Life Is Strange: Episode 5 Verdict-O-Chat

Pip and Alice have been enjoying Life Is Strange [official site] and getting together for little chats about each episode of Dontnod Entertainment’s coming-of-age time travel bonanza as they came out. Episode 5 wrapped everything up last week – or did it? – so they’ve come together one final time to chat about that, look at the series as a finished piece, and maybe even answer the big question: just how strange is life?

This chat is, of course, oozing spoilers from every teenage pore.

Pip: Hi Alice.

Alice: Hullo Pip! What brings us to this big white space today?

Pip: Well, I said we would do a Life Is Change chat full of spoilers, but as usual with that game I don’t know where to start. Oh! Hang on – I did episode 4 solo so do you want to say a little about how you were feeling about the game prior to this episode? I was a bit worried it was going to go all wrong.

Alice: The game or its story? I… hm. It’s been a while, but I do remember the middle-ending of episode 4 was wonderful and awful and great, but by the actual ending of 4 I was a touch worried 5 might hurtle on through at breakneck pace trying to tidy everything up. Are we caught up now? I also am not sure what to say. I did like the pacing of 5, crashing through possibilities then returning over and over to the slow dread of the dark room itself to wipe out those hopes.

Pip: Maybe we should start there like the game does.

To recap a little, you start the game having found Rachel Amber’s body buried in the junkyard where Chloe has her little hideout. There’s a dark room/photo studio/drugs cabinet under a barn owned by the rich Prescott family and that’s where someone has been taking pictures of abducted and drugged girls. You (or rather your player character, Max) suspect Nathan so you go to a party to confront him but then receive a text from him making you think he’s destroying the evidence in the junkyard. Rather than y’know GOING TO THE POLICE you and Chloe head over to find… Mark Jefferson. He drugs Max and shoots Chloe. Now you’re duct taped to a chair in the dark room while he takes gross awful photos to capture your innocence and alternately croons over you and gets mad with you.

Alice: The rozzers are in the Prescotts’ pocket, man! It is a bit “Only we, two plucky teens, know the truth and can solve this!” and it goes about as well as that would. I… well, I don’t like what happened, but I like that their plans collapse and lessons are learned and all that. It’s now tricky for me to talk about any part of episode 5 without talking about it all.

Pip, should we skip straight to the big, difficult question: how did you end Life Is Strange?

Pip: I killed Chloe :( Or rather, I let her die when Nathan shot her in the bathroom. Is that what happened in yours or did you save Arcadia Bay?

Alice: I let her die too. It felt the whole game was leading to that. Accept what you can’t control and grow up. Ditching Arcadia Bay and everyone in it would’ve seemed wildly out of character for both Max and Chloe. Or for my Max and Chloe, at least.

Pip: Something I saw people being irked by was that it felt like there was one correct ending. Does that bother you? I mean we both picked the one that was judged as “correct” so perhaps we’re not best placed to discuss that, but GIVEN I’M GOING TO ANYWAY, I was okay with it. The game’s been doing that all along and I mostly stopped fighting it in episode 2. That’s when I started to really enjoy the game. I think that given Dontnod clearly had an idea of how Max and Chloe should/would react to things they clearly had an idea for how the game would end “correctly”. But I guess the question is, should they have even dressed it up as a choice given their game is all about making choices?

Alice: Looking at the stats, it’s a 54/46% split on letting Chloe die/ditching Arcadia. I don’t know whether that figure is affected by people going back to see the other ending or not, but I can definitely imagine a fair few people would take their wild young friendship (or romance!) on the road and leave that awful place and their difficult lives. I’ve no romance in my soul, though, only guilt.

I’m okay with it having (from my view) one clear correct answer. It seems right that it would still have the other option, that nagging longing to blow it all off and escape together, that little voice saying “But we could…” which makes it all the more difficult when you choose to let her die. I knew which I’d pick long before it even presented me with the choice, and I still agonised for a while. Good, that. And awful.

Pip: Thank you for articulating the thing I was deleting and retyping and making a complete hash of! I think it needed the other option to be there because otherwise I wouldn’t have sat there agonising over it and being tempted by the “wrong” option and it would have taken away some of – actually, a lot of – the emotional gutpunch.

Something I will say is that all the way through I’ve fought the game on one point, though, and that’s Warren.

Alice: GO AWAY, WARREN.

Pip: Like, every time I cave and do something that is intended as basic friendliness it feels like the game takes it too far. In the diner towards the end of the episode you tell Warren what’s been going on with your time powers and then you’re about to disappear into a photo to return to the night of that party before you got abducted. The game is all “do you want to kiss Warren or hug him or JUST LEAVE LIKE A STONE COLD BUTT?” I felt like I had to do something other than just leave because they were supposed to be friends but then the hug seemed to go on for an uncomfortably long time and was more… I dunno? Loaded? It was certainly more *something* than I’d intended. There’s also a bit at the end when you’re at Chloe’s funeral and Max – slightly older, slightly more self-assured, slightly more worldly – FUCKING SIDLES CLOSER TO HIM. STOP IT, MAX. THAT IS NOT WHO I COMMAND YOU TO BE.

Alice: I don’t like Warren, but I think he’s a good character. It’s that awkward, ill-defined friendship where they wish it was more and you do like them but their longing grates and your shared inability to confront anything head-on makes it grindingly awkward. I dislike him because I remember those feelings. Good character – but get over it and give her some space, man.

At the funeral, ah, I didn’t see that because, as far as I was concerned, Max had just lost her girlfriend. It’s always tricky, games trying to interpret responses. It perhaps could’ve used a “Yo, seriously, not happening” line at some point, but Max would’ve only became confident enough to say that towards the end. There would be no escaping those first few episodes of awkwardness.

Pip: I think that’s fair. I’m bringing a lot of my own interpretation here because I, personally, didn’t like Warren and would have shut off from him given half a chance but he was a friend of Max’s so he kept popping up and I kept feeling obliged to be friendly. It’s so weird to feel that much social pressure from a game situation and I think it made me more uncomfy than it should have.

Alice: That awkwardness and discomfort is one of the stronger teenager-feeling parts of Life Is Strange for me. On a similar note, I did like in the dream sequence (or whatever it was – I don’t care, its exact nature is unimportant to me) towards the end when everyone you know is assembled and telling you what you think they believe. And that one of those people (I can’t remember who) points out you spent ages using your time-travel powers to make people like you. I’m glad that doubt was somewhere in Max’s head. It was kinda correct too.

Pip: It wasn’t just about wanting people to like her either – it was about taking shortcuts to make that happen, like using the time powers to find out the right answer and using that instead of having a real connection with that person. When it came up I had a guilty memory of doing that exact thing to find out Juliet’s surname with her being annoyed I didn’t know it the first time around and then touched I’d been paying attention to her when I rewound and got it right.

How did you feel about the dream/alternate reality/hell stuff, by the way? I thought it did some really smart things. Some of them creeped me out – I hate sections where you have to creep around and avoid being seen, especially playing them at night, but with the rewind it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t play it and it wasn’t particularly time consuming – just part of a creepy surrealness as time (or possibly Max) unravelled. It also has that joke when you start finding bottles that this must really be hell. As someone who took a billion years to find that final bottle in the junkyard I appreciated the reference. And further appreciated that you did NOT have to actually find them again.

Then going through all of the tableaux with Chloe and Max from all the previous episodes was lovely. I stood for a while with each and every one of them. It stripped out a lot of the little frustrations of the actual episodes and just told the story of their friendship. It was like a eulogy, which I guess was the point. But it also gave you time to reflect and wander up and down the most important timeline before you had to say goodbye.

Alice: I liked that section. The shoehorned-in stealth was sloppy, as shoehorned stealth will be, but the emotion of being hounded it worked and rewinding made it simple enough anyway. You know, finding the bottle is the only wink to the camera I can remember seeing in Life Is Strange – I laughed, but I’m not sure if I like it. But yeah, the timeline is beautiful – the staging and framing of it all is really nice too. I lingered, knowing by then what was coming. It was a good moment to have. Normally I’ll grumble about dream sequences not being remotely dreamy but this had heart.

I have a question: do you mind all your choices and actions across five episodes culminating in Option 1 or Option 2?

Pip: No. I think it’s because even though they ended up not resulting in changes that persisted in the game world, they culminated in a change in Max and that change felt like it chimed with all the things she had been through as a character in the course of the game.

Alice: OKAY GOOD I agree. It’s the story told and the life lived along the way that matter. We touch lives as we move past them, but ultimately most things won’t matter at those key moments of crisis, at those endings. I’ve liked Life Is Strange’s restraint in all that. It’s not a system to master and unlock an optimal ending, it’s a life to go through. The choices made along the way do matter and they do change the story, a constant stream of endings and beginnings.

Which, obviously, is me being snippy about people who’ve grumped that most of their choices didn’t ‘matter’. They absolutely did, they just didn’t unlock an ending where your bestie David stormed in backed up by a limping Frank with that bluebird you saved sitting upon his shoulder. Most things in life don’t change anything, but we still do them.

Pip: So I have a question off the back of that. How do you feel about the ending Nathan got? After Mr Jefferson’s Bond-villain style reveal-o-chat in the photo bunker you learn that Nathan is responsible for Rachel Amber’s death, but you also learn that Mr Jefferson insinuated himself in Nathan’s life as a father figure to take advantage of the Prescott fortune (his real dad being an unapproachable jackass). Nathan, by this point, is being portrayed as having mental health or behavioural issues which his family seem really bad at dealing with and he accidentally kills Rachel with an overdose while emulating Mr Jefferson. None of this is to excuse him, but his ending is so bleak. Your decision to sacrifice Chloe also means you decide not to stop Nathan pulling the trigger. The developers focus on Max at that point but yeesh, it’s dark.

Alice: It is a bit odd. I felt increasingly sympathetic and unhappy about what happens with Nathan, but he’s basically off-screen the whole time, even when you travel back to times when he’s alive and around. I suppose it’s a life beyond your reach, something your powers can’t change (he’s already deep down that path, isn’t he? having already killed Rachel Amber) but still, I wouldn’t have minded another opportunity to at least try to reach him. It’s also that scamp Jefferson robbing you of a conclusion you thought you had control over. Rachel was already dead, and then Nathan too. He’s a rotter, that one.

