Life is Strange - Full Game Review
Life Is Strange
Before I dive into my first impressions or the actual review, I'm going to talk about what this game actually is. This game is considered an episodic adventure, meaning this game is hugely revolved around storytelling and will be released (or was released seeing as the entirety of the game is out now) in five separate episodes. Each episode had been released roughly two months apart and each episode is roughly two to four hours long depending on how much you explore your surroundings.
This game, in my opinion, is as much of a drama as it is an adventure game since it is a personal story revolving around an eighteen-year-old named Maxine, Max, Caulfield who is a photography student at the private school Blackwell Academy. At the start of the game, she realizes she has the ability to rewind time and alter the past. The choices you make while rewinding time leads to the butterfly effect that influences certain events in the story, along with character relationships. During her first experience of time alteration, she is caught in a horrible storm with a tornado headed toward the town.
The overall gameplay is in the third person and is very much point-and-click style puzzles to progress in the story. This means you find different objects in the environment and have to perform actions using the objects in the correct order to usually make something happen and move on in the game.
I'm going to start off by saying I love episodic adventures - I've played just about every recent Telltale game and loved them - and I'm a bit biased towards Square Enix in that I have loved everything I've played by them. Given I haven't played anywhere near everything by them, but what I have played I've loved for it's story and likable characters that you grow attached to by the end of the game. So, when I heard Square Enix was involved in a new episodic adventure game I immediately had to investigate.
I caught wind of this game a little late so the first episode was already out for me to analyze. I had to admit I was a little skeptical. The rough idea I was getting was a high school drama that revolved around a girl who could rewind time. Eh. I was a bit underwhelmed. Every so often I can get wrapped up in a good drama, game, movie, or otherwise, but this one didn't catch me and I'm not really into the whole time travel science fiction usually.
Instead of buying the game or passing it over, I ended up heading over to YouTube and watching someone play through the first episode. I have to admit, it started to grab my attention enough for me to give it a chance, so I went over to the PlayStation store, bought the season pass, and downloaded the first episode to play for myself.
I have to say I'm glad I gave this game a chance despite my being on the fence about the game after first hearing about it. While this game has both pros and cons, ultimately I quite enjoyed it. In fact it was probably in my list of top games of 2015. The characters were incredibly likable and I found myself getting attached to them and concerned over their well being. I also enjoyed that, usually, the characters had appropriate reactions to things that were happening to and around them. Given there were a few times where the main character was unusually calm for what was happening, but it was definitely a leap compared to character reactions in many other games.
Jumping into the first episode was a little dry, but you have to give it the credit that it was setting up the story, characters, and universe. This is not to say there is no excitement in the first episode, but this was definitely the slowest of the five. However by the end I didn't think this game could get more exciting unless they actually killed someone... That's all I'm going to say about that to keep the spoilers out. I was soon proved wrong after the second episode came out and I realized that the story could in fact get much crazier.
After I finished each episode I was dying to see what happened next. Each episode built upon the previous episodes and the finale was simply epic. After I was finished playing I immediately talked with my friend, who was also a big fan of the game, and discussed what ending we chose and why.
Now this is where I started to have some complaints. While different choices throughout the game definitely had an effect on the current situation and changed what you'd have to do to achieve the goal you wanted, or how easy it was to get to that goal, many of the choices didn't seem to have much effect in the long run. No matter what you do, you still ultimately lead up to the same end game decision, and while it was indeed epic, it didn't really change based on what you did throughout the story.
I did enjoy what effects the changes had during the story, because this really affected your relationship with other character, information you received, speech options, and even whether certain characters lived or died, but ultimately the ending are the same, even if you lose characters along the way. This how how most choice driven games are though. While certain decisions do cause some changes, the main story line is the same.
The other issue I had, and while this isn't an issue now, I still wanted to bring up, was the inconsistency of the episode releases. This is an issue with a number of episodic games and while there is a loose release schedule, the episodes usually weren't released according to the schedule and was a little frustrating. I also think that the release times were a bit long in between episodes. I understand that there were cliffhangers at the end of the episodes and the waiting time helped build excitement, but after so much time I start to forget what had happened in previous episodes. Of course with all of the episodes released now this isn't an issue, but it is an issue with most of the episodic games when you are playing them as the release.
Despite these issues, I found it to be a fantastic, well put together game. I loved the art style that wasn't quite the sought after realistic graphics, and the soundtrack was fantastic. In fact I enjoyed it so much that many of the songs I heard I ended up putting on my iPod. The story grabbed my attention and really stuck with me. I usually ended up playing each episode at least twice and found myself recommending it to people who may not even be interested in a drama or that style of game play. The story and characters worked this game up from questionable to one of my favorites. I'd love to see a season two, not necessarily with the same characters, but another story with the same tone and fantastic story.
I think anyone who is interested in episodic games, or games that excel based off of story to give this game a shot. This game is available on Windows, PlayStation 3 and 4, and Xbox 360 and One. The price for all systems is roughly $20 and there is a limited edition set coming out January 19, 2016 that includes the game, an artbook, a soundtrack, and directors commentary.