Wot I Think: Life Is Strange

The final episode of time-meddling drama Life is Strange [official site] has arrived. My thoughts about the game still haven’t entirely settled so I might revisit the game in a few weeks when they’re firmer BUT right now I’m going to do a mini Wot I Think (no spoilers) and then a separate chat with Alice who has also played (that one will have spoilers coming out the wazoo).

In case you’ve missed us chatting about it on here, Life Is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield, a teen girl who discovers she has the power to rewind time after witnessing a crime. With her newfound power and the reappearance of a childhood friend she finds herself investigating the disappearance of a fellow student and fielding visions of an impending apocalypse. As the player you get to fiddle with time in order to make and remake choices, adjusting the adventure as you go.

Here’s Wot I Think [At The Moment, Before I’ve Had A Chance To Really Let Everything Settle]:

TL;DR: Life Is Strange is really, really good.

So the thing about episode five was that it had a lot of work to do. I’d found myself charmed by Life Is Strange since the first episode way back in February, despite not warming to Max at first and despite some rather awkward dialogue choices. More than half a year later, and with time to develop theories and counter-theories, dip into the Tumblr fandoms and cosplaying communities, build expectations and develop worries I finally hit the final chapter.

But talking about a lot of Life Is Strange is out of the question because it runs the risk of spoiling so much. Basically, if you’re going to play it, you’ll want me to talk about it as little as possible. With that in mind I’m going to try and summarise the general experience and leave picking into a lot of what works and what doesn’t for the chat.

When I wrote about episode one (Chrysalis) I talked about how it reminded me of teen-based original fiction posted in subsections of internet fanfiction hubs. This was the conclusion:

“I know it sounds like there’s a lot of criticism there but episode one is also earnest and gawky and sweet. Life Is Strange itself feels teenaged. It’s not realistic and it’s not subtle but it taps into a vein of fiction I’d forgotten existed – one which is imperfect, exploratory and full of liminal charm.”

That remains broadly true across the entire series (although on the realism note I would stress that the characters had a lot of moments together which I recognised from my own experience of being a teenager which really took me by surprise – I’ve never felt that in a game before). I was willing to forgive it some irritating puzzles or clanging dialogue because I bought into the characters’ relationships and wanted to pursue the central mysteries. However, the balance of gawky, earnest charm/emotional punch to imperfection and criticism shifts around a little leading to some episodes being far stronger than others.

The most notable contrasts are episodes two (Out Of Time) and four (Dark Room). Two is a quietly powerful experience which uses your reliance on your power to great effect – it’s the sort of thing where I just wanted to sit there after the credits for a few minutes and put myself back together. Four tries to cram far too much into one session and the pacing ends up really weird towards the end. It also follows up on a cliffhanger in a way that didn’t assuage my doubts about the whole scene, it just kicked them down the road, leaving the finale to answer for whether it had been working towards a point or had lost its way.

So which was it?

Playing the final episode (Polarized) there were two parts when I stared at the screen, needing to make a choice but not feeling ready.

The first time it happened was when I came to boot up the episode. I found myself answering emails, making a coffee, checking the work Facebook page – anything that would stave off finding out whether a series I was emotionally invested in had been… good? worthwhile? I mean, the positives would have still existed but a bad finale can cause you to reassess earlier plot points and casts a shadow over the whole thing. Have you ever had that with a favourite TV show? It’s the finale and you don’t know if it’s going to satisfy or – and I believe this is the technical term – “do a Lost”.

The second time was the very last choice you get to make. I was so torn and so uncertain that I sat with it for maybe five minutes before picking an option and it still broke my heart. Then I texted two people in real life to tell them I loved them. Right now I’m considering playing the whole final episode again, just so I can undo what I did. I don’t think I will, but I bring it up because it highlights how much I came to care about Life Is Strange and its characters.

Personally, though, I think it will take a little longer to unpick whether I’m happy with how developers Dontnod dealt with (or didn’t deal with) a few of the elements I’ve found problematic over the course of the series. I’ll go into a lot more detail in a conversational and spoiler-ful post with Alice, but my current thinking is: it doesn’t answer all of my specific issues satisfactorily but generally the mass of them are resolved through an ending which worked. I will add that I think Life Is Strange benefited very much from the episodic format and that the gaps were important in giving you time to reflect on the game, or even to put it to the back of your mind and leave it there for a bit. If you’re binge-playing episodes back-to-back you’ll obviously lose that.

So should you buy it… I want to say everyone should but that’s a bad answer because it won’t be for everyone. Nothing is. What I will say is that it is probably my Game of the Year. Not THE Game of the Year but mine. Sure, it irritated me in places (there were two sections in particular which outstayed their welcome and one where I settled for an outcome I wasn’t happy with rather than repeat a scene again).

There are also several plot points which never really get explained and I suspect – based on other people’s responses – there are ways to play it and choices you can make which feel unsatisfactory. The statistics you get at the end of the episodes sometimes show a clear bias towards one choice over another – I felt that was because Dontnod had a clear vision for who Max was and deviating from their choices could be hard. With one particular friendship I sometimes felt I was fighting the game.

But I found Life Is Strange affecting in a way I rarely experience with video games. I shared it with friends. We messaged each other at the ends of episodes to say “Holy shit!” before grabbing a cup of tea and talking through the chapter. It was a wonderful thing.

Imperfect, exploratory and full of liminal charm.

Life Is Strange is out now for Windows.

140 Comments

  1. RLacey says:

    I really enjoyed it. Life is Strange has a whole bunch of flaws, but it’s a deeply impressive thing; the best surprise of the year in terms of its quality, and the most interesting game I’ve played this year for certain.

  2. Scurra says:

    but my current thinking is: it doesn’t answer all of my specific issues satisfactorily but generally the mass of them are resolved through an ending which worked.
    So basically it does, in fact, “do a Lost” then?

    • ribby says:

      Pretty much- I gather it sort of just goes- yeah the tornadoes happening because you messed with time and stuff

    • Knightley4 says:

      Ehh, after thinking about it, no. The Lost is like on the absolute bottom for me, and LiS definitely does not fall that low (for me). But some things were left vague, and i don’t feel they benefit from it.

    • krimhorn says:

      More of a Lynch than a Lost.

  3. Frosty Grin says:

    I found this episode (and with it the entire game) disappointing, but disappointment is largely a product of hopes and expectations. And Life Is Strange is a kind of game that fosters hopes and expectations – which is good. More importantly, it’s one of a kind, so you don’t have a realistic ceiling for your expectations. That’s why this isn’t a bad kind of disappointment.

    • ribby says:

      What? XD Wouldn’t it be simpler just to say you found this episode a disappointing conclusion, but overall the experience was still an enjoyable one. Rather than looking for reasons why it was good that you were disappointed?

      • Frosty Grin says:

        It looks like I should clarify what I meant. :)

        Take a game like Alpha Protocol – it was a disappointment for many people who got it at launch. That’s why when I started playing, my expectations were low, and the game easily exceeded them, despite the flaws. (Still a better example of interactive storytelling than Life Is Strange.)

        But it’s the same with Life Is Strange – people who are going to get it a few months later, after reading the reviews and impressions – they are going to have more realistic expectations, so they won’t be disappointed.

        • ribby says:

          Oh I see. Yeah, expectations do have an impact. That’s why Tales from the Borderlands (Sorry, I just can’t help continuously bringing that game up) was such a great surprise- it didn’t seem like it could possibly work, but it did.

      • demicanadian says:

        I myself found “nightmare” part really bad. I know that dreamy stuff is not easy to do and subjective, but still… Let’s say that at one point I said to myself “and now all we need is giant squirrels outside the window”.