Speaking of, what did you make of Jefferson’s photographic murdermotivations – capturing the exact moment people accept ‘lose their innocence’? As Goofy Serial Killer Logic goes, I’m onboard with it. He’s also wrong – Max’s loss of innocence and naivete comes from the big decision she makes, not what he does to her.

Pip: Technically by the time the episode ends he’s… not a serial killer? Like, Rachel Amber died because of Nathan and the other victim that you know – Kate – actually ends up back at school not dead. So I was trying to work out whether he was actually a killer or not. Like, there are a lot of files so there are a lot of existing victims and he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about killing people from that point onward but I was trying to work out at what point he becomes a killer.

That’s a kind of sidenote though. Life Is Strange has always had that exaggerated character thing going on so I wasn’t expecting a subtle villain. I was expecting something pretty much in this vein. I think it worked and it made me truly uncomfortable to be there as Max, listening to him talk about innocence and crawling about her semi-conscious body taking pictures (YUCK YUCK YUCK NO). Actually, at that point I was still worried about the episode and remember thinking that I might just be done with the game and that all of this stuff for shock or for discomfort wasn’t going anywhere fruitful, you know? As the episode went on that worry dissipated, though.

Alice: It is mighty unpleasant. Max freeing her leg, jumping into photos, and gaining confidence raised hope, but these kept being dashed when she’d find herself back in the dark room. Grim, that.

OH, BUT THEN: FRUSTRATION. Life Is Strange’s puzzling continued to be its weakest side. The bit David arrives in the bunker to rescue Max but keeps getting trounced by Jefferson was annoying, and for a fairly typical Life Is Strange reason. I’d figure out part of the sequence I was supposed to do, but then it wouldn’t be the whole solution, so I’d go rewind and try the other options presented and they wouldn’t work and eventually I’d realise one path at least let me get further, so I should focus on that more and more and rewind and look around and try again and… it’s not a good puzzle. Often its puzzles have been bad.

Pip: I got that one quickly but a couple of others from earlier episodes seriously outstayed their welcome. Dontnod have definitely been unadventurous with the structuring as well, you’re right. The bit which annoyed me the most was when you’re in the diner convincing Chloe you have these powers. It went on far too long.

I wish Dontnod had switched that stuff up a bit, or at least improved the basic formula they would be iterating on forever. I remember back at the beginning I also wanted to have a few more moments where Max could just use her power for silly things or teenage things or whatever. There was a moment I saw watching a friend play where you get one of the skaters to try and do a trick for you. He flubs it and hits himself in the balls with the board. I wanted to see Max maybe stepping in poop and rewinding or falling over in class and rewinding. Being able to dodge embarrassing moments by controlling time but SURELY be the ultimate teen fantasy.

Alice: When I tried to learn to skateboard a few years back (as teenagers in their thirties will), I mostly got cool wounds and almost hit a child. I wouldn’t have minded time-rewinding. Or I’d master some goofy trick. Coin tricks. Pen tricks. Sleight of hand magic. I’d think that was ‘hella’ cool. Everyone would be real indifferent to it.

So, one thing we’ve talked about before is: mostly, the whole time travel thing is unexplained, right? Warren pops up at the end to wank on about chaos theory and whatnot to explain the tornado for folks who really haven’t twigged by now that time travel is ruining things, but it’s never explained, is it? Or the ghost deer that would guide Max? Or Samuel’s mystic vibe? Or the curious homeless lady behind the diner? Or… I like that its two big plotlines come down to ‘kooky teacher’ and ‘yeah whatever you want I guess time stuff maybe magic idk’. I had worried episode 5 might be mired down in explaining the mechanics of everything, but it launched happily into expanding themes.

Pip: I’m fine with it never explaining the deer and fine with it not explaining where the powers came from but that’s because, after what had happened to Rachel was resolved, the point of the game was how the relationship between Max and Chloe played out. I think if you’re still playing it as a mystery about time powers (and I can totally see why you might be) then that’s going to be a let down.

By the way, I feel like we haven’t addressed how right I was yet. I said it would be Jefferson from the start and that Nathan would be a puppet having his strings pulled. I also said Rachel Amber was going to be dead already and that David would turn out to be a good guy. I have basically watched and read a LOT of teen fiction. LOOK. I even said in an article: “I don’t trust Nathan not to end up being positioned as a victim of someone else before the game is out.”

Alice: Well done! Your narrative eye is a keen inspector. Me, I was too hung on on trees and deer and whales to notice, and probably too keen for something X-Files or Twin Peaks-y.

We haven’t stated it simply, because obviously this is how we feel given how fondly we talk about it – and the amount we talk about it – but Life Is Strange is really good, isn’t it? No game has had this tone and feeling for me. I like it an awful lot. It’s clearly flawed, but as a whole I’m so into it. I almost said something quite personal then but I will save that FOR LATER okay.

Pip: It’s something where I think it’s really good but I’m aware that my experience won’t be a universal one so I find myself approaching it like Deadly Premonition in terms of recommending it to people. Like, I want to make sure they know how good I think it is but there are also a lot of points where I think people might lose patience with it or it might just not be their sort of thing.

Alice: This is true. I agree. Especially because you mentioned Deadly Premonition – a game I love like few others, but struggle to recommend. Guys, have you played it?

OH I can’t believe we’ve barely mentioned this: isn’t Life Is Strange one of the prettiest dang games? Like, whoa, the painterly style and the lighting and the cinematography, dang, it is pretty.

Pip: It takes Instagram-style effects and uses them as its aesthetic. They’re attractive but I find them grating at times. There’s a dishonesty in Instagram, a kind of reverence for a staged or cropped reworking of reality. A sentimental longing for an alternate version of reality where the light was just so and there was no clutter just out of shot. I like Instagram, but yeah, I also think of it in those terms. There’s an oversaturation and an unreality and a lack of subtlety that I think lends itself to this as a teen story though, It’s appropriate for how the game works and what it’s trying to get at.

Alice: I like that thing you just said.

I also look how the sketchy style presumably let them create loads of art assets relatively quickly. Yeah, loads are re-used a lot, but I do dig how much is unique.

Pip, you’re giving me that look like when we’d be eating cherry pie and watching Twin Peaks and you’d say “Are you going to make the last Tube?” And I’m giving my keyboard that look of “It’s Friday night and I need something flammable to get the log fire going.” Shall we part? Any parting thoughts?

Pip: I wish I had a cherry pie.

Alice: You never know, Pip. Life… is strange.

Pip: I’M LEAVING.

129 Comments

  1. Banks says:

    Very weak final chapter overall. The torture scenes and the dream sequence are godawful.

  2. Spider Jerusalem says:

    I chose Chloe. No ragrets.

    The whole binary ending was a letdown, though. If using your time travel powers caused the big timenado in the first place, why is using them again the solution? You’d still be back in time, with all your timeknowledge causing timedisruptions (because, obviously, she would disrupt Mark’s murdery bent). Unless her brain gets wiped upon time traveling (as Max hints at when she goes back to Warren’s photo pre-Vortex party) in which case you’re dooming an unknown amount of young women to Mark’s murder and creepdom.

    Also, seemed a bit cruel to let Chloe die alone and feeling unloved on the cold floor of the girls’ room.

    • ribby says:

      Holy shit!

      Does that mean Kate will commit suicide?

      • Carcer says:

        No, in the Sacrifice Chloe ending Nathan is uncovered pretty much immediately and Jefferson isn’t far behind – what really happened to Kate would be immediately evident and she’d have far more support. She wouldn’t be trying to kill herself under those conditions.

    • Carcer says:

      It seems to be that when Max does her photo-manipulation she takes over past-Max, who subsequently does not remember anything that present-Max does while possessing her. What that means for the alternate Max created by this process is unclear – does she have some sort of fugue and just have no memory of that time period? Does she remember whatever originally happened and find herself in a different world (which she may or may not notice?) It’s clear that when present-Max comes back to the present her memory is unchanged and she has no idea what alternate-past-Max may have done differently. If she wants to give her alternate self information, she needs to put it in the environment somehow so alt-Max will see it when the manipulation is over (as she does by telling Chloe what to tell her when using Warren’s photo).

      In the ending where you sacrifice Chloe, Nathan is obviously caught and as a result of that Jefferson is discovered and arrested and thus his reign of horribleness is brought to an end – Max isn’t dooming anyone else to suffer at his hands this way. You could argue that maybe she should go back further in time and find a way to catch him earlier in his career, but then Chloe wouldn’t die and there’d be a giant tornado for no adequately explained reason, so from a utilitarian standpoint it’s better to let the handful suffer than condemn the whole town of Arcadia Bay.

      • Hyena Grin says:

        I don’t see why she would forget anything, given that using pictures to go back in time and change things has, up to that point, never caused that to happen before.

        Also, the way she bittersweetly smiles at the blue butterfly that lands on the coffin at the end. That butterfly would only have the significance it did if she remembered it from somewhere other than than the bathroom where Chloe died. Otherwise, it’d be like, ‘Oh great, there’s that fucking butterfly that immediately preceded my best friend getting shot.’

        Also, I think that having to live with everything is part of what makes that ending the sad acceptance of fate that is meant to be.

        • Carcer says:

          Eh, you haven’t followed me properly. Our Max, the one we follow through the game, remembers everything that has happened to her as we played it in the game; and when she comes back from altering time via photograph her memory of what we did is intact, but she does not gain memories of the altered timeline. She must work it out for herself. The alternative-Max of that timeline apparently doesn’t personally remember the possession and in any event, the personality and memories of that Max are erased when they reach the moment that canonical-Max returns to the present. Is that clearer? Max is creating alternate versions of herself who are arguably killed when she takes over the body again.

          • Hyena Grin says:

            Ahh, I assumed you were talking about the final ‘jump’ in the ‘fix the timeline’ ending, but you were actually talking about just that process in general.

            Yeah, from the way Max tells Chloe outside the party, to tell her everything after she jumps back (because she won’t remember), it does present some interesting problems. Max doesn’t seem to actually remember living through the interim period (doesn’t gain alternate Max’s memories) when she jumps back, because she typically has the same sort of ‘where am I, what has changed?’ reaction that the player does.

            So that is a little awkward, but I’m glad they didn’t go through too much effort to try to explain it.

    • unwashed says:

      I found a new ending hidden in the files. It appears that to get the different final choices you have to collect every photo on your third savefile and spill Frank’s beans exactly 311 times.*
      Here it is:
      link to youtu.be

      *This statement is 100% false. I just geeked out hardcore with the video editor.

