September 1st, 2016 marks the one year anniversary I started playing Life Is Strange. It has been an incredible journey. The joy of meeting extraordinary characters. The sadness of heartbreaking moments. The agony of decisions having to be made. Everything can come with a price, or better put, “this action will have consequences…” [WARNING: Spoilers.]
I first heard about Life Is Strange through a website I frequent for gaming news. Alongside a small article with a few details, I saw pictures of this blue haired girl with a gun and a brunette with her hand extended out in front of her. Who knew these two characters would eventually hold such a special place in my heart?
I wasn’t new to episodic games, having played The Walking Dead (Seasons 1 & 2) and The Wolf Among Us. I knew how they were released. The wait between episodes got to be unbearable. Getting wrapped up in the story only to have an extended pause. This could be seen as a positive to some, building anticipation for future episodes. To me, it was excruciating.
Unfortunately this led to my decision to hold off on starting Life Is Strange until most of the episodes were released, despite the urge to play it. I would download each episode upon release and set it off to the side. I also avoided ALL spoilers online. With a potential release date for Episode 5 on the horizon, I would finally start this truly remarkable game.
My first highlight from Life Is Strange is the art style. Right from the start, it grabbed me. It was beautiful. The fact that it wasn’t overly realistic, mixed in with the hand drawn elements, added to this unique title. I also loved how they used photos to help flesh out the story. For example: the photos helping to show Chloe getting her vehicle for her birthday and the crash afterwards. Dontnod did an amazing job. The art is only the beginning.
The rewind ability is a great feature. I really liked it. However, I only used the rewind once to change a decision in my first playthrough; reversing my choice of telling Principle Wells about the gun. I chose to not tell him after all. The only other times I would use the rewind would be on the required areas advancing the story. I knew I would play this game multiple times and see the different outcomes.
The outstanding soundtrack is another highlight. I only knew of one artist (Sparklehorse) ahead of playing Life Is Strange. Not only did this great game expand my musical horizons in terms of artists, but Dontnod did an impressive job in selecting which tracks to use. Each song, and where it was placed in the story, is perfection. It truly had the power to evoke emotions. Most notable for me being “Mountains” by Message To Bears, during the Rachel Amber discovery scene.
The characters and character development are another high point. From Max to Warren, Chloe to Nathan, Victoria to Kate; the mixture and complexity of these characters is outstanding. Chloe stood out the most to me, as she’s my favorite character. Seeing her grow so much from the beginning of the game to the end is phenomenal. She had to endure so much tragedy: her father dying in a car accident when she was 14, Max moving away leaving her to grieve alone, and Rachel’s disappearance and discovery. Yet, by the end of the game, she’s willing to sacrifice herself for the town she’d like to see “bombed and turned into glass.” Incredible.
The emotional impact or “feels” are next. I’m not one to get emotional a lot. However, something about this game seemed to get to me. [NOTE: This is based off my first playthrough.]
⦁ It started with Kate at the end of Episode 2. I thought I did enough to help her, with the exception of answering her call. I didn’t. I failed to save her. It hit me pretty hard. I actually left the game alone for a while after, around 3 months. No game had effected me like that before.
⦁ Next would be the end of Episode 3 leading into Episode 4. In the alternate reality, we see Chloe in the wheelchair. Her smiling at Max actually made me smile, but it broke my heart at the same time. This led to a decision; I chose to honor Chloe’s wishes and euthanize her. That led to me shedding tears for the first time over a game.
⦁ In Episode 4, after locating the Dark Room, Chloe sees Rachel in a photo and recognizes where it is, the junkyard. When they get to the junkyard and discover Rachel’s body, Chloe’s reaction absolutely killed me. More tears were shed. It’s by far my saddest moment in the game, and probably in any game for me. Even over my final choice.
⦁ I’ll get some heat for this one. The final cutscene in Episode 5. After Max and Chloe make it to the lighthouse, it all comes down to a final decision: Sacrifice Chloe or Sacrifice Arcadia Bay. Up to this point, I sided with Chloe all the way, every decision was to her benefit. She pleaded for Max to sacrifice her, to save Joyce and David and to get revenge for Rachel by having Jefferson arrested. I actually cut the game off and had to decide another day. After much internal debate, I decide to Sacrifice Chloe. As soon as Nathan shot Chloe (the controller vibrates as the shot happens, making it worse) and Max starts crying, my eyes started to well up. As soon as the pictures of Chloe dancing on her bed, Max looking at photos of Chloe, and Max holding her teddy bear came on the screen, my heart sank and I lost it. It would take me a couple of weeks to play the game again.
As I wrap this up, my final highlight is the Life Is Strange community. It truly is one of the best out there. From the awesome Cosplayers, to the amazing Fan Art and incredible Fan Fictions, this community continues to thrive. Through the help of people like Chris at Life Is Strange Fans and Ori at Life Is Strange Spanish Fans, people are able to gather and chat about the game. Even better, they can share