        • SimianJim says:

          I was so tense at that point that the squirrels actually made me jump when I noticed movement out the corner of my eye. When I realised what it was it made me smile

    • Unclepauly says:

      I don’t want to send you off on a dissertation or anything but I have to ask.. What were your expectations that were so high to cause disappointment? I kind of go into all games with a somewhat low expectation as I’ve been duped too many times by bad reviews.

      • Frosty Grin says:

        The game’s episodic structure helps manage expectations, and it got pretty clear from the first episode that the game was going to be flawed, so I didn’t expect perfection. And the ending is hardly unexpected, even if you don’t think about it. But I expected the lead-up to be either graceful and emotional, like the first choice in Episode 4, or a complicated and satisfying gameplay-driven sequence. Ultimately, I expected the last episode to reiterate the game’s strengths – the things that worked in earlier episodes. But instead it reiterated the game’s weaknesses, added new ones, and the whole thing didn’t really work.

        As a result, I don’t think I can call it a good game. It’s even difficult to name a single aspect that was a definite success. Art direction, I guess?

  4. ribby says:

    Well good to hear you enjoyed it. Everything I’ve seen (and tbf I haven’t seen much) seemed to suggest a disappointing ending that didn’t resolve things satisfactorily.

    I feel like I kind of failed this game.. Everyone seems to find it amazing but I… I can’t seem to connect to any of it really. None of the characters anyway… I found Max dull and unrealistically caring, and Chloe just plain irritating. The dialogue- I couldn’t get past its clunkiness, and there aren’t really any moments that I recognize from being a teenager.

    I realize that as I’m only 18 my teenage years aren’t over yet, but for me being a teenager was about A) a whole lot of insecurity and worry about trivial things and B) A sense of camaraderie that slowly formed with close friends that I could totally relax around, trade jokes and insults with and just be myself. Knowing people so well that you know how they’re likely to respond to certain things, know how to make them laugh, how to wind them up, and know you can depend on them (or at least know them so well that you try to avoid depending on them)

    I didn’t really get any of that from the dramatic-ness of this game. Chloe and Max didn’t talk to eachother in the way that (from my experience) friends should talk to eachother.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      “Everyone seems to find it amazing”

      Most people who find it amazing still see many flaws. I actually agree that characters aren’t very good – and worse than I expected from the developer of Remember Me. But it’s not like there’s a game like this – but better.

      • ribby says:

        What do you mean by ‘a game like this?’

        Because… I mean isn’t it a little bit similar to Telltale’s way of doing things? Or do you mean the themes of the game?

        If so: What was the game about in your opinion? :)

        • Frosty Grin says:

          I haven’t played a single Telltale game – they don’t look appealing to me, perhaps with the exception of The Wolf Among Us. So, yes, if you find them comparable, you might treat Life Is Strange more harshly.

          • ribby says:

            How could Life is Strange appeal but none of the Telltale games?

          • ribby says:

            The Wolf Among us was certainly cool (oh man that bit with Bloody Mary) and I loved the setting, but eh, it definitely wasn’t the best Telltale game. It was good, but the pacing felt a little off, and the ending was a disappointment.

            Tales from the Borderlands and the Walking Dead are truly excellent pieces though. Walking Dead 2 overdoes the grittiness a bit too much, I reckon.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            Well, they just don’t feel appealing. Maybe it’s the aesthetics and themes – or the IP the games are based on.

          • Distec says:

            I find with these types of titles that you really have to like the writing. That’s why the first season of TWD was good, the second season not so much, and TWAU was splendid. I don’t know about the rest of Telltale’s output, having not tried them.

            But this is why I still think these aren’t really good games and why the argument that “your choices don’t matter” still holds some hefty weight. I need characters and story that are good enough – or resonate with me personally – for me to overlook the seams in the actual game/system part. It’s paramount that I get swept up in the experience, because otherwise choices do feel cheap and meaningless. I understand that it is ridiculously difficult to track and support all the variables a player can make by the third episode in a series, but that just highlights the limitations of the format. I appreciate it if the developer tries to handle this elegantly (ie. TWD1 basically had to cut out a character by third episode since they were “optional”, but it was handled with an excellent twist/punch). But the patterns become very noticeable not just by the the second season of a series, but really when you try any of these similar games.

          • ribby says:

            You really should look into TFTBL it’s the best thing I’ve played in a long looong time

          • ribby says:

            Although now that I think about it- the ending of the Walking Dead season 2 is pretty brilliant. It can be so warm or so cold depending on your choices

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I have to disagree, I found very few flaws with this game. It had simple mechanics which worked well.

        Even if some dialogue choices were stupid, the rewind mechanic made them a lot more palatable than the ones in e.g. Dreamfall: Chapters. Rather than a lack of agency, it became a limitation of your powers.

        I also think Maxime was intentionally made to appear dull to contrast with being a superhero, and it was made pretty clear that Chloe’s attitude was her way of dealing with her loss. They both showed nuance and development, though admittedly it was subtle.

  5. BloatedGuppy says:

    Lots of fury on Reddit over the concept of the game not properly catering to player choice with its ending(s). The ol’ “Our choices meant nothing” chestnut, dusted off from its last go-around with The Walking Dead.

    It’s a sentiment I’m at once sympathetic to (everyone likes to feel like they’re authoring their own story) and utterly baffled by. Your choices WERE the game. That was the entire meat of the game-play. Did you hate everything and you were just enduring it hoping for some kind of optimal outcome? Did you not notice how your choices dictated what happened during the entire running length of the game? Did you genuinely expect 72 branching endings, fully informed by every choice made across a 10-15 hour game? Did previous experiences with games like Walking Dead and its sequel, or the (rightly) loathed denouement to Mass Effect not teach anyone to place the claim of “your actions have consequences” properly in context?

    There’s definitely room for criticism…there was a lot of re-used assets and some atypically plonky dialogue, speaking to a possibly accelerated release schedule and/or a deficit of budget. But the game ended on a thematically appropriate and emotionally satisfying note, so I’m having trouble finding excessive fault with it. Definitely one of the best releases of the year, and tonally an extremely unique game.

    • ribby says:

      I haven’t seen or played the last episode yet… But are you saying episode 5s dialogue was /atypically/ plonky??? Because the dialogue has been off-kilter since episode one.

      • BloatedGuppy says:

        Yes ribby, I’m aware you don’t care for LiS, you’re making that abundantly obvious.

        There were prominent dialogue issues in chapters one and five. Chapter one dialed the twee, awkward “Greetings, fellow kids” dialogue up a notch or two beyond what was bearable, and chapter five’s dialogue often felt overly expository.

        • ribby says:

          Oh, okay. I suppose it did get a bit better after Episode 1, now that I think about it. There were still some issues that I found a tad grating though- like the incessant references.

      • ignare brute says:

        Actually, most of dialogs in episode 5 are just monologs. There I presented a dialog branch option of episode 5 – each possilibity means more or less the same (beware, spoiler) link to crusaderping.wordpress.com
        It was not that bad in previous episodes.

        • BTA says:

          I won’t defend all of their dialogue choices, but that conversation wasn’t about giving Chloe information as much as it was defining how you wanted to convey Max’s feelings. I definitely paused for a bit on a few choices in that conversation because the distinction between each choice was important (if only to me) even though they seemed similar.

    • gwathdring says:

      I get really frustrated with this in Telltale’s games with the game constantly telling me my choices Matter and that This Person Will Remember That.

      None of that is what makes these games actually function and all it does is distract and set expectations wrong. It’s particularly frustrating in The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones when you can feel more of the gaps between momentary engagement and plot-level engagement or where even within a single play-through you can feel the seems between the different choices forcing the dialog into awkward spaces and making people react inappropriately.