    • JarinArenos says:

      Everything [my] Max had done up until that point had been for Chloe. Hellish town be damned, time-powers causing the storm doesn’t even make sense. Let it all go and hit the road.

    • Dewal says:

      What I dislike is the lack of coherence.

      We have Warren and the dream sequence that says that using your time travel is what causes the disturbances. But you have everything else pointing to Chloe being alive causing the disturbance.
      And then you travel back through time, let Chloe die but still change time (Nathan and Jefferson being arrested) and everything stays cool.

      Or maybe that’s the point. Maybe the author are trying to trap people. Maybe choosing to let Arcadia bay to be destroyed means that in the future Chloe will keep dying and dying and you’ll keep saving her and you’ll be known as a couple bringing death and destruction on their path.
      I like this possibility better.

      But still, the game killed it for me when it forced me through a 10 minutes long dialogue with Warren while the world was being destroyed and I was in a rush to save everybody.
      And it killed it when Chloe and Max run away without warning anyone in Arcadia bay (seriously, not even Joyce/Warren/David ? Are they afraid people wouldn’t believe them ? After all the dead animals, the snow and the two moons ?), and moreover ran to the Lighthouse because “it is safer there”. Really ? That’s where Max died in the first seconds of the first episode ! It’s not safe at all !
      Fuck it.

      I liked the game overall, though.

      • ironhorse says:

        It is coherent if you consider that time travel has always been the source of the disturbances, upsetting some sort of balance.. with the only way to restore the balance being to either allow Chloe to die as destiny intended, or sacrifice a whole lot more.

        The ending kind of forces that cohesion if you choose Chloe, because it ends with seemingly no downsides besides the obvious destruction of a town you didn’t really like anyways. You go on your merry way with her.. sacrificing the rest.

        The only thing I didn’t like from that choice (still don’t regret it) is that Chloe was so damn accepting and okay with just sacrificing a whole town of people for herself.
        I mean, I see the moral of the game being Max’s selfish decisions and their repercussions / her inability to accept them. Every decision you make is selfish.. the other Max that talks to you near the end, the asshole other you, highlights this.. you are selfish and everything you’ve done is selfish.. so it makes total sense that you would be able to sacrifice everyone else for someone you cared about because YOU want to be with them.

        But we are just supposed to assume that Chloe is just as selfish? idk.. that felt like a stretch to me.

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          Harlander says:

          Yeah! Stopping someone from committing suicide, what a selfish jerk! The truly selfless thing to do would have been nothing. That’s true altruism.

          • Carcer says:

            I thought I was trying to help other people and make them happy and fix problems but I see now that all along everything Max does was part of a carefully calculated scheme to get into Chloe’s pants.

            Really, it makes sense that Max herself doubts her own motivations sometimes and is unsure of herself but her character never once struck me as actually selfish. To be honest her worst behaviour is alt-Max in the paralysed-Chloe timeline.

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            Harlander says:

            Yeah, the “evil Max” makes sense as a manifestation of her self-doubt and whatever. I didn’t think anyone would hear it and go “Yeah, Max’s self-loathing makes a convincing point!”

      • Low Life says:

        “We have Warren and the dream sequence that says that using your time travel is what causes the disturbances. But you have everything else pointing to Chloe being alive causing the disturbance.
        And then you travel back through time, let Chloe die but still change time (Nathan and Jefferson being arrested) and everything stays cool.”

        You don’t do anything to get Nathan and Jefferson arrested in that ending. Nathan shoots Chloe, gets caught and spills the beans on Jefferson.

        When Max changes the past through a photo, she doesn’t actually take the place of the original Max, she just changes that one specific moment. So original Max won’t know anything about what she’s learned during the week. When the timeline reaches the moment in time from which the photo moment was manipulated, the time-traveler Max takes original Max’ place again. This is shown in the ending cutscene happening just before the funeral. So Max won’t even remember spending the week with Chloe until just before the funeral.

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          Thulsa Hex says:

          “You don’t do anything to get Nathan and Jefferson arrested in that ending. Nathan shoots Chloe, gets caught and spills the beans on Jefferson.”

          I agree with this. The game strongly suggests this with the sequence of the warping photos: Nathan apprehended by David > Nathan being interrogated by cops > Jefferson’s arrest.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      I also saved Chloe. Part of me knew that the game wanted me to pick the ‘hard’ option and that would be the ‘correct’ narrative, but another part of me felt like changing time to solve the problems created by me changing time, was just likely to thrust me back into some kind of loop.

      Also, I pursued the whole ‘doing (nearly) everything possible to help Chloe, because she is the most important person in Max’s life’ narrative with honesty. Max would do anything for Chloe, she’d already proved that, why change now?

      And finally, there was this niggling part of me, the same part that haunts you at the ending of a particularly good book, that just wants the story to continue. I didn’t want Max and Chloe to end, I wanted them to go on to new adventures. I didn’t want to give that up. Which is the selfish side of the decision.

      It was not an easy decision, anyway. For such a troubling pair of options, it’s interesting how many people describe one ending being the ‘correct’ ending (for narrative reasons, I would agree, it makes the more profound conclusion), and yet the results were pretty evenly split.

      It is super hard to present a moral dilemma and actually get people to split down the middle. So kudos to Dontnod, that is quite an achievement.

  3. Faxmachinen says:

    Good stuff. I was looking forward to this verdict-o-chat, and you did not disappoint.

    On a related note, while waiting for this I happened across Eurogamer’s excellent Arcadia Baes podcasts. The first one covers episodes 1-3, the second covers episode 4, and hopefully there will be a third one for episode 5.

  4. GameCat says:

    Dang, I’ve just finished playing it and this wild chat appears. I think it’s my GOTY so far (maybe except for Bloodborne, but I didn’t played it… yet).
    I want more games like that.

  5. Arthur ASCII says:

    Verdict-O-Chat… It would be so nice, Alice aka Des O Connor’s granddaughter, if you would at some point acknowledge and respect the originator of such talk, the Paul “man” Rose of Digitiser Mr Biffo Himself for your beautiful word-o-influences? And by the way, I respect and love your wordage much more than say, the wordage (and visual aspects) of someone who actually copies YOU, the Kezza Macdonald who we have the misfortune of witnessing on Videogame nation as well as Kotaku san. And, by the way, I think your words are better than William Gibson. As for your looks, yes you are gorgeous but I can’t say too much about that here or it would be wrong… Steve Coogan knows though. Um, hello?

    • Moorkh says:

      Completely agree with much that’s written here.
      Completely disagree with Pip&Alice’s estimation about the “correct” ending. Between finally letting things happen after understanding her folly in meddling with time while having at last saved her bff/love on on hand and taking action altering time yet again in order not to just assist Chloe’s spontaneous suicide wish but to actually time-kill with a vaguely established hope of saving an unspecified number of townspeople from tornado death, do you really think the Max we’ve been playing would choose the latter? Mine didn’t hesitate to save Chloe and hasn’t looked back – I didn’t even want to see the alternative ending.

      • Moorkh says:

        Oh, damn. Reply fail. Rewind time now?

      • Carcer says:

        I chose to sacrifice the bay as well, but the sacrifice Chloe ending is pushed so much harder – you spend the latter half of the episode being guilted about how much you use the power and the consequences of it for all these people and then in the very final scene Chloe tries rather hard to get you to kill her… if you chose to sacrifice the bay, she’s immediately okay with it and you then cheerfully drive out of a remarkably intact town with the suggestion that everyone else died but this isn’t shown at all. There’s no weight to it. By contrast the sacrifice Chloe ending is about five times as long and much more emotional. Honestly it is very hard not to feel like one of those endings was the obviously planned-for choice and the other was something of an afterthought.

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          I don’t know where you get that from. ‘Choose Chloe’ was pushed relentlessly for four and a half episodes. My Max swore multiple times over the course of that week that she would never leave Chloe and do anything for her. Then one short vision of seeing everyone else blame you later, all of that is forgotten?

          And I don’t know what you did to get an ending where they drove ‘cheerfully’ out of town. My Chloe and Max looked pretty miserable. And there was sad music playing over the top.

          • Carcer says:

            You spend four and a half episodes trying to keep Chloe alive and happy as everything conspires to kill her. You save her life in that bathroom and then the very next day she goes and shoots herself in the gut and then gets stuck in the tracks in front of oncoming train. Then you go back in time to try and save her dad, and the result is that she’s paralysed and begs you to help her die. Then she goes and actually gets shot in the face, and after you perform some extreme timebending to engineer a reality in which she’s still alive, she’s STILL going to get killed by the tornado, and then even once you engineer yourself back into the Bay so you can save her from the storm, she begs you to let her die so everyone else can be saved. People were rightly concluding that the ultimate ending would be going back in time to let Chloe die as soon as we knew we could use the photographs. I’m impressed that you managed to play the game in such a way that you didn’t feel that choice was the obviously intended one but I think your experience is atypical.

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            46% atypical…

          • Carcer says:

            There’s a difference between feeling a choice was the obviously intended one and actually taking it. As I’ve said, I chose to save Chloe, partly because I just really liked Max and Chloe and partly because I was just ideologically opposed to an ending where you undo everything you’ve done and give in to fate, but I felt like I was going against the narrative, I felt the ending was rather lacklustre, and then I was extra put off by watching my partner go through the sacrifice Chloe ending and them getting a much longer and more conclusive sequence out of it. I would probably be less salty if I’d only seen the Save Chloe ending, but there you go.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            That is probably true. I believe DONTNOD admitted that the ending where you save Chloe was indeed a bit lacklustre, so I’m secretly hoping they’ll amend that with a patch. I’m keeping that save in any case.

          • Dabruzzla says:

            Sorry a bit late to the party but I had to write this link which, I think, really elegantly sums up the message and intentions behind the ending I think.
            link to youtube.com
            So, after seeing this I think the ending with sacraficing Chloe delivers a far stronger message of “acceptance” while the other ending sort of emphasises the “fuck it” denial message more. As the developers mentioned both endings are valid.

        • Frosty Grin says:

          The thing is, if (or when) they decided to make the ending a choice, they essentially made us share the responsibility – and I guess it’s one thing people don’t like here. Maybe it would have been wiser to have just one ending.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          In hindsight the ending did seem odd. I didn’t mind so much at the time, because for me the ending started when I arrived back on the beach with Chloe, and ended when I was given the final choice.

