Life Is Strange Episodes 1-3 Review

By Rebecca Smith, 1 year ago
Dontnod Entertainment's last title, Remember Me received mixed reviews. One of the aspects of the game that received mainly positive feedback was the game's story. It's no wonder that the developer's next title, Life Is Strange, is a story-focused episodic title that is delivered in five parts. With a completely unique tale that is not based on any current series or franchise, has Dontnod been able to rival Telltale in the market for story-driven titles? Now that the third episode of the title has been released, we've decided to bring you up to speed.

Logo

Players assume the role of Max Caulfield, a photography student that has just started at Blackwell Academy located in the small town of Arcadia Bay, a town from where she moved five years previously. Max is a quiet student who doesn't fit in with the "popular" seniors and doesn't make friends easily. She still hasn't dared to contact her old childhood friend Chloe, who remained in the Bay after Max left. However, things aren't quite what they seem. When an incident after her photography class reveals the hidden ability to rewind time, Max reunites with Chloe to investigate the darker side of Blackwell Academy and discover the truth behind the disappearance of another student.

Dontnod doesn't just tell the story to the player; the player is given a variety of choices to change the story and make it their own. Players are faced with several moral dilemmas, some of which affect the plot and some of which do not. Those 4-5 decisions per episode that affect the major plotlines are unmissable. You will likely have decided what type of person you wish for Max to be, so some of the decisions will seem really obvious. Others will put you through the wringer and really force you to consider the lesser of two or three evils and their potential future impact. The good news is that players are awarded as much time as they need to consider their options. Max's power can also be used to your advantage. If you don't like the decision that you have just made, you can rewind time and try another option. By removing time limits and giving players the chance to try out different options, you are never left with a feeling of "what if". Whether you like the outcome is another thing entirely.

What will you tell Chloe's step-douche?What will you tell Chloe's step-douche?

As well as the major decisions that drive the storyline, there is a number of optional moral dilemmas to find throughout each episode, either through a conversation with a supporting character or through an object that you can investigate. Will you water your plant or will you ignore it? Will you sign a petition or will you decline? The impact of some of these activities may not become apparent until a future episode. Depending on how much the player is inclined to explore and interact with other characters, the impact of these decisions may be missed entirely. It's a shame, but it does demonstrate how little these minor decisions matter in the grand scheme of the story.

Not all of the game's major plot points are delivered through moral decisions; some are delivered through scenes that Max must witness. Unfortunately, like the optional moral dilemmas, some of these scenes are also missable if you fail to click on the correct object or character. Players can't be expected to seriously consider all of the options when they're completely ignorant of the event behind it. Like all good students, Max has a journal in which she writes about the daily events and characters. All major plot points are recorded here so players are never left completely in the dark, but this is an oversight that Dontnod really must sort out for episodes 4 and 5.

Will you take a photo or not?Will you take a photo or not?

As should be expected, the plot and Max's power need time to grow. Episode 1 sees players gently introduced to campus life and a variety of supporting characters. The novelty of a new found power is apparent. As time goes on and players progress through to the end of Episode 3, the tone of the game shifts. Not only is Max's power intensifying, she realises that she has limits. She also realises that her powers don't just affect her; they have deeper affects that can resonate to those around her. Nothing portrays this better than a vital event during Episode 2, where several of the player's decisions return to affect the future of a fellow student. The outcome of this event then sets the tone for the entirety of Episode 3. While your decisions had little impact in Episode 1, they're certainly having an impact by now.

Like the story, the characters also become more developed as the episodes progress and your perceptions about them change. Those that are portrayed as outright villains in the first episode can seem more humane by the time that you have finished Episode 3. This is where Dontnod really succeeds with their storytelling as they are constantly challenging your perceptions, although the real trump card arrives in Episode 3. Throughout the first three episodes, the story takes a somewhat predictable path as the girls investigate the goings on at Blackwell. Both Episodes 1 and 2 were neatly tied up by their finale. Not Episode 3, which leaves players on a cliffhanger. Players will be served a twist that not only makes you question whether your time-meddling actions are doing the right thing, but it will also make you question the direction that the game is taking. Episode 4 cannot come soon enough.

How will this end?How will this end?

The game's achievements follow the same format throughout each episode. Aside from the one obligatory and unmissable finish the episode achievement, the remaining 11 center around optional photographs, which are the game's collectibles. In each episode are ten missable photograph opportunities. The player is given clues to these photos via crude sketches within Max's journal. Some of the opportunities are easy to find. Others involve a specific set of conversation options or actions that make them harder to find. Regardless, if players miss these opportunities in their first playthrough, the game's checkpoint select tells you during which part of the episode the opportunity can be found and allows you to easily return to that part of the episode. As such, the achievements are easy to complete, especially if you're following a guide.

Summary

Life is indeed strange. Meddling with time is not as easy as you would think and this engaging story does a great job of driving that point home. The moral decisions that players make really do have an affect on the story's future. The game's time-rewinding mechanics mean that all options can be considered and those all-important decisions need not be rushed. While the story so far has followed a fairly predictable path, the events of Episode 3 have really turned things on their head. Dontnod has the potential to mix things up in Episode 4. Will they stick with this new direction or will we be turned back onto the path that we have been treading so far? Only time will tell.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Engaging story
  • Moral decisions make a difference
  • Plenty of time to make decisions
  • Chance to try out all decision options
Negatives
  • Important events can be missed
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 1-2 hours per episode doing what Ashton Kutcher tried 11 years ago, although she avoided prison and amputation, and her dog is still alive. This earned her all of the game's 36 achievements that are on offer during the first three episodes. She fully intends to earn the remaining 24 that will be offered by the remaining two episodes. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided courtesy of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.