      What makes these games work is the act of interacting with the story and the smoothness of the illusion and reincorporation. You bring choices back in and reference them (“Your brother called me craven” is a perfect example, though I really am not enjoying GoT overall) in small ways that don’t cost hours and hours of development time and you focus on making each play feel coherent and slick and interesting rather than giving the player the steering wheel.

      There’s nothing wrong with giving players the steering wheel! But you can’t do that AND make a game that tells a decent length story with robust dialog and characters. And Telltale clearly wants to focus on those two things … only rather than recognize when that conflicts with their CHOICES CHOICES CHOICES advertising and in-game branding, they let the two ideas get into fights that mess with the quality of their work and stick annoying pop-ups in your face during play.

      I agree the expectations many players have about the way these games work are misplaced! But … at least in Telltale’s case the game is advertised and even designed in such a away as to explicitly help players misplace those expectations. Which is, too, quite baffling. Borderlands does a much better job avoiding some of these conflicts, I feel.

      Personally I don’t understand feeling the choices are “pointless” because they don’t change the broad shape of the plot. They inform how you experience the narrative. They change how you think about it. They are your narrative. In these, in Mass Effect … I don’t see why that’s such a problem. The interactions and decisions mattered to me at the time and if the overall structure works, too … what else is there? Why do I have to have fiat for it to matter?

      • gwathdring says:

        The flip side is, as I alluded to, that the game can be designed in such a way that the interactions and choices genuinely don’t function as well without leading to things they do not in fact lead to. That’s usually not really because your choices “didn’t matter” but because the story and the interaction points were not well chosen and the branch illusion was not well performed and so on and so forth. I think typically if there’s a problem, the problem isn’t going to be that your choices “don’t matter” but that the execution is otherwise flawed.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      I was one of the people who was angry at Bioware for Mass Effect’s ending, but I don’t think there’s a comparison here.

      I loved the endings in Life is Strange. Your choices tear at the fabric of the whole reason Max did all of this stuff in the first place. It presents an incredibly morally grey ethical choice that upsets the whole power-fantasy that Max’s abilities hinted at; that she can undo the damage of her decisions, and choose a better outcome. There is no better outcome, they’re all bad outcomes, and you have to decide whether your best friend’s life is worth the lives of everyone in town.

      It’s incredibly poetic, and intelligent, and wraps up the whole theme of the story perfectly. Even if the tornado being Max’s fault was sort of cliche, they used it to great effect.

      I didn’t feel like it was a game that needed multiple branching endings. This is a game about Max’s relationship with Chloe, and all of the confounding variables that lead them on this adventure. It is a game about going back and undoing your mistakes. It is a game about choices sometimes seeming good on the surface, and bad down the road. This situation you are in literally is the culmination of every decision you made over the past four chapters. It is the embodiment of your actions, your recklessness, come home to roost. You have one last chance to fix everything, but the only two answers left to you are inactions. Terrible, terrible inactions. After controlling everything, you can no longer control anything. You come full circle, and and are reminded that actions have consequences.

      What a gutpunch from a game that started off so innocent and sweet. The ending, in my opinion, is perfect.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I loved the ending too. My biggest fear was that the “good” or “bad” ending would be chosen for you. The statistics on player choice (45% vs. 55%) show that there was no such ending anyway.

        The ending worked so well because the final choice felt so final and inevitable, unlike all the other choices in the game. In the last episode it was made very clear that my meddling would close doors previously open to me. My gift was turning into a special kind of hell where I was forced to go back and undo my choices again and again until I was stuck in the worst possible reality. After making that final choice, I felt a strong sense of relief.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I just remembered that it was also foreshadowed by the potted plant in Max’ dorm. If you watered it every time you had the chance, it would drown.

    • Kala says:

      “Your choices WERE the game.”

      Yep. It’s frustrating. Me and a friend were chatting about the game and our playthroughs -we had picked the same “ending choice” for ep 5 and yet so many aspects of our experience were completely different. (Some were because of decisions made in Ep. 4, and I was like, wow I didn’t even know that would happen because of that 0.o)

      It’s such an unfair and unjust criticism when this game has worked so very hard to ensure your actions have consequences and are remembered through each episode giving everyone a unique experience based on the decisions they’ve made.

      The game was about choices, and the consequences of the choices, from the beginning. The choice at the end is not bolted on, doesn’t come from nowhere, is not deux ex machina (pretty much the opposite) – it was always leading up to that. If you didn’t like the consequence of your choice, I’m sorry, but I think that’s also part of the point.

  6. Phil says:

    LiS is my personal GOTY, no question. Yes, there are awkward moments; times when things don’t quite work & you could see the machine beneath poking through. But the bits that really worked, that gripped me emotionally in ways that few games ever have? Those were fantastic.

    Reading around the net I see a lot of people who felt let down by the ending, but personally I think it was right – there’s only one ‘good’ ending that works thematically & it was fairly clear to me from the beginning that that was where the series was heading. Will look forward to the spoilerific RPS view from Pip & Alice where we can expound on this stuff at length!

    • Frosty Grin says:

      Even if you feel like the ending wasn’t wrong, the events leading up to it surely could help justify it better. It feels worse than it could.

    • ProctorEldritch says:

      I agree with you, Phil. Life is Strange is my personal GOTY as well. The game isn’t without its blemishes, but where it shines it does so very brightly. It’s one of the most evocative games I have ever played.

      I was a bit disappointed in the way the ending was handled, mainly because of its predictability. But, once I made my decision the final sequence left me in tears. I can’t think of many other games that have had a similar effect on me.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      Yeah, my personal game of the year also. It was incredibly thematically intelligent.

      I don’t think there is a ‘right’ ending, I think the nature of the choice that you have to make is the ‘right’ ending. After being in control for so long, you are left to decide whether you will not act to save a town, or not act to save your best friend. The story is telling you that sometimes, an inaction is an action. And that all actions and inactions have consequences.

      You have no good options, other than to confront the idea that you have to live with your choice. And that’s the ‘real’ ending. Which you choose doesn’t really matter. The story ends on the same object lesson either way. Which is why it is beautifully constructed.

      Having seen both endings, I will say that one definitely has more attention to detail and symbolism, which does give the impression that someone at Dontnod preferred that conclusion. But despite that, I wouldn’t go back and change my own decision. This was always a game about Max’s bond with Chloe, and while I love a good tragedy, there’s tragedy enough to go around in both endings.

  7. ignare brute says:

    “TL;DR: Life Is Strange is really, really good. ”

    Is it?

    Interface was shitty in episode 1 link to crusaderping.wordpress.com
    and still was in episode 5 link to crusaderping.wordpress.com

    As French, I was afraid of the possible frenchness of it, the thing that makes me avoid Ubisoft and most of the french cinema. It was not too heavy but grew over time.

    “But talking about a lot of Life Is Strange is out of the question because it runs the risk of spoiling so much”

    If only. If only there was much to spoil. Actually, the more you progress, the less the story makes sense. I hoped the whole tornado-whatever was some kind of mental delusion. But no, at some point, you have a the pseudo-scientific-aware potential boyfriend that tells you that it is real and obvious.
    There is really nothing to spoil. The end would be as disappoiting as the last Mass Effect, if the rest of the game was as good.

    These Telltale-like games are some kind of a movie watching experience. This is not a good one. I spent half of the last episode reading the news on steam overlay, because I had the feeling to waste me time listening to tremoloish monologs.

    “The second time was the very last choice you get to make.”

    I felt like: let’s end this noise. The game seemed so gamey that I dont start to begin a connection with life.