          After having some thinks about it though, and even though it was probably not intended, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing that it was left so open. While the impact of the tornado is lessened by not knowing who died, at the same time it doesn’t reduce your relationship with Chloe to a sum of the choices you’d made long ago, and it may give you hope that Warren survived.

          I think that’s somewhat important. Life is Strange is a game about many things, and one of them is finding your own sexual identity. It seems unfair that choices you made before the episode even began – before you even knew who you were capable of loving – would set your relationships in stone.

          I haven’t seen the other ending, but I am told that Chloe either hugs you or kisses you depending on previous choices. If it were up to me, the only difference in that ending would be whether Chloe kisses you first, or that you get to choose to kiss her first.

          TL;DR: I didn’t mind the open ending too much.

          • Carcer says:

            Watching my partner play it looked more to me like Max goes in to kiss Chloe, not the other way around.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        I haven’t seen the “Chloe Dies” ending yet either. I’d like to, just so I can feel more informed in discussions like this. But I’ll never admit it’s something that might have happened in the story, regardless of how close I came to choosing it. Balls to “grow up”. These two are important.

        • Moorkh says:

          I flatly refuse to see that other ending, else I might feel it actually happened, just like all the things I rewound in the game still happened in Max’ memory.
          Alas, I’ve gleaned enough – too much? – from the accounts of internet strangers by know to know what would happen, and reading about it referred to as the “correct” or “official” ending on from normative sources like RPS makes it feel as if Chloe died after all, despite all my efforts. :(
          Which did NOT happen, dammit!

  6. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Fuck that episode. Being told “You’re Super Max, you can do anything!” then spend the next hour and a half getting shit on for the things you’ve done until you’re finally supposed to give up and sit passively by while the person you love more than anything else in the world gets killed.

    Biggest disappointment of the year.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      I think one thing that many people are missing about the endings is that you couldn’t have made the final choice without actually trying other options. This is why it’s wrong to see the ending as “giving up” – you’re making an informed choice and you’ve done your best to find a better option. Maybe the game should have communicated it a little better.

      • JarinArenos says:

        Or maybe the writers could have given us a less crappy moral.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      What you “should” do according to whom, though? Fuck that shit, if the universe is to extort Super Max, it will have to do better than that.

      Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a strong correlation between saving Arcadia Bay, and not liking the ending.

      • Carcer says:

        I sacrificed the bay and I still hated the ending. It was a total anticlimax.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        I’d agree if the Save Chloe ending had any substance to it at all.

        • JarinArenos says:

          The majority of the buildings were still mostly-intact when driving out of town. I figure most people are okay. God knows you put a lot of effort into saving them previously.

          • ironhorse says:

            Pssh.. she does not like Arcadia Bay, and yet loves Chloe.. if anything you spend most of the episodes trying to save Chloe. Sure you get a chance at helping others, but it not only felt forced, it always felt not in line with her loner character.. who only really felt and cared for Chloe.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    I’m one of the grumpy people who didn’t like Episode 5, which bothers me because I don’t want to be one of the grumpy people. But I dunno… to me it felt like someone took an old Joy Division mixtape and recorded some dickheaded arena rock shit over the last couple of songs.

    (And I say that as someone who loves dickheaded arena rock shit. Time and place and all that.)

    The earlier episodes were really understated in the way they approached everything, touching on difficult subjects without ever being lurid or guilt-milking about it… and then the final episode goes full Hollywood on everything. The David Lynch tribute stuff didn’t work for me at all and HOLY FUCK that abysmal stealth section.

    Having said that, I agree with all the praises sung in the Verdict-O-Chat and thought the first half of the episode was as strong as the series got, so I remain conflicted about the entire thing. But the scattershot way it ended means it’s no longer in the running for my GOTY (which I suspect is really what I’m grumpy about).

    Oh well. At least I didn’t kiss Warren.

  8. somnolentsurfer says:

    I think I’ve probably said this in every RPS comments thread about Life is Strange since I jumped on board at the Steam summer sale, but I unashamedly love this game. Never mind GOTY, it’s my favourite game since Beyond Good and Evil.

    There’s a dishonesty in Instagram, a kind of reverence for a staged or cropped reworking of reality. A sentimental longing for an alternate version of reality where the light was just so and there was no clutter just out of shot.

    That’s deliberate though, right? I spent at least the first couple of episodes absolutely convinced that nostalgia was the principle theme of the game. As it ends up it’s broader than that, but I certainly think it’s important. After Episode 1, and all the references on car number plates and the like, I described it as “a game about being a teenager in 2014, for people who were teenagers in 1998.” And if that was the aim you might as well draw a box around me and label it “core demographic”.

    • GameCat says:

      And if that was the aim you might as well draw a box around me and label it “core demographic”.

      I’ve chuckled.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      You’re going to have to make some room for me in that box too.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      Bingo. I freakin loved this game. It was the perfect opportunity for me to relive my teenage years with the ultimate fantasy of having the power to fix all the mistakes i made in real life.

      That’s why i saved Chloe, without a second thought. I haven’t watched the other ending, and i don’t care. Who are these people who never dreamed of driving off into the sunset with their first love? With a girl who shines so brightly, who captures your heart, who becomes your everything? Maybe we did have that life for a fleeting moment – i know i did – but in the real world it turned to shit so here we are playing computer games instead of still dancing naked under the stars, burning with passion.

      The whole game is an ode to teenage love, to that all-too-short time in your youth when it seems like anything is possible, when you are in love and free and no-one can fucking touch you. It’s a time i put away in the memory banks, i grew up, i got a job, i got married, i got divorced… Yet now i get to experience a piece of art that brings it back, painfully, tragically, beautifully.

      If i had a real-life rewind button i would be living the first few verses of Tracy Chapman – Fast Car forever. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t anyone? Game of the millenium.

  9. Monggerel says:

    When the first episode came out, I talked about it with someone and basically said “well it’s just Donnie Darko but instead of the really fucked up message that you should kill yourself as a troubled teen to make sure everybody else is better off, instead you should Kill Your Boyfriend (who is a girlfriend, but I won’t pass up an opportunity to tell people to read Kill Your Boyfriend) as a less troubled teen because it’s supposed to be a love story”. And of course exactly that thing happened. The only part I was iffy on was what happened with the missing girl, because hey time travel maybe it’s an alternate version of the quantum superposition that is Max. Whose world is fire and blood. And hair dye.

    It’s, like… I can’t feel anything if the thing is really stupid and badly written? So, I fucking hated it instead and resented myself for even watching a let’s play. Why, I don’t know. It’s not like I can save that for talking points (which is of course half the point of these video program machines).

    It’s like the end of Burn After Reading. Jesus fucking Christ.

    • Geebs says:

      I’m surprised that more people hadn’t pointed out (and been irritated by) the Donnie Darko rip-off. I hated Donnie Darko’s stupid, nihilistic message, and I would have extra-double hated it if I had sat through ten hours of game to get the same thing, warmed over.

      • Legion23 says:

        Oh I hated Donnie Darko´s ending too but because Donnie didn´t even try to fight at all. Max however tried very hard, got to spend more time with a loved one and on top of that Chloe even told her that she would be okay with dying for her mother/Arcadia Bay.

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      I feel your pain and sympathize. Couldn’t get into this story at all.

  10. ignare brute says:

    It overal seemed to so fake that I could not care much about Arcadia Bay or whatever. Really no point to evaluate anything from the “Looking at the stats, it’s a 54/46% split on letting Chloe die/ditching Arcadia.”. It is really not just about “a fair few people would take their wild young friendship (or romance!) on the road and leave that awful place and their difficult lives” but boredom. Let’s say it. This is “Life is Strange” is fucking french – in what we, in France, produce since half a century. Pretentious -with a severely broken user interface (seriously, click in the middle but then out of the center to do an action that is obvious?)- and way more stupid that what it could have been.

    • Carcer says:

      The interface was obviously designed to be used with console controllers where the four-option layout maps to the face buttons on the controller. If you play it with a controller it’s not nearly as obnoxious. For the keyboard/mouse arrangement it could really have done with a 1/2/3/4 button shortcuts rather than requiring the click and drag.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      If this is what you’ve been producing in France for half a century already, then France is rather overwhelmingly shitty at publicity.

  11. jellydonut says:

    I like how they did not explain the mysteries. That’s the trap Lost fell in, and LiS is better for not trying to explain them.

    I think it also avoids the trap Mass Effect 3 fell in very neatly by giving you an ending that gives closure. ME3 was actually way better at taking into account your choices than LiS has ever been, despite the game’s claim that your choices matter, but everything ME3 did was marred by the ending where your character disappears and you get no closure whatsoever. Man, I wish Bioware had given us closure.

  12. Aquablad says:

    I love this game and rate it as one of my favourites of all time. I know it has its flaws but it was truly a beautiful experience.

    As far as the ending goes I saved Chloe. It wasn’t a rational or logical decision for me. I saw the options and the thought that came into my mind was “I’ve fought to damn hard to save you”. It was that raw emotion of wanting to save a friend, especially after the trauma Max went through during episode 5.

    Overall the entire experience was great. The music, artistic style, cinematography (although I think they couldn’t have done some great stuff with camera in episode 5 that was absent), all of it is fantastic. Since the end of episode 5 I’ve been listening to the game soundtrack a lot. Still trying to accept its over.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    So yeah, I picked the less popular “Save Chloe / Sacrifice the Town” option.

    Why? Well, in large part because sacrificing Chloe is the incredibly Hollywood-esque option.

    Think about it for a moment. As I recall, you’ve only explored two different alternate ways that Chloe could die: One, she ends up disabled and either dies slowly or you euthanise her. Two, she dies in a storm along with everyone else — and you knew that storm was coming, so this isn’t even a surprise. (The train tracks and bottles don’t count because a) they’re inherently dangerous things to do that they only did because she had powers, and b) she wouldn’t even be there doing that if not for Max anyway.)

    That’s an incredibly small number of data points to suddenly be jumping to the (again, Hollywood-esque) conclusion that oh my god you’re supposed to die and I have to let it happen. You’ve barely even tried!

    And then there’s the notion that “if I just go back and let things happen naturally, everything will be fine”. Bullshit. That’s also incredibly Hollywood-esque thinking — it makes about as much sense as believing in karma, or thinking you can solve all your problems if you just pray a little harder. (I don’t mean to put down religion here, and I think it’s a nice social phenomenon, but let’s face it: Bad things happen to pious people just as much as anyone else.)

