at it.

    • Philippa Warr says:

      Different experience – I looked around the room first and then got it first time

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    Harlander says:

    I swear, if this game ends up trying to force a “things happen the way they’re meant to happen” moral on me after all this, I’ll be pretty bitterly disappointed.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      So far the game seems to be saying “you can change things but you’re not going to like it”. Like a genie in the lamp that gives you what you ask for but not what you want.

      • BisonHero says:

        That’s more of a monkey’s paw wish situation, but sure, I get what you mean.

  9. mllory says:

    I think that this episode elevated the game beyond the teens with real problems and superpowers cliche (depending on the execution from now on it could even be a pretender to the title of “New Longest Journey” for me). But it all hangs on how they handle Max’s new power.

    I hope they didn’t create this parallel timeline just for a dramatic cliffhanger and return to the status quo first thing in the next episode. Everyone taking the situation to be this binary thing of either saving Chloe’s dad or preventing the accident that left her in a wheelchair forget that Max has the powers to try to do both.

    Also staying in this timeline and trying to find all the ways these familiar people have changed (including Max herself) seems a lot more compelling to me.

  10. whydidyoumakemeregister says:

    I still can’t even get through episode one. I just keep thinking of the Mr. Show “No Parents Allowed” sketch during every single line of dialogue. link to youtube.com

  11. rmsgrey says:

    I think they’re going to have to restore the original timeline fairly quickly during episode 4 – the trouble with not restoring it is that this one choice in the remote past has just wiped clean all the consequences of every other choice we’ve been told will have consequences. The obvious one is the invitation to the Vortex Club party that you might or might not have managed to arrange – you’re going to need to restore the timeline before the party if it’s going to have consequences…

    If this was a more straight-forward adventure game, then I could see the big twist sticking, but this game makes a big deal out of your decisions having consequences, so I can’t see them letting the new timeline take over.

    I ope they at least allow you some time to explore the new timeline before the party in the evening, and it’s even possible that both timelines could remain live into episode 5, but I don’t see a lot of switching back and forth freely.

    The game already has issues with not always allowing your choices to affect things – it’s occasionally jarring how some scenes play out simply because they play out the same way regardless of the choices you made on the way – so I don’t see them suddenly embracing the combinatorial explosion with the two timelines…

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      The trail at the end of episode 3 made it pretty clear we’re going to the party in episode 4 whatever. I’ve rejected the chance to snag a party invite at every opportunity, but it still flashed up.

  12. malkav11 says:

    One issue I had with this episode – I fingered Nathan after Kate killed herself, which got him suspended. But throughout episode 3 people (including Nathan himself) sometimes randomly talked about him being expelled instead. If it was consistently “expelled” then I’d think there was just a bit of a continuity error or maybe there’s a way to get him expelled and the game just didn’t set that flag properly. But people also sometimes talk about him being suspended! These are not the same thing!