    “Imperfect, exploratory and full of liminal charm.”

    No, just imperfect. I dont think I’ll play any other game from DONTNOD. Too French for a bored french.

    • ribby says:

      Amelie was great though

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I haven’t played the game, but it baffles me when people post this kind of “Having played all five episodes, I am fully qualified to explain why every one of them sucks” stuff. If you hated them that much, why didn’t you stop playing at some point? Did you power through hours and hours of boredom and irritation on the promise that you were charging up a totally scathing internet post?

      • ribby says:

        It makes sense… when you’ve paid good money for a story, you might keep on reading in hope that it gets better, or that you start to see what everyone else seems to see in it.

        • Phil says:

          Sunk cost fallacy in action :)

          “I’ve paid for this opportunity to bang my head against the wall I tell you, so I’m just going to keep on doing it!”

          • Kala says:

            That’s also my policy on the all you can eat buffet in pizza hut.

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      I don’t particularly care for LiS’s interface but I find it bizarre that anyone would base their opinion of the game around it. Seems like the pinnacle of missing the forest for the trees.

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        To expand on this, I totally understand how a shitty interface would ruin someone’s enjoyment of say, Prison Architect, but a story-centric adventure game?

  8. daphne says:

    I found the last episode weak, and not because my choices didn’t have any effect blah blah (which is a tired criticism). Rather, it felt like the central conceit Dontnod picked for the episode (won’t spoil it here) just didn’t work as they intended. It rendered the game’s cohesive setting and plot into a series of vignettes that ended up doing less than their more coherent precedents, and undermined the build-up to the ending of the game, needlessly choice-ified so as to so please the fan base. Which is a noble goal, but not with a half-baked product as this ended up being.

    Now, a spoilery tidbit.

    Nowhere is the disconnect more apparent than in the final choice of saving Arcadia Bay, obviously the intended ending of the developers as well. The game quickly establishes that jumping through multiple alternate realities causes all sorts of complications for whatever timeline Max is in. This should hold for the last jump Max makes as well, that is, the hour of Chloe’s death. For some divine reason though, this time it just works. Supposing that the well-being universe is indeed predicated on Chloe Price’s death, it also condemns the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending. The Universe has been denied once more, and It will take Chloe away again — or wreak more destruction in the process.

    With Episode 5, Life is Strange is no longer about that teen fantasy. It no longer possesses that liminal charm I too resonated with, and no more about character growth and overcoming adversity. It’s four episodes of a warm, relatable, human tale with a damning sci-fi conclusion.

    • Phil says:

      If you want to retcon the whole thing in a way that works (for me at least) think of it like this: Cloe was originally going to die in the bathroom. Max prevented her death back in Ep 1 & thus broke time. The dead animals, the two moons & eventually the tornado are a consequence of this in some unspecified way as the ‘original timeline’ conflicts with the ‘new timelines’ that Max creates as she rewinds and edits events.

      By going back to the bathroom & allowing Cloe to die, Max returns time to its original course, so there are no longer multiple timelines fighting over their definition of “the future”. Peace returns to Arcadia Bay…

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        But there’s two problems with that: One, time was still broken when she went back and saved William. The universe was slowly getting it’s blood price of Chloe’s life, and there were still whales on the beach. Two, the big time tornado is coming even before Max does anything at all.

        It was all a big, sloppy, MacGuffin.

        • Phil says:

          Yes, but if you take the view that changing time by saving Cloe’s Dad in the past has broken time *again*, then the dead whales are the expected result.

          Admittedly, there’s the obvious rejoinder of why all these effects failed to show up when Max actually changed time, rather than years later, but the logic still sort of hangs together. (Hand wave, hand wave, maybe the universe is always trying to reassert itself in Max’s personal conscious timeline & can’t do so until then?)

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          “Two, the big time tornado is coming even before Max does anything at all.”

          Well, it’s a game about time travel. Of course it will begin with effect preceding cause, that’s a staple of the genre.

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        gritz says:

        But that’s so ridiculously unsatisfying. Think about it: the message of the game is that the universe is punishing the hero for her heroism, every choice leads to pain and death, and the only way for everything to be “right” with the universe is to become a passive bystander in watching your loved ones suffer and die.

        Fuck that noise.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          I didn’t see it that way. The universe is a cruel and punitive place regardless of your actions, but unlike everyone else who are sentenced to watch their misfortune unfold, you were given a choice.

        • Phil says:

          You wanted a game, but you got a narrative experience.

          Narrative vs Gamification in role-playing games has a long, long history that pre-dates computer games & is never going to be resolved, because people want different things. Those of us who like narrative feel that we got a satisfying ending. Not necessarily one that we wanted, but one that was a fitting conclusion to the story we’d participated in revealing.

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            gritz says:

            That’s a really pompous assumption you’re making about what I want.

            I don’t give a damn about gamification. I give a damn about a satisfying resolution to the narrative, which we were not given.

          • mavrik says:

            Dude, if anything is pompous is bitching about a story writer not giving you the ending YOU wanted.

        • Kala says:

          I didn’t think that was the message of the game.

          For me, it was more that difficult choices have difficult consequences. Even (maybe especially) if you want to do the right thing.

          Sometimes there are no good choices. You just have to act according to your conscience and live with that.

  9. daphne says:

    (in lieu of an edit)

    This is not to say that I didn’t actually expect to have to let Chloe die (indeed, I don’t think anyone didn’t expect that) — simply that the way it’s been built up was a wreck, destroying previously memorable characters (Jefferson, Victoria, Joyce among otheres) and removing nearly the entirety of the humanity from the series.

  10. Dukkha says:

    After episode 4 this was the game of the year for me, maybe even game of the decade. But after episode 5 I still think it is a very good game, but the last episode left me a bit disappointed. The big problem is of course the ending.

    There’s this saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” And her comes dontnod and says that doing nothing is exactly what you should do. Even if you have the ability to make a change you shouldn’t, cause maybe something else you have no ability to know about can go bad. It just such a louse message to send. Of course people should try to do the right thing.

    So, I loved the atmosphere, I loved the characters and I really hope to see more games in settings like these, but I kinda wish “Life is Strange” had a better ending.

    • ignare brute says:

      I really have a hard time to consider that this game could compete with a Witcher 3 (nothing in Life is Strange is near from the Baron character for instance) or whatever, if we are talking “game of the year”, or just with Telltale Games of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands, if we stay in category.

    • JakeOfRavenclaw says:

      Same here. I was ready to declare it one of my favorite games ever through episode 4 (and even most of episode 5, actually), but it just stumbles so hard at the end. I get what they were trying to do thematically (a lot of the game is about accepting the inevitability of loss that comes with growing up, after all), but the way it was executed just sucks.

      Of course it didn’t help that this came out on the same day as the Tales from Borderlands finale, which was just about perfect imo. I do still think that Life is Strange is very much worth playing, but I wish they’d managed to end it with a little more elegance.

      P.S. I know it’s a tired complaint at this point, but is there a reason why RPS doesn’t switch to Disqus or something? This comment system is…not great.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      What I got from the ending was slightly different.

      It tells us that inactions are sometimes actions, and that both action, and inaction, can have terrible consequences. Both choices that we have to make are inactions at their core. Going back and failing to save a friend, or failing to save the town by failing to save a friend.

      Max has had so much control over the course of the game, and yet we are frequently reminded that we can’t control everything, and that trying sometimes leads to a worse outcome than if we simply hadn’t interfered.