    Sure, the storm and your powers are enough of a coincidence that they’re quite probably related. But you had your first vision of the storm before you first used your power and saved Chloe. Going back and not saving her wouldn’t erase that vision, so why would you assume it would erase the storm itself?

    Now, I get it: As a viewer of a time-travelling story, sacrificing Chloe to save everyone else makes story-sense. That’s because there’s a lot of “story rules” in play, such as “everything is true” (she blames herself for the storm so she must really be the cause), notions of karma (if she learns her lesson and stops messing with time, everything must turn out okay), and coincidences always meaning something (Chloe is carrying that photo with her so it must be the solution).

    But those decisions wouldn’t make sense for Max herself, and that’s how I approached the topic. And from Max’s point of view, there’s a lot of reasons not to meddle with time any more.

    For one, she’s already showing signs of what seem like physical strain from the time travel process (the nosebleeds, the fainting). Thus, going back in time again (especially a long jump) would be doubly dangerous: Even if she survives the trip, there’s no guarantee that it would solve everything — and if she needs more trips, she might not survive those.

    (will continue in reply; it’s telling me my comment is too long)

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      (continued from above)

      Two, hadn’t she already basically decided to stop going back into photos to fix things? Meddling with the past always seemed to make things worse and needed undoing. Sure, you can say she’s undoing all her previous meddling, but how do you know it’ll end that way?

      Three, it’s implied (in my view) that the death toll from the hurricane will be a total 100% (or certainly very high), but how can she know that? All she knows for sure is that Chloe’s cell phone drops out; she didn’t let that reality play out long enough to even know for sure. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe hurricanes typically have a particularly high death toll in developed countries.

      Four, she’s gone through all this effort to save Chloe, and herself. They’re alive and out of harm’s way. If life keeps trying to find ways to kill her, then sure, maybe she needs to rethink this (and I would’ve liked an option that didn’t involve tearing up the photo). But she’s made it this far, and it’s such a waste to destroy all that.

      Five — maybe it’s incredibly callous to say, but, losing everyone in the town wouldn’t be a total tragedy for her. Joyce and Kate and Warren (and even David) would be the most tragic losses, but she never seemed too close to anyone else at the school, and her own parents live elsewhere. The guilt would be far worse than the actual loss, and while that’s not to discount it, at least she’d have someone to help her through it.

      Six … honestly, IMO, her life seemed pretty boring before Chloe. She didn’t have any close friends that I could see — even Warren was more “awkward potential” than the sort of friend she could really confide in. Even if her time with Chloe was an emotional rollercoaster, at least it was something.

      And so yeah, that’s really what drove me to do it. I really loved the friendship Max and Chloe had. It hit me on a personal level, because that’s the kind of friendship I wish I’d had when I was her age, but never did. So when it came down to it, I just wasn’t willing to make her give that up, even if it was a fictional friendship between fictional characters.

      So I saved Chloe and sacrificed the town. And if I play it again, I’ll pick the same option. I don’t have any urge whatsoever to repeat the game and pick the other option, and if I ever see the outcome, it’ll be because I’m watching someone else play (and staying very quiet when it comes time to make the choice).

      • Frings says:

        Funny – I’ve always been a completionist at heart when it comes to games, but I too feel absolutely no urge to go back to see all available options and different endings when it comes to Life is Strange.

        I haven’t even gone back and gotten all the pictures I missed during my playthrough, which is new, for sure.

        I’d say it’s a sure sign of how satisfied my playthrough made me in general (and also probably a little bit of lack of free time).

        • Frosty Grin says:

          From my experience with Alpha Protocol, going back to a game with choices and consequences can make it feel much less real.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            That’s true, and I didn’t feel the need to start the game either. But I hadn’t taken any screenshots the first time around (criminal, I know), so I had to tiptoe back in on a different save slot.

            I’m glad I did though, because I discovered that I’d missed a lot of stuff in the first episode on the original playthrough. I’m not even talking about the alternate consequences, just the stuff you can look at and people you can talk to.
            Also, that bathroom scene is surprisingly upsetting even when you know the outcome.

      • malkav11 says:

        Chloe specifically said she was on the beach, even. So that’s why she’s killed in that universe. There’s no particular reason to assume everyone in Arcadia Bay would be killed by this storm. In fact even very strong hurricanes usually don’t kill very many people, and when they do (e.g. Katrina), it’s usually because of additional complicating factors.

        But putting that aside, I felt like there was one clear correct decision and that was saving Chloe. Picking the sacrifice Chloe ending means the entire narrative up to that point never happened. It’s the “it was all a dream” ending, more or less. The only way to make it all actually matter is to stick with the consequences of your actions. Plus, y’know, Max’s very best friend/love interest over a bunch of people she didn’t really know very well and mostly didn’t much like at the start of the week? Not all that hard a choice. I would see her feeling bad about Joyce (and, ultimately, David) and a few of the others, certainly. But they’ve never been the point.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Finally, I’ll note that it’s entirely possible I picked the second option just because of the “don’t want to lose Chloe” and “screw the fairy tale ending, you can’t tell me what to do” aspects, and then back-justified it all. It’s not like Max had a lot of time to think, after all. :)

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I like your points, especially the sixth one. Max and Chloe clearly need each other. Without Chloe’s fire, Max will never be brave enough to make a career of her talent. And without Max’ careful considerations, Chloe will eventually spiral out of control and die of an overdose.

  14. wombat191 says:

    my favourite game ever despite the flaws.

    i still would of liked a third ending which would of fitted with max’s sacrificing, one where she travels back freezes time, maybe exchanges a kiss with frozen chloe before the bullet strikes her sacrificing herself for chloe and the bay

  15. Frings says:

    I loved the episode (I commented at large in the Wot I Think about how genius I found the pacing), and the game in general. Not without its faults, but overall I left more than satisfied, if somewhat disappointed with the big No Kiss in the ending I chose (saving Chloe).

    And that – and the crossover with the Warren situation – is where I am the most frustrated with the game (over any dragged out annoying puzzle).

    Listen – media has a long standing history of lesbian love only existing in tragedy. (Here’s a TVTropes link for ya: link to tvtropes.org) It’s a terrible freaking habit, and one not without its consequences in how people see themselves reflected in media (no matter how pretty the story leading up to the death is).

    To be honest: I didn’t walk away that terribly sad after saving Chloe and not having an explicitly romantic ending – I felt like it didn’t deny the entirety of the portrayed love through the entire game before that, and even if I don’t quite understand people not seeing romance in there (same people who don’t see romance in Chloe’s passion for Rachel), it’s still a portion of the playerbase.

    And then I found out that, if you kill her, you can kiss her.

    Which got me to pause.

    And then I remembered that I got the *option* to kiss Warren even if I’d spent the entire game rebuffing his advances.

    And *that* is what has bothered me deeply since I came to that realization. If Warren gets the option before I choose to kill him or not, why not Chloe, too? Why does the explicitly romantic ending hinge on making the bleak (for the duo) choice?

    And that’s the one thing that has been bugging me after it all. Not up in arms about it, but I don’t think that uncomfortable itch with the choices they made there will go away any soon.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      What you’re missing is that the reason Max decides to kiss Warren is that she doesn’t know if she’s going to see him ever again. So it’s about the same as with Chloe. Both situations are far from romantic.

      As for the “tragic lesbians” angle – it’s somewhat in line with the tropes, but not quite there, because the game itself is tragic and the relationship isn’t.

      What I find questionable is another cliche – “lesbest friends”. A seemingly heterosexual girl sees this cool chick, gets infatuated with her, then they become friends, then it becomes something more. Gone Home, basically. :) It’s not a good way to portray gay relationships and not a good way to portray friendship. Might seem progressive – and gay men usually don’t get even this – but really isn’t. And when the cool chick is her best friend since they were kids, it gets even less plausible.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I don’t think your criticism is fair. Other than the option to accept Warren’s advances, and her affection for Jack Kerouac, there’s nothing straight about Max. It is not implied that she’s been in any kind of romantic relationship before. The only way you could see her as straight is from the lack of a gay stereotype.

        Chloe is pretty unambiguously gay, but also not a stereotype. She gets bonus points for not constantly making advances on Max like Warren does.

        • Carcer says:

          Eh, no. Max initially seems to have a bit of a crush on Jefferson (I think it’s most clear in her early journal entries), and an observation she makes early in the first episode is that she likes skater boys… they just don’t like her. She is established as at least having that interest in boys to begin with and only expresses any interest in girls if you choose to respond that way to Chloe’s flirting.

          Chloe is also not unambiguously gay, as in dialogue she will tell you that she’s had boyfriends before, she had a crush on Rachel, she obviously flirts with Max a lot and she expresses interest in Jefferson the first time you run into him with Max – she seems quite clearly bisexual although probably with a stronger preference for girls.

        • Frosty Grin says:

          You don’t need to have been in a romantic relationship in order to have a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation isn’t “what you do”. And it generally isn’t something that spontaneously changes back and forth. More importantly, if she is a lesbian, it is significant – to her, to the player and to her relationship with Chloe. That’s why initially she’s being portrayed straight by omission (like, in her thoughts she doesn’t find any girl attractive).

          And the idea that she, an 18 year old in 2013, suddenly discovers she’s a lesbian (or bi) in her relationship with her long time best friend, who also turned out to be a lesbian? It’s not impossible, but it’s… convenient. It’s like the developers are easing you into it, and if you’re uncomfortable with gay relationships, they’re just friends.

          • rmsgrey says:

            I think you’ve got the implied sequence backward there. It’s not that Max meets up with Chloe again, realises she’s totally gay for Chloe, and then discovers that Chloe likes girls too; rather, Max meets up with Chloe again, discovers that Chloe likes girls too (as well as boys) and then Max flirts with the idea of something more than just friendship with Chloe.

            There’s a reason why girls having a lesbian experimentation while they’re at university is such a cliche – and not just because it caters to male fantasies. Part of it is being away from parental expectations and oversight for the first time, part of it is the timing, part of it is the culture of freedom and experimentation, and part of it is having a female room-mate for what’s often the first time. For someone like Max, who’s been very shy and apparently hasn’t experimented with romantic attachment before, responding to discovering that Chloe has had a romantic relationship with a girl, particularly one who everyone seems to think she reminds them of, by exploring the idea of a romantic relationship with her seems very natural.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            The implied sequence isn’t the point. The relationship is the point. And I get the idea of experimentation, but doing such an experiment on your best friend when you don’t even know if she’s bi? They both should at least be concerned how it’s going to affect their friendship and surprised that they both aren’t straight. Or is everyone bi there? :)

            And if the relationship is merely experimental, it doesn’t quite mesh with the life-or-death tone and premise of the game. It kinda works because of the new, cool, blue-haired Chloe, who’s simultaneously her old friend, but how long such a relationship will last if it’s merely experimental? The whole point is that the cliche is known as BUG – bisexual until graduation. :)

          • Faxmachinen says:

            I don’t think BUG applies when one of the parties saves the other’s life while simultaneously destroying the school one would have graduated from.

          • rmsgrey says:

            If Max doesn’t know that Chloe is at least bi, she’s not been paying attention to how she was going on about Rachel Amber and how they loved each other. There’s no question that Chloe cares a lot about Max – and it’s clear that Max is fond of Chloe too – her closest friend at Blackwell (or possibly second to Warren) jumps off a roof and then Max discovers a new twist to her power that could let her go back and stop it? “Can’t mess with time that way again”. Chloe gets shot? “Got to risk my life heading toward the storm in order to have the chance to save her”. The only question is how platonic Max’s love for Chloe is – eros or agape?

            That doesn’t mean there isn’t a cliche about a naive girl falling for the mesmerising bad girl, but: a) appropriately used, cliches are not bad writing; b) cliches generally come into existence because they are at least approximately true; and c) even if you take the ship as canon, it doesn’t align perfectly with your summary of the cliche – their connection is at least as based upon shared history as it is upon cool stranger.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            I had to have a think about it. I agree that you don’t have to start a relationship to have a sexual orientation, but I also don’t think you have to have a sexual orientation to start a relationship.

            I’ve been straight all my life, but I don’t find the idea of being in a same-sex intimate relationship – given the right circumstances – unappealing. And indeed, it would have to be someone I could fully trust, and someone I really cared about, i.e. a BFF.

            But perhaps I’m a freak, and it really is unlikely for Max to feel the same way. Although unlikely romances are more appealing to the audience, it does go against the realistic portrayal of characters that LiS does so well.

            I won’t deny that it’s convenient though.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            Also, I’m pretty sure “sex ruins friendships” is at least as cliché as “lesbest friends”. I also think it is at most a truth with modifications.

    • Carcer says:

      Man, I was also disappointed by the lack of the kiss, but my partner got mad at me feeling that was entirely inappropriate when I brought it up. I guess it might have gone down better if I said I was disappointed by the lack of explicit confirmation of the romantic relationship.

  16. Frings says:

    Oh – also, I only ever realized that I had killed Victoria days after playing the episode. Let me tell you, that realization came like a punch to the stomach.

    In my game, Victoria died because I warned her about Nathan, and she believed me – she only ever goes to Jefferson, effectively suffering and getting killed at his hands, because of me (ahem, because of Max).

    During the episode I hardly even realized it, but later… oh, man. The individual deaths caused (arguably) by my hands (ahem, Max’s) have an emotional impact ten thousand times greater than all the people I sacrificed for Chloe.

    (Kate died in my playthrough, too, back on the roof. My friends all got very mad at me when they found out.)

  17. rabbit says:

    Personally, I picked the ‘wrong’ ending. I felt like … yes, okay, clearly the whole episode was working towards PICK THE RIGHT ENDING but in an attempt to justify that they took so many shortcuts and made so many assumptions on your interpretation or understanding of the story. And to me it just felt like I was being railroaded without any actual justification. Like how suddenly everyone knows it’s Max’s fault that all this is happening – but the heavily implied ‘correct’ thing to do is… rewind a bunch more time to change things back. It just didn’t quite hold up.

    So fuck it, I let the town crumble & got the fuck outta there with Chloe. Only real regret is how much the game ran out of steam towards the end. But a great story.

  18. Super Rostropovich 64 says:

    Am I the only one who feels that Dontnod is going to do something with the “drive away” ending? It wouldn’t surprise me to see some DLC or to see the second season picking up where that ending left off.

  19. izurt says:

    I saved Chloe. For those who argue that letting Joyce (among others, but for some reason Joyce pops up a lot) die for Chloe is messed up, what kind of parent would want her child to die in her place? Just telling David about Chloe dying is enough to make him suicidal.

    Anyways, not by me but this post pretty much encapsulates my feelings about the ending:

    “The bae over bay ending might be shorter but that doesn’t mean it had more care applied to it. I’d actually argue that thematically the ‘good’ ending of the game is the ending where you save Chloe and leave the town to it’s fate.

    The very first time Max uses her powers it is instinctual. Unlike pretty much every other use of her power in the game (First photo and weird timestop thing) Max isn’t doing this intentionally, it’s just something that happens. From a certain point of view it is arguable that this is actually fate. Max was always supposed to save Chloe, so much so in fact that she breaks the damn laws of physics to do it without even realizing who it was she was saving. From Max’s perspective the first time round is the way things were supposed to happen. That very first time she rewound history was something just as out of her control as the death of Chloe’s father, it was the way things were meant to happen. Yes she changed things after that, but the tipping point as the game presents itself to us is the very first time around the circle, that it is using her power at all that fucks things up. By choosing to go back and do nothing Max is actually altering history and fate the same as William’s death.

    Ultimately the tornado is just the death of William writ large. It is an awful thing that happens to Max and Chloe, a giant world shattering event that comes into their lives and makes a mess of everything from completely beyond your control. Just like with William, Max has the power to go back and change things if she wants to, she can save William’s life and she can stop the tornado but in both instances it comes at a heavy price. (Ha… get it?)

    The game presents you with the alternate timeline as a way to reinforce this. People are spending a lot of time talking about how this is a game where the moral is “Don’t time travel it fucks everything up” but I actually feel the moral could also be argued to be more along the lines of “If you could change things, would you really want to?” Its why I think the Save Chloe ending is the stronger of the two going along the game’s themes.

    The Save Arcadia Bay ending is a grim and depressing ending that works within the game’s view on trying to fuck with fate. You can change things, but are they really better? You can save William but Chloe has to beg to be put out of her misery. You can save the town but you have to listen to your best-friend/lover bleed out on the floor of a public washroom. Max clearly didn’t think saving William was worth Chloe and I’d argue that even going into the supposed ‘good’ ending she still is clearly miserable about the choice with the only thing that lightens her spirit being the memory of Chloe in the form of the blue butterfly.

    Meanwhile the Save Chloe ending expands on themes from throughout the game. The Save Chloe ending is all about dealing with reality how it is as opposed to how we’d like it to be. The tornado was always going to happen (it’s the first thing we see in the game!), and all the time travel fuckery in the world isn’t going to fix it without an unacceptable tradeoff. Max makes her choice and she lives with it. Things don’t get better at once, but despite driving out of a wreckage laded down filled with the bodies of their loved ones the tone of the ending is overwhelmingly optimistic. Chloe and Max are moving on, accepting the world as it is and trying to find the happiness within that rather than warp it to suit a yearning for what should be better but never really is.

    Even the music choices say a lot. The ‘good’ ending is Spanish Sahara which is a song about an awful nightmarish hellhole that serves as a metaphor for trying to get over trauma that ultimately will never, ever leave you. The Save Chloe ending gets Obstacles which is a profoundly optimistic piece about moving forward in spite of, well, obstacles. It is also notable as being the song chosen for the original release trailer and the end of episode one, meaning that it bookends the series quite nicely.

    Of the two endings I’ll agree that the Save the bay ending had more closure, but only in the realm of “Life is Shit”. The actual good ending for the series is open ended, and like the series it is about making the best of the hand the universe deals you instead of giving into the belief that you can make it better.” – Caros from SA

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Like this reading. Life is Strange is not a game that is supposed to be ‘won’ by choosing the correct series of options. It’s supposed to make you think. And your thoughts about the choices are the game. It’s about the impact of our actions, but also about nostalgia, and regret, and choice. It doesn’t always succeed, but when it does it does so so well.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Indeed, and well said, Caros.

    • Aquablad says:

      You’ve made some excellent observations. Thanks for sharing.

  20. rmsgrey says:

    For me, I felt that what the ending needed was some final acknowledgement of your earlier choices, particularly if you end up by wiping the timeline clean of them – if you sacrifice Chloe, then the timeline becomes: Max has dream of tornado, wakes up in class, goes the the bathroom to recover her composure, takes photo of butterfly, hides out of sight and weeps as a girl gets shot, does stuff the rest of the week while the police arrest the murderer and his mentor, then, shortly before attending the funeral of her dead best friend she hadn’t seen for years, she forgets everything about the week she just lived through and instead remembers a fantasy about having time-travel powers, saving Chloe’s life again and again, and finally choosing to sacrifice her to stop a tornado from destroying the town.

    So many of the decisions you made during the game only paid off in how other people reacted to Max, not in changing Max herself, and all those moments are lost when you change time so they never happened. Equally, if you sacrifice the town, then it’s strongly implied that all the lives you touched are lost.

    My problem with it is not so much with the ending coming down entirely (well, almost – there’s the kiss/hug thing) to one choice and one choice only as with it doing so in a game that repeatedly tells you, and shows you, that it’s all about choices and consequences playing out in small, but real, ways. The game tells you repeatedly that its message is that choices matter, while its actual lesson is that only the really, really big choice matters – all the others are swept away in that moment.

    Particularly, the approach to the diner in Episode 5 seems a bit empty with hindsight – you can stop and save four different people, or you can let them all die on your way through, but not one of those four decisions actually has any other consequence – you clear that timeline to go save Chloe, and there’s no comeback from it.

    Particularly if you choose to learn the lesson that trying to change things for the better just screws things up, and sacrifice the town rather than using time travel yet again to try to fix things, it feels like there should be some further payoff for your earlier choices…

    At the least, we should find out what the outcome of our decision was – we know Chloe and Max survive and get the hell outta Dodge, but we don’t know what the actual death toll was…

    • Faxmachinen says:

      You make a good point. Whenever Max “enters” a photo, she (or rather, her memories and conciousness) always returns to after the point in time where she entered. For that final trip, that would be four days after Chloe dies in the bathroom, if I’m not mistaken.