      It is reversing the power-fantasy that we are presented with, the ability to undo our mistakes. And reminds us that sometimes regret is not a path to a better future. Ultimately we all have to live with our errors, in some form or another. That is part of the human experience. The game is telling us that Max’s attempt to subvert that regret ultimately brings her back, full circle, to reliving that experience, and having to live with it. To not act. Or to embrace her mistakes and live with those instead. She can’t escape her errors, time-bending powers or not.

      It’s not a fluffy happy message, but it is an honest one, and a mature one. It is a very sober, adult ending for a game about teenagers. I thought it was beautiful, and challenging.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Bah. I’m pretty unimpressed by attempts to explore the human condition which involve time travel – a concept notably absent from the human condition.

        • Premium User Badge

          Harlander says:

          Huh. I just totally failed to get the idea I had into words. Oh well. Being unable to edit posts is a mature, adult, sober and honest lesson on thinking about what you’re going to write first.

          • BooleanBob says:

            If it makes you feel any better, I feel like your point stands, even if it wasn’t the one you intended to make.

            Signed,

            Someone exhausted with the time travel conceit cropping up in lauded works in just about every media.

        • Hyena Grin says:

          It was pretty clear from the very first game that this is what the game is about. The human condition, and time travel. I get that you might be tired of it (though I can’t think of many examples. Donnie Darko comes to mind as a probable inspiration for the game, but other than that?)

          So maybe this just wasn’t the game for you from the get-go.

        • rmsgrey says:

          If you want to explore, you need to go beyond the familiar – looking at what happens when someone is exposed to the fantastic can shed more light on mundane aspects of their life than simply recounting their usual routine would. Extreme circumstances have a way of stripping away incidental concerns and focusing on one or two aspects of something.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        An ending can be an honest reflection of human nature and still ultimately be an unsatisfying experience.

        • Hyena Grin says:

          What we find satisfying is very personal, not an objective, universal thing. I thought it was very satisfying. Others are free to disagree.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        Couldn’t have said it better myself, Hyena Grin. And indeed, being so tired of the usual cliché endings may have contributed to my love for this one.

      • mavrik says:

        That’s pretty much what I took away from the game as well. Sometimes things happen and you can’t fix it all. Not a happy conclusion or a one a typical game would do. But it’s fitting to this narrative.

  11. Jappy86 says:

    I loved this game and also the ending or at least one of the endings. Yes, maybe the game was not perfect and not everything was solved, but the whole game connected with me a lot. I loved Arcadia Bay and all the characters, and some of the characters I hated, I loved to hate them. My issue with the game is the existence of the second ending. I think that it is not that coherent with the plot and also makes both the characters look really bad, selfish and dumb. spoilers follow…

    …..

    ….

    What really makes them think that what happened in Arcadia Bay, one week later, won’t happen again and with larger consequences? Seriously. It looked like Dontnod had an idea and in then didn’t realize the response they were going to have and created a second ending to not disappoint completely a part of the fandom.

    • ignare brute says:

      Actually, it looked more like DONTNOD realized that there is not a single decision you can make in episode 5 and decided to present you with two dumb options.

      • Jappy86 says:

        Sorry, I don’t agree. Though, I agree with the criticism that the final outcome was extremely predictable, after a lot of impressive cliffanghers in the previous two episodes, but in the end, I grew so attached to the characters and I did not mind it one bit.

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          Yeah, this. And this is also why I don’t at all get all the people saying there was only one true ending. I could have chosen either option at that point, but I chose the one people seem to be saying wasn’t the intended ending. It turns out I’m a terrible person. But I’m OK with that. All the character’s stories wrapped up satisfactorily (apart from Evan, who I think I must have missed somewhere). I knew what was happening, and I went in with my eyes open. But after the week she’d had, as long as there was a choice, there was only one way my Max was responding. Sure, it breaks the narrative arc I’d been expecting, but it leaves another that I’m happy enough with.

          I considered the choice for ages, but ultimately the only way you’d have got me to go the other way would have been to take the choice away from me. And I don’t believe idiots on Reddit would like that option any better.

          If I had criticisms of Episode five, they would be firstly the stealth section, which was just awful, to the point I nearly gave up on seeing the ending of a game I’ve truly loved; and secondly the dawning on the cast of what’s going on. Sure, I saw it from ages ago, but it was kinda clumsy, particularly the part with Warren.

          No one else seems to have complained about the stealth though so possibly it was just the brightness on my monitor.

          • ProctorEldritch says:

            Huh. Did you use Max’s rewind power in the stealth section? I did, and it basically involved walking forward, rewinding, walking forward, rinse and repeat.

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            Yeah, and I kept getting cornered, so I’d rewind into someone else, so I was eventually stuck in an impossible location, and the game would reset me back to the beginning of the zone. Absolutely maddening.

          • ProctorEldritch says:

            Ooh, god. That’s terrible. I must have gotten lucky on my play through

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            Like I said, I think the lack of other complaints about this mean it was probably the brightness of my screen. I was playing in a conservatory in the daytime. I couldn’t see where the black play area on the black background ended, so I couldn’t even tell where I was aiming for.

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            Harlander says:

            Oh, no, no, you’re quite right.

            That stealth section was awful like most false stealth sections in non-stealth games are awful.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I’m not so sure being selfish is a bad thing in that context. If Max was only travelling across the possibility space, rather than actually changing anything, the only thing that matters is how much she likes it where she ends up.

      But that’s just an excuse for the real reason, of course. I fucking love Chloe and was not going to give her up for any reason <3

      And no, I don't think there would be any more disasters afterwards. The butterfly effect metaphor ends where the game does.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        I’ve just seen a possible other reading, where Max has torn up the photo because she’s realised that she’s become a time-junkie, addicted to trying to get the best outcome of every situation. Rather than ‘choosing’ Chloe over the town she’s acknowledging her mistakes and saying ‘this stops here, no more time travel’.

        It also means she’ll never be able to take another photo in her life, in case the temptation gets to her…

        • Faxmachinen says:

          Good point. I’ve been amusing myself by trying to figure out why a pragmatist like myself would would choose that ending without hesitation, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Between the nosebleeds and nightmares I certainly felt like a junkie.

          If the other ending had ended with you still using time travel, I would suspect the whole game to be an allegory of drug addiction. The tornado would represent the reality you have to face after going cold turkey, and Chloe’s death would represent someone you love leaving after being fed up with your neglect.

          On a slightly unrelated note, I must admit I freaked out when I saw the storm off of the coast of Mexico this morning.

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            I’ve not seen the other ending yet. Still working up to it. As far as I’m concerned at the moment Max has one story, of the choices I made.

            Which has me wondering, if a game has different paths and different outcomes, are they the same story? Do we have to assume that a game is ‘about’ the same things regardless of player action, or can my actions change not just plot outcome but the ‘message’ as well?

          • Person of Con says:

            @somnolentsurfer: good question. I’d say that usually, in most of the examples I can think of, the theme of a game story where branching choices are allowed tends to stay the same regardless of your choices, as the specific choices wind up being your “stance” on that theme, on the central question the game as a whole poses. Life is Strange is a good example; BioShock, Baldur’s Gate II, Catherine all follow in that sort of vein.

            The one major exception I can think of is visual novels, where in some of them, the branching is so extreme that the themes can be entirely different. Sometimes, that’s just a reflection of having different people write different branches (Katawa Shoujo); often, in dating sims in particular, the genre and hence theme changes based on which romantic partner you wind up pursuing.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            I haven’t seen it either, and I’m not sure I will. That would feel like breaking my in-game vow of never messing with time again, even if it is technically outside the game mechanics.