    • rmsgrey says:

      More thoughts:

      The last couple of scenes of the final vision – the crowded Diner and the Chloe montage – for me are a summing up of the developers’ arguments for either choice at the end. On the one hand, you have all these people asking you not to let them die, and a self-accusatory attack on your use of Max’s powers to “cheat” at life; on the other, you have the past week with Chloe – where you haven’t needed to cheat, and even without the wacky time-travel detective shenanigans, Max has been truly happy.

      Other interpretations are possible – you can take the Chloe montage as a farewell, or you can take the crowded diner as Max’s guilt over what she’s going to do, or you can take the whole dream as a reminder that messing with time to try and solve the problems caused by messing with time doesn’t work.

      The whole question of why Max got the time-powers in the first place has at least three possible answers: one is that she was given the power to save Chloe; another that she was given the power to save herself – so she could come to terms with Chloe’s murder. The third is that there was no purpose – that all the spirit animals, the tornado vision, the butterfly effect wiping out Arcadia Bay – all that was just random chance.

      ***

      As for the not going to the police thing: early on, it’s clearly the right call – Max has already reported Nathan to Principal Wells (or chosen not to) and Kate’s incident is being investigated officially, so what more could Chloe and Max do in terms of involving authority figures? Confide in Mr Jefferson? Get David more involved? Talk to Samuel or Ms Grant? The game has done a pretty good job of keeping them (and the player) suspicious of anyone with both authority to act and reason to listen to their suspicions even if they had more than gut-feelings and hearsay to go on.

      And then they find the darkroom, and they finally have something to take to the authorities (even if they’re still blaming Nathan for everything) but then Chloe takes over – finding Rachel’s body, going to the Vortex Club party, going back to Rachel’s body – and then Max gets the authorities involved as soon as possible. The only “mistake” Max makes there is trying to keep up with Chloe rather than finding a quiet corner and calling for help – and even then, it’s not clear who she should have called given what she knew – and didn’t know. And the whole point of Warren’s photo is that it lets Max finally talk Chloe down rather than being swept along to mutual disaster.

      ***

      My overall impression of the game? I like it a lot, but that’s despite its flaws. The action overlay sometimes being unstable was a potential game-breaker (photographing the fish-tank in particular ended up as an exercise in finding an angle where I was mostly looking at floor, with just enough of the tank visible to see the corner of the scribbles and wait for them to flicker on, then click the mouse button, wait for a fraction of a second for the click to register, drag in the right direction and release, swearing quietly because the interface flickered off again before I finished the maneuver, lining up again, and trying again…), some of the puzzles were awful (the bottle by the campfire…) and some of the dialogue showed cracks where the game design was visible. On the other hand, I enjoyed spending time with the characters, liked the art style, enjoyed the soundtrack, and the times when you just sit for a while and enjoy the atmosphere are something I never passed up on my way through.

      At first, I was fine with the ending, but once I started to think about it, the fact it negates everything you’ve done up to that point started to really bother me. One of the things I’d particularly enjoyed on the way through, was the way your plot-irrelevant choices kept being relevant to your plot-irrelevant interactions. Particularly if you replay, you can see how your decisions are making a difference to the characters’ lives and to your future interactions with them – except that’s only true until they (presumably) die in a storm, or until you change time so none of those interactions ever happened.

      There are very few stories that manage to pull off “but then he woke up and it was all a dream” or “but then he went back in time and prevented any of it from ever happening” – and the more investment the player/reader/viewer/listener has in the world and the minor characters, the harder it is to sell having none of it ever having happened. Alice In Wonderland managed it; in my book, Life Is Strange didn’t.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        On the one hand, you have all these people asking you not to let them die, and a self-accusatory attack on your use of Max’s powers to “cheat” at life; on the other, you have the past week with Chloe – where you haven’t needed to cheat, and even without the wacky time-travel detective shenanigans, Max has been truly happy.

        I hadn’t put it into as many words, but yeah, that really nicely sums up the Max-Chloe relationship. Time travel gives her a new perspective on the world — “With all these people, even if you rewind and say exactly what they want to hear, you’re still going to end up maintaining a distance. With Chloe, you can just say and do what you want, and you’ll still be close friends.”

        In fact, the above also helps deal with one of (arguably) the story’s main flaws — that you know Chloe is central to the story and so you know that you can do whatever you want to her (e.g. ignore her and take Kate’s call) because “surely they haven’t actually put the development and voice acting resources into making a ‘Chloe is mad at me’ alternate timeline”.

        Maybe the truth is, Chloe just never stays mad at you. She certainly gets over the whole “you abandoned me and never wrote” thing pretty quickly. She even later admits she’s glad you took Kate’s call. Maybe that’s just the kind of friend she is.

        I guess what I’m saying is — maybe your time travel powers were just given to you so you could realise how much Chloe means to you, how awful your life would be without her, and how much you’d be willing to give up to get her back for good.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          Addendum: And maybe also to show you that you don’t need to always be content with life; that there need to be ups and downs for the “ups” to mean anything.

          Removing Chloe’s biggest tragedy doesn’t “fix” her, it destroys what’s fun about her, and (if that wasn’t obvious enough for you) even physically kills her.

          Similarly, Max’s new “life” (post-time-travel) has been a rollercoaster of emotion, but it’s still a huge improvement over her “autopilot through life” approach before. One hopes that, no matter which outcome she chooses, she becomes more active and inspired in life.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            Good observations from both you and rmsgray.

            I’d like to add to the point about your choices not having consequences though. “Choices have consequences for the main character” would be a more accurate description of what happens in Life is Strange.

            With time travel there’s always the problem that the narrative can make parts of itself seemingly pointless. But in Life is Strange there is a single thread that runs through all the different times and places, tying them all together. That thread is Max. All the choices you’ve made throughout the “real” and “alternate” timelines all shape who Max is, and I’m fine with that.

            But it’s too subtle. When you go back in time through a photo, you end up in a different timeline on your return, with no memory of what the Max in that timeline has done so far. When you return to the William timeline, it makes this clear, but it also confuses the significance of your choices on Max’ personality. They show that you’re now a member of the Vortex Club, but they don’t show any consequences of choices in the original timeline (e.g. Kate).

            If you look at the travels in the fifth episode though, you always return to a timeline where that Max has made the same choices as you. This suggests that either your choices transcend every timeline (i.e. the player choices are the archetype for Max’ personality), or that the timeline you end up in always aligns as close as possible to your choices in the timeline you came from.

            Either way this implies that your choices do matter in the end, even if you choose to change everything back to the way it was, and even if you also lose your memory. Your choices will affect what Max does (from personality) or what happens to Max (in whatever timeline you end up in) in the future, respectively.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    Just finished the game and came straight here for a look. I found myself nodding along to much of what Alice and Pip were saying. I loved the game, overall, and was basically fine with the ending (I “saved” Arcadia), but I do wish it were a little less predictable (change that to “did wish,” as I’ve talked myself ’round by the end of this comment); David being a good dude despite the attitude was a bit obvious / Jefferson became my prime suspect at the end of episode 2, when the closing montage showed him rudely driving off as the principal is talking to him through the car window (we never find out what was said). The dark room discovery did distress me initially, but its impact was softened by the fact that this kind of situation is a bit of a trope in contemporary “edgy” mystery narratives (I was about to name three examples — a mini-series, a novel/film, and another game — but realised they’d be blatant spoilers).

    If I’m honest, I initially thought the “Chloe needs to die to save everyone else” thing (regardless of the choice aspect) was too obvious/lazy to be the actual ending. Rather, I thought that maybe it would be revealed that some parts were imagined by Max as a coping mechanism for the trauma of witnessing her friend die. Like, maybe she didn’t really have this power and in reality had been blundering her way through conversations all week, but had tricked herself into believing that she could rewind whenever she made a faux pas. That would have been a particularly cruel ending for Max, to be sure, but perhaps more interesting? Either way, it became clear to me that this wasn’t going to be the case by the third episode.

    There’s a lot of discussion (here and elsewhere) over the binary choice at the end, and the conclusions for Chloe/Max. Some argue that the whole time-travelling thing gets negated as a result of this choice — especially if you let Chloe die — but I don’t agree. To me the point wasn’t that Max sacrificed her friend to save a town but that, through some inexplicable force of nature, the Max-Chloe-Rachel bond allowed for a temporary stay of events, enabling Chloe and Max to team-up and end the cycle of abuse that these girls (and Nathan — poor Nathan) were being subjected to, while also affording Max some extra time to gain closure with said friend — something that Max would have sorely needed since she already felt like she had abandoned Chloe years before. The threat of the town being destroyed was there to illustrate how unnatural it was to bring Chloe back from the dead and to show that “the universe” is just granting Max a little extra time to put things right. With this in mind, I agree with Alice and Pip when they say the “let Chloe die” ending was the “originally intended” ending and the choice is mostly only there for the gut-punch feeling of having to actually act on it.

    I wasn’t convinced by Chloe and Max’s renewed relationship, and was just about to write about how I found this to be a flaw in the writing, but now I’m starting to think that this feeling of doubt was intended all along. I mean, Chloe is a selfish brat for most of the game, lashing out at Max and everyone else — sometimes even properly pissing Max off. The driving force behind this reunion is almost entirely based on nostalgia for their youth, since there isn’t much about either of their current lives that is relateable to the other. They essentially grew up to be opposites. Max continuously reiterates that Chloe is her “best friend” throughout the game and my sense is that she’s properly in denial. I think what’s really going on is she feels at least partly responsible for Chloe’s emotional problems, and a ton of guilt over “abandoning” her. People say they picked the “save Chloe” ending because they couldn’t imagine it differently, but I think the opposite. Max had already moved on with her life after she left the bay the first time around! She just never had the courage to admit as much to herself or Chloe, what with the recent tragedy in Chloe’s life. It was too hard a thing for a tween/teenager to deal with, yet she wasn’t able to cut herself some slack over it, either. Temporarily being able to manipulate time gave Max one last chance to fix this and forgive herself in the process. I’d even go one further and say that Chloe’s death could be entirely metaphor.

    Anyway, there are other flaws, to be sure, but I’ve just convinced myself that I like this game even more now so I’m going to be kind and leave it there.

    P.S. GO AWAY, WARREN.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thulsa Hex says:

      P.P.S. I think comparing this game to Deadly Premonition, in terms of potential frustration, is a tad unfair. Don’t get me wrong, I loved DP! But it also crashed a hundred-bazillion times and had grueling combat with crawly bullet sponges. Life Is Strange ran flawlessly from start to finish and was mildly irritating at its worst.