  12. Jappy86 says:

    Furthermore I think that the theme of the game, amidst all the time travel, the mistery about the disappearance of rachel amber, the friendship between Max and Chloe etc, is explained by Jefferson in this last episode: the loss of youth and innocence. From an insecure teenager, Max, in the end, comes out a stronger person. An adult. But the price is extremely high.

  13. XxBrentos9xX says:

    Can someone tell me, is this one of those games that is as satisfying to watch someone else play as it is to play yourself? I feel like I would become bored with it, but would enjoy watching someone else experience it who wanted to do it more. Anyone know?

    • Jappy86 says:

      Well, I remember some people at my home watching me play the first episode and they were really interested and having fun. And one of them wasn’t a gamer at all, so maybe you could find it satisfying.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      You could try watching a walkthrough on Youtube.

    • Frank says:

      More than in other games of this kind (by Telltale, or I guess RPGs), I really felt like I owned the decisions that were made and that had consequences for both (among minor characters) who lived and died and what they thought of me;and (among more central characters) the resolution of a certain awkward love triangle.

      So, I would’ve found it much less satisfying to watch if a certain character with whom I share a name had met a different fate, or if the romance route had a different tack.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        I’ve found it quite entertaining to watch other people’s playthroughs, but only after having played it myself. I think it’s ’cause I don’t have anyone to discuss it with in real life, so seeing how others make the choices is kinda cathartic.

    • rmsgrey says:

      Speaking purely for myself, I find it mildly frustrating watching Lets Plays of the game where the player gets stuck on something that seems obvious to me – like forgetting they can rewind when caught in a dead-end situation…

      It is a game I could enjoy watching someone play if I were there to give input when they get stuck – particularly if I also got input into their choices…

  14. emptyskin says:

    SPOILERS, maybe…

    This episode clearly had an ending or two cut out. There is dialogue that implies they wrote for certain scenarios. I suspect there was choice to live with what happened and not go back at all in the episode the earliest “ending” offered to the player (an ending you would be stuck with if you chose to go back to one picture instead of another; where Jefferson burned Max’s diary, and Max took Chloe’s necklace – meaning you could probably also lie about Chloe’s death to Joyce while wearing chloe’s necklace in the diner and then stay with warren and joyce instead of going back). This way, when Jefferson thanks Max for implicating Nathan or David, there might have been an ending where Nathan took the wrap for it all and Jefferson got minimal scrutiny.

  15. klops says:

    Hmm, perhaps I’ll give it a try. TL;DR was enough.

  16. arhaine says:

    Umm… No.
    As much as I’d like to see this game be good, its still a piece of overhyped teen fanfiction.
    If it’s up your alley – cool, but not mine.

    • ribby says:

      It does seem strange that she compared it to teen fanfiction in the article. As if that could somehow be a good thing

  17. Frings says:

    I honestly loved this last episode. I won’t go in so far as saying it was perfect, and I am also, two days later, still trying to figure out where I stand with some some parts of it.

    Still, I felt that the pacing was absolute genius in this one – and I think it’s important to note that I play through it in one sitting here.

    **** Spoilery comments ahead I suppose:

    I think they played really well with what was expected of this last episode when setting the pacing.

    I was talking to a friend about it and this is how I put it:
    You finish Episode 4 in that tense final note – and when you come into Episode 5, you start off defensive. Watching those first scenes with Jefferson was definitely uncomfortable, and I for sure felt how vile it was – but it was a muffled sort of reaction, after having been prepared for it through the hiatus.

    So the game relaxes things. So much so that I was starting to get disappointed – like “oh. So that’s it? That’s what it was all about then?”, because after the whole thing it felt like the big cliffhanger had been cast aside easily enough.
    And this is where the game is very smart, in my opiniong, because it’s *counting* on that disappointment.

    It then has a portion of the episode where some people describe it as boring, while I found it pure genius – it relaxes you enough into the old familiar where you somewhat put aside the disappointment in favour of enjoying what you have. You go back into the exploration of things, get busy exploring dialogues, looking at the scenarios, all of that jazz.

    And just as you’re relaxed, it throws you back into the real thing. And even in how it does that, it’s very smart: you think you’re being thrown back into the tornado drama only, and then there’s Jefferson.

    The downwards spiral they portrayed in this episode was absolutely amazing to me – I have never reacted so strongly with such depictions in a game before, I don’t think (at least not in recent years for sure). Granted I’m not someone who enjoys horror games at all, and I was left deeply unsettled and disturbed as the episode got darker and darker, but at the end of it I was very very impressed, and happy with how well the game carried me through the experience.

    I think I’ll wait for the spoilery post before I comment further on the points I’m still struggling with (especially the difference between the endings and certain romantic interests).

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Yeah, aside from the stealth frustrations I mentioned above, I kept thinking of The Beginners Guide going through this section, my only other serious contender for GOTY. That game is much tighter in focus, and closer to mechanical perfection because of it, but I just can’t love its cold gallery the way I do Life Is Strange’s warm world and characters.

  18. maninahat says:

    I’ve only played the first chapter, and was dissuaded from getting the rest by a really stupid puzzle in which I had to get a bitchy girl to move out the way of a door. The solution involves using your time travel powers and some willful endangerment to set up a mouse trap style Rube Goldberg machine that’ll force her to move. The option to just step around the bully is somehow unavailable. Could I expect similarly contrived puzzles in the rest of the series, or was that just a blip?

    • Frank says:

      Mostly, it’s just walking around and doing the obvious thing from that point forward. That was an annoying puzzle, though. Time travel isn’t really a puzzle element again until the last chapter, when you use it every few minutes and enter the inevitable “between time” world and “frozen time” world where the dev team can save on art assets.

      I’d say only get it if you can imagine enjoying the company of the main characters. I really thought Chloe was a rather insufferable person, but still was hooked after the first episode. If you’re not into it already, it might not be for you.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      It wasn’t just a blip. There are a couple more similarly cringeworthy puzzles in other episodes – but there’s more to Life Is Strange than this, so the puzzles alone shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

  19. Person of Con says:

    *SPOILERY, despite some attempts to avoid it*

    I liked it a lot, particularly looking back at two ways the game sets us up for the final choice, first with a big one in episode 4 that’s kind of an inversion of the final choice. And second,when a familiar character accuses Max’s benevolent time travel use as being ultimately self-serving. The latter is a good twist on the “Max the Hero” stuff that’s been building up, and suggests that the final choice may also be viewed as Max deciding whether to be selfish or not. (I think straining myself to avoid spoilers may have ruined the point there.)

    I do think they could have done more with illustrating the consequences of the ending, though. When it comes to illustrating multiple choices’ impact, my golden standard is Fallout 1 and 2: present a bit of text, and a bit of voiceover. It’s cheap in resources, and given the game’s journal menu, there’s a built-in way it could have been presented, with a mono-max-logue while she flips through future photos–though I can appreciate the more “in the moment” ending we get.

    This was the episode that persuaded me I was wrong in my shipping. For the first four episodes, I was convinced that the game was pushing us to think that Max wasn’t interested in Warren, but also just liked Chloe as a friend. After this episode–nope. She’s totes gay for Chloe, in my mind. And that in turn resonated with the whole “time travel as teenage self-discovery” metaphor, and in turn pushed me towards an option in the final choice.

    Last: I like the swerve the game does at the end. It makes you think the big finale is a confrontation/battle with a big bad, but culminates in a choice about something else.

  20. Frank says:

    I viewed the last chapter as a nice payoff for what came before. Maybe it doesn’t make for a great game on its own (heck, maybe it’s more a choose-your-own-adventure series than a game), but as a cap on the season, it was perfect.

    It’s easily my favorite adventure game (and I’ve been playing them for over two decades). Maybe you had to love the season up ’til then to share my opinion. Maybe you had to read a ton of choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid. Iunno.