  22. Booker says:

    I, of course, saved Chloe, I was never even tempted to pick Arcadia Bay over her. If the homeless woman can be warned, Max can tell the town that the tornado is coming too. If they don’t believe Max, fuck’em. :P

    But seriously, if you actually let Chloe die, what was the point? You could have just stayed home and just take some more selfies in the first place. The whole game was about saving her.
    Even if you wanted Chloe to die so badly, then you should have at least stuck to the reality in which William lived. But no, in the kill-Chloe ending he’s dead too, which is extra-awful. There are just no convincing upsides.
    Arcadia Bay was done for anyway. Unemployment (remember the fishermen?) and economic downturn all around. Only the Prescotts benefited. So letting the Tornado crush the town hurts mostly the Prescotts, who had bought everything around there.

    I also wasn’t sold on the whole “Chloe alive causing the Tornado” – scenario. She mostly hung around the house and danced on her bed – if she wasn’t smoking weed. The whole idea that those activities would cause a menace that could destroy the whole town is just silly to me.

    Alice: GO AWAY, WARREN.

    NO! You chose the conservative ending, now deal with it. Kiss Warren and be happy! :P You described killing Chloe as the grown-up thing to do, so DEAL WITH IT! :P Wanting to have it both ways is really not a grown up thing to do, right? :)

    I also hate the message that your interpretation gives, namely that it is futile to fight anything and that you should just accept your position in life and take it. That’s a really horrible philosophy. I outright reject that.

    • rmsgrey says:

      But seriously, if you actually let Chloe die, what was the point? You could have just stayed home and just take some more selfies in the first place. The whole game was about saving her.
      Or else it’s about Max coming to terms with Chloe’s death – being given a chance to say goodbye.

      • Premium User Badge

        Thulsa Hex says:

        That’s my interpretation — and you also save Kate, Victoria and whoever else was to become a victim of Jefferson.

        • Premium User Badge

          Thulsa Hex says:

          (And it’s also hinted that the Prescott stranglehold is lifted when they’re implicated in the Jefferson scandal.)

        • Booker says:

          Actually you don’t, since whatever happened to Kate, happened to her before the game starts. No change.

          • rmsgrey says:

            Actually, while Kate’s stint in the darkroom came before the game started, the bullying is still going on as the game starts, her confrontation with Madsen happens in Episode 1, and what would have been her final conversation if you hadn’t made it to the roof happens with Mark Jefferson in Episode 2.

            If you sacrifice Chloe, then Kate survives at least to the funeral – you may not have saved her from being violated, but you have saved her life.

          • Booker says:

            That’s nonsense to me. You can save Kate’s life anyway – she never died in my game, so this has hardly anything to do with the ending.

          • rmsgrey says:

            I think the point being made here is that if Chloe dies, Kate (still) lives, along with Victoria, Nathan, and anyone else who would have died as a result of Jefferson’s sociopathic indulgences.

            Chloe’s death saves Kate’s life just as much as Max talking her down off the roof does.

            And it’s strongly suggested (with as little justification as the suggestion that letting Chloe die would prevent the storm) that sacrificing Arcadia Bay means everyone, including Kate if she’s still alive at that point, will die in the storm.

          • Booker says:

            Chloe’s death saves Kate’s life just as much as Max talking her down off the roof does.

            So why do you keep listing this as a positive reason for letting Chloe die, if there is no difference?

          • rmsgrey says:

            Talking Kate down off the roof isn’t guaranteed. For anyone in whose game she did jump, her being alive after you sacrifice Chloe is a change.

            Why did you say that Kate’s fate was set before the game started?

      • Premium User Badge

        Thulsa Hex says:

        I completely disagree that the game was about saving Chloe. I just don’t see it at all and I’m glad that it’s not so simplistic. To me, it’s clearly about dealing with loss and moving on with your life. The ending choice is presented in a bit of a clumsy fashion, and perhaps confuses the issue, but I’m convinced that it’s only there because the dev felt weird if they took the choice to move on out of the hands of the player. I would not be surprised if the endings in the original draught went something like:

        A: Chloe dies. Jefferson is exposed, sparing his next victims. Prescott involvement in the scandal upsets their “rule” of Arcadia Bay.

        B: Max tries to save Chloe but it proves impossible. Everyone dies, including Max.

        And in all seriousness, I reallllly don’t understand the “nothign changes” if you let Chloe die mentality. Max grows and forgives herself. Jefferson is arrested. Countless possible future victims are saved — including Kate and Vic.

        • Premium User Badge

          Thulsa Hex says:

          (That was supposed to be a reply to Booker)

        • Premium User Badge

          Thulsa Hex says:

          Ok… Now I’m remembering that Nathan getting interrogated by police probably led to the bad guy’s ultimate arrest — not Max’s knowledge — so I guess that’s something that may have happened regardless. Ultimately, I still think what actually matters is Max and her eventual understanding that she was never to blame for the terrible things that happened to Chloe and the others. If there had been no time manipulation, Chloe would have died with Max not having spoken to her in years (since William’s death, basically), and going by the guilt she already felt, it would have been devastating and potentially hugely damaging to her.

          (I’m commenting way too much on this, sorry!)

        • rmsgrey says:

          I would be very surprised if there was ever an intent for there to be an “everybody dies” ending – by the nature of the design, I’d have expected endings to all be roughly equal – a genuine choice rather than having clear right and wrong choices (okay, people argue that there’s a clear right and wrong choice here, but there’s enough disagreement about which is which that I’d say it’s not actually clear).

          It’s possible that there was an early design with a very clear distinction between “good” ending and “bad” ending, but I would be very surprised to find out it was the case.

          • Premium User Badge

            Thulsa Hex says:

            That’s fair enough. Admittedly, this was speculation that emerged as I was typing and has no basis on evidence — I just have feeling that it was probably seriously considered.

        • Booker says:

          Max is always moving on with her life, it’s just that in one ending she’s doing it without friends. :P

  23. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    That’s a nice discussion and all, but it fails to face the fundamental question before our eyes: what’s Dontnod going to do next?

  24. BigMikeyOcho says:

    “Most things in life don’t change anything, but we still do them.”

    Way to hit the nail right on the head. And it’s amazing, because this game ended up being themed about how your choices can end up doing more harm than good and how the choices we make don’t really affect the outcome *in a genre that is literally all about making choices*. Lovely. It’s just lovely.

  25. Faxmachinen says:

    Life is Strange won only one out of the seven Golden Joystick awards it was nominated for, but I’m not even mad. Ashly Burch absolutely deserves a Performance of the Year award for voicing Chloe.

  26. Kala says:

    “Pip: Something I saw people being irked by was that it felt like there was one correct ending. Does that bother you?”

    I didn’t feel like there was one correct ending, if it’s any help, because I picked the other one ;p

    My decision was…not easy, but had a kind of twofold reasoning. Firstly, it seemed like it was in some ways destiny vs free will? You put things back how they’re supposed to be and accept everything is preordained and you’re powerless or you choose your own path? I thought the journey of Max becoming more self-assured (in the dream sequence, etc) worked as well for that decision as it did the loss and acceptance of the other.

    (Which I think is pretty clever)

    Secondly…In my game, Max Loved Chloe. With a capital L. There was no one more important to her. Which kind of made me empathise…in a “how would this decision unfold for me and the person I loved” kind of way. And no, I wouldn’t go back and (re)change things so the person I love died, even if it meant others could live. I’m just not strong enough for that. So in my game, neither was Max. Besides, she already lost Chloe once, and that was hard enough. ¬.¬

    (You could term it “the noble end” and “the selfish end”, maybe. All arguable. Or maybe the objective and the subjective end <..>)

    “Alice: GO AWAY, WARREN.”

    Haha! I was so proud of myself that I was in the 7% that offered Warren no affection whatsoever 8)

    “And that one of those people (I can’t remember who) points out you spent ages using your time-travel powers to make people like you.”

    That’s you, I think. (and yep, it’s a pertinent self-criticism)

    “It’s not a system to master and unlock an optimal ending, it’s a life to go through.”

    YESSSSSS.

    “The bit David arrives in the bunker to rescue Max but keeps getting trounced by Jefferson was annoying, and for a fairly typical Life Is Strange reason”

    I spent FOREVER rewinding that because I thought I had to warn David at just the right moment; before he’s close enough to whack me, but close enough to when David is near the corner so he can hear and react. I took an embarrassingly long time for me to realise, no go back BEFORE THAT.

    “No game has had this tone and feeling for me.”

    Yep. I first found that in Ep 2 (as being one of the few, apparently, who had Kate die on her. Note to self: do not volunteer at Samaritans) and had it confirmed by certain other emotionally significant moments. I think some of the crisis points are reminiscent of the sort of scenarios my mind at it’s most anxious will produce involuntarily (particularly when I’m trying and failing to sleep).

  27. rmsgrey says:

    Something that came to mind in further musings on time travel, free will, and videogame narratives: the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy makes for an obvious comparison – the Prince’s rewind isn’t quite the same as Max’s – it rewinds him as well as his surroundings, requires explicit recharging through gameplay mechanics, and is limited to a fixed duration rather than by puzzle-solving progress, but it does raise some of the same philosophical and ethical issues.

    The first game of the trilogy revolves around the Prince fixing a terrible mistake by rewinding time far enough to divert the course of history. The second game’s premise is that his messing with time has attracted a monster to erase him from existence – and his solution is to find the source of the mystical sand and prevent it from being made, thereby creating a paradox that would get him off the hook. You end up changing your own timeline and messing with events in ancient history before either shaking the hit squad, or, if you do really well, defeating them. Either way, in the third game, the Prince discovers that, by changing the distant past, the present has got significantly worse. This time, he learns his lesson, and, rather than using magic to change the past yet again, he decides to accept the situation as it is and live on from there.

    The conclusions of the first and third games kinda mirror the two options at the end of Life Is Strange – the first makes the grand reset to save everyone and, until the sequel was announced, gave a mostly happy ending; the third says that what’s done is done, and makes the best of the situation as it is.

    Sacrificing Arcadia Bay isn’t only about choosing Chloe over your other friends and acquaintances; it’s also about abandoning the idea of fixing things with time travel. Sacrificing Chloe isn’t just about saving the greatest number of people; it’s also about using time-travel to make things better for people, and about embracing the idea that Chloe is actually meant to die in that bathroom – not just that she would have if you hadn’t interfered, but that some power actively requires it as the price for the town’s survival.