  21. racccoon says:

    Is the right handed head in the top screenshot a painted n pasted job? :)

  22. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    What a tremendous game! And what a bellyflop of an ending!

    At least half of the episode is just sitting passively while watching people say and do vile things to the protagonist. Sometimes even breaking the fourth wall to do so.

    But none of their insults are so great than putting A FUCKING BOTTLE HUNT IN A FUCKING STEALTH SECTION. Are you kidding me? The most widely hated section in the entire series gets a reprise in the most widely hated gimmick in the genre? And we’ll go ahead and have every male character say more vile shit to you the whole time? That can fuck right off, dontnod.

    The strength of this series was the seeing ways in which Max used her powers to affect the people and places around her- to see the cause and effect of each choice. This episode, Max got to do that only a handful of times, each one a short conversation.

    Then of course, the final choice. This time, instead of being motivated by hope and doing the right thing, you’re motivated by the guilt and loathing the game has spent the last two hours heaping on you. Fuck off, dontnod.

    • Phil says:

      But none of their insults are so great than putting A FUCKING BOTTLE HUNT IN A FUCKING STEALTH SECTION. Are you kidding me? The most widely hated section in the entire series gets a reprise in the most widely hated gimmick in the genre?

      I thought that was a very funny nod to their car crash mess up in Ep1/2 (whichever it was that had the bottle hunt); collecting the bottles was completely optional this time around. Max even says “Bottles… maybe I am in Hell” the first time she sees one!

      I liked the whole stealth -> dream sequence -> holy shit what is going on part. It worked for me, showing how the blowback from Max exercising her powers was finally affecting her directly & in very negative ways. We’ve always sort of known that of course: nosebleeds are the trope that says “something probably terminal is happening to this character & we’re just not going to tell you what it is yet.”

      I understand why people feel let down by the ending (shitty choice alert!) – the adventure game ending would be to have let Max & Cloe live on, having solving the mystery of Rachel’s death & there’s satisfaction in that. Instead we got the greek tragedy ending (either of them really) & thematically that’s the one that *works* within the drama.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        It’s not a “funny nod”, nor is the excruciatingly long “nod” to exploitative fan-service. Both were just pointless padding that added nothing to the story except revulsion.

        • rmsgrey says:

          Matters of taste are indisputable, but that cuts both ways. Where you found the reminder of the bottle hunt to be insulting, I found it to be an amusing mea culpa by the designers. Similarly, the sequence you describe as “exploitative fanservice” (assuming it’s the one I think you mean), for me, was a touching reminder of the earlier chapters, and a necessary counterpoint to the immediately preceding scene in the diner – those two scenes summarise the developers’ arguments for each side of the final choice.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      This time, instead of being motivated by hope and doing the right thing, you’re motivated by the guilt and loathing the game has spent the last two hours heaping on you. Fuck off, dontnod.

      I am with you up to a point. I also took personally the one predictable ending as the game telling you “Hey player, you know what? Fuck you!“. On the other hand, for me the second ending was a clear option to answer back “Oh really? Well fuck you too, and fuck everybody else!“. Needless to say, even if it makes little narrative sense the latter is my canonical ending. I grant the developers the intelligence of having included it, that is, to offer the player the option to rebel against the game. That was cathartic!

      In the same vein, I think the second bottle hunt section was a self-critical, ironical wink in response to the (deserved) flak they received on Ep2 on that subject. It made me smile, especially since you don’t have to complete it at all (I simply passed by despite Max saying “there are still missing bottles”)

      So overall I have reservations, but it still remains one of my freshest game experiences of late.

    • Kala says:

      Heh. See, I just went up to the bottle, and she made a reference to bottles being hell, a joke about having to find them all before, that made me chuckle.

      Then I moved on. Not even being aware there was a mini-game or any collection to do in that scene. Just goes to go how divergent people’s experiences are…

  23. PsyX99 says:

    The more I see people complaining about the ending, the more I like them. A good reminder that small game studios can’t do 150 ending,, a good reminder that they don’t have to please the gamers.

    But I also like the end game. I chose to kill Chloe and I had an amazing ending. I’m very happy ! :D

    • tehfish says:

      Out of interest, what is that outcome like?

      I chose the opposite ending mainly because my viewpoint was that if Max undid everything and let Chloe die, Jefferson would have never been stopped, making this outcome arguably much worse…

      I should really go back and try the other ending i guess :)

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        It’s basically the Donnie Darko ending, where the hero goes back and allows the original death to happen, thus preventing the entire following chain of events from ever happening.

        It works in DD because it’s the hero sacrificing himself to save the people he loves.

        It doesn’t work in LIS because it’s the hero sacrificing the person she loves to save a bunch of people she just spent the last several hours of gameplay also saving.

      • Zekiel says:

        It is either encouraging or depressing (depending on your point of view) that if you sacrifice Chloe, everything else turns out peachy. Nathan is arrested since he’s just murdered a student in high school (not something his dad can protect him from); so in his interrogation he spills the beans on Jefferson, so he’s arrested too, early enough that Kate never tries to kill herself. Max and Victoria never end up being endangered by Jefferson.

        (The reason this could be regarded to be discouraging is that it really does imply that the winning move was to do nothing – all of Max’s actions in the game came to nothing. But she still presumably has her memories of everything that happened.)

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          Having just played it, I think the important thing is that having gone through things the long way, Max can understand the significance of what has happened. What otherwise would seem to have been a senseless death that she would have nothing but regret over, becomes reframed. By being killed by Nathan, Chloe avenges Rachel, saves Kate, Victoria, Max and Nathan. She knows that Joyce and David will be happy together. She knows that Chloe does forgive her for not contacting her. And she knows that at the end of the day, that sacrifice was what Chloe would have wanted.

  24. Carcer says:

    Spoilers, so many:
    I found the ending disappointing for a variety of reasons which I’m too lazy to fully articulate, but probably most important of which how tremendously unsatisfying it was to get a choice between the painfully obvious course of going back in time to undo everything you did and thereby render so much of it ultimately pointless, or to sacrifice it all for love and then get treated to a short scene of the two driving away into the sunset. The former option was the obvious planned end of the game, and it makes it painfully clear that despite all the earlier suggestion and the guilting that it’s Max using her powers so much which causes the eventual disaster, really it must be about whether or not Chloe dies. It can’t be about Max’s use of her power because we already went back in time and created an alternate reality where Max never would have discovered and used the power, and everything was still environmentally fucked up. The second option felt so lacking in any impact at all – Chloe seems immediately unconcerned after trying very hard to get you to let her die, your view of the destruction wrought on the town is some toppled scenery and a single dead body by the side of the road… if you’re going to say “the consequence of this choice is that everybody else you care about dies”, then show us that. I didn’t look at that scene and feel like they were all dead. It just felt like so much less effort went into that ending, and of course if the universe is just trying to kill Chloe then surely everything will just continue to get worse? Bah.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I don’t think the universe is trying to kill Chloe, because the game alludes so strongly to the butterfly effect. I must admit I haven’t seen the ending where Chloe dies though. Did it suggest that the reason for the storm was Chloe’s survival, rather than the discovery of your superpowers?

      • mavrik says:

        (Spoilers obviously.)

        Hmm, I didn’t interpret it that way – essentially since you prevent any of the events from happening the storm never shows up. Whether it’s because you don’t muck around with timelines or Chloe dying doesn’t really matter all that much really in my opinion.

        To me it felt like a fitting ending to the point the game was trying to make – sometimes you just can’t fix everything and trying to fix it will cause even more pain and misery.

    • Dewal says:

      I want to answer here because I mostly agree with what you describe. The ending were everybody dies is short and anticlimactic.

      But I want to add something else : WHY THE HELL WOULD EVERYBODY DIE ? Even if not a lot of people would trust them (but seriously, after a rain of birds, snow, death of whales and two moons in the sky, if a random guy came to me and said “storm approaching” I would get the hell out for the day), at least they could have warned Warren, David and Joyce. No ?
      And why go to the lighthouse ? “THE” safe place ? That’s where Max dies in the frigging first scene of the game !

      In my eyes, there is one thing they manage to do very well (and they fucked it up at the same time), it’s the run across the storm to get to Warren to reset everything.
      I was totally in it, totally focused, letting people die around me, not saving anyone, electrocuting a poor guy, completely focused on “I need to reset to save everyone”. But then there’s this loooooong scene where you exchange pretty words with Warren, even though everything’s blowing up and you may only have a few minutes left. You take the time to chat, slowly, explain the story, with no way around. It was extremely frustrating and kicked me out of the universe immediately. (I skip on the “it’s all your fault” part, from what I got from the story – and I don’t think I’m the only one – the first “back in time” was when the lighthouse fell on your head and you went back at the start of the week to stop the storm – why would she have a premonition, isn’t her power time travel ?)

      BUT, where it do the thing right is when it suggest that you just hop around dimensions, not resetting anything. And then you really feel that everyone you left to die in the storm without helping them are still there, in their own timeline. And here you feel culpability for your own actions, here it works… Just before you understand that since the beginning of the game, each time you go back in time you abandon a dimension to die in the storm (I think everyone in Arcadia 1 to Arcadia 10520 hates you know, at least the ones still alive), and all this guilt is not on “you” because the game forced you through it. It kinda drown the “small” guilt you have for letting die only 5 guys you could have saved in one specific reality.

      And then you let Chloe die and time is not broken. You have no clue about the other dimensions, if you just created another dimension where Chloe dies for nothing but still letting the other rot. And if the time travel is the fault, why not just save Chloe and run though the events of the week without rewinding ? Why warning everybody about Jefferson is not “messing with time travel” but saving Chloe is ? If you hadn’t traveled though time, weren’t you the next on the list ? By arresting Jefferson you saved yourself, you fucked time anew !

      They should’ve stuck with “Chloe must die”, as how it was implied by most of the events instead of forcing all these guilt on you for event you had no hand on. It would have worked much, much better.

      Anyway. I loved it, lot of flaws but very charming from episode 1 to 4, with a fun and “innovative” gameplay. But episode 5 and the ending failed so many things that it makes me kinda disappointed. But as a guy said up in the comments, I wouldn’t have been that much disappointed if the quality of the game hadn’t gave me very good hopes in the first place.

      A must try.

  25. Kala says:

    “The second time was the very last choice you get to make. I was so torn and so uncertain that I sat with it for maybe five minutes before picking an option and it still broke my heart. Then I texted two people in real life to tell them I loved them.”

    Aieee. And I’m sobbing again.

    “What I will say is that it is probably my Game of the Year. Not THE Game of the Year but mine.”

    Mine too <3

  26. dirtytalk26 says:

    I was searching up information on Life Is Strange the game and found a really nice site called cheaplifeisstrange.com with nice solid information on the game WITHOUT giving out spoilers….and they even linked several places I could get the game for cheap, so if your NOT wanting spoilers and want to still figure out if you want the game I suggest you check it out.

  27. rmsgrey says:

    It wouldn’t have taken much for the ending to show us the consequences of more than one choice – in the rest of the game, key moments have depended on multiple prior decisions; the end of the game is a straight up A or B. Not only that, but both options invalidate your previous 14 hours (or so) of choices – it wouldn’t have taken much to show that some of our earlier choices actually still mattered rather than being irrelevant. Majora’s Mask’s end credits managed to pay-off your optional meddling to solve people’s problems with brief scenes showing what happened to people that are there or not depending on which masks you collected during the game.

    Life Is Strange ends either by undoing all your attempts to help people, or by wiping out all the people you attempted to help – either way, the final message is that only that last choice matters.

    • rmsgrey says:

      Note to self: finish post before posting.

      Overall, the flaws in the game haven’t gone anywhere – the interface still has issues, and the rewind is used to paper over the cracks in puzzle design – but the game has been great despite its flaws, not because of them. The game’s strengths – the indie soundtrack, the teen drama, the occasional clever puzzle, the little touches that pay-off previous decisions – are still there too.

      Overall, LIS stumbles on the dismount, but it’s still one of my favourite games of this year.

  28. wombat191 says:

    ive been a gamer for going on 30 years now and this is my favourite game full stop

    the game has issue but i still love it, although i would of liked a 3rd ending where max takes the bullet for chloe saving both her and the bay.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      That could be an interesting ending. Perhaps Max uses the picture on the missing persons poster to go back and drinks Rachel Amber’s spiked drink. Racher Amber lives, Chloe doesn’t get depressed into drug debt and therefore doesn’t try to extort Nathan. The photo in the missing persons poster fades and is replaced by a photo of Maxine Caulfield.

      I guess Max’ power only works on her own photos though.

  29. rabbit says:

    Just finished a few minutes ago. Did it lose its way in episodes four and five? Yeah, (perhaps necessarily, in ep 5’s case) sure it did. But fuck if I’ve ever cared about a character & my relationship with that character in any game as much as I did Chloe & her friendship with Max … I can’t remember it. Absolutely brilliant brilliannnnnnnnnnnt platonic love story that hopefully we can all relate to in some way or another.

    I for one am fucking glad I got a best pal out there.

    • Carcer says:

      I understand you can choose not to reciprocate Chloe’s awkward flirting if you like but I’m going to guess for most people that relationship wasn’t turning out platonic.

      • rabbit says:

        Oh. Well I guess I chose the Save Chloe ending for a different reason to a lotta folks then. I figured the kiss was just teens being teens really.

        • rmsgrey says:

          We know Chloe had strong feelings for Rachel Amber (though that may have been exaggerated by her disappearance) so it’s plausible she feels (or can feel) some of the same things for Max (particularly given how easily everyone mistakes Max for Rachel when she dresses like her).

          The real open question is how Max feels about Chloe – I mean, she loves her, but does that include an erotic component or not? I think that’s partly a player decision, and partly a deliberately open question that the developers avoided addressing.

          • Carcer says:

            Eh… depending on how you play it’s really not that ambiguous a question. Chloe will outright say she had a crush on Rachel, it’s very obvious that she felt strongly and she does tell Max that she loved her, when you find the body – she also does quite a lot of flirting with Max. I think regardless of how you play, Chloe has some romantic feelings for Max. In Max’s case, depending on your choices the Sacrifice Chloe ending features her giving Chloe a passionate kiss before she finally goes back in time, so that’s not really an “open question”. If you were less pricefieldy when playing they just hug.

          • rmsgrey says:

            What I meant with the bit about Chloe’s feelings for Rachel having been exaggerated is that how Chloe remembers having felt, and how she actually felt may not be the same – when you no longer have someone around, it’s easy to idealise how the relationship was when they were – we know that a lot of people thought of Rachel as a close friend, and that she was either cheating on Chloe with Frank, or at least keeping the extent of her relationship with Frank a secret. It’s possible that Chloe was another delusional no-hoper obsessed with Rachel Amber…

          • Person of Con says:

            Yeah, I’d say that whatever Chloe’s feelings for Rachel were, there’s no romantic relationship between them, or she would have been even more floored at the news that Rachel and Frank were together–or at the very least, she would have thrown their relationship in Frank’s face during their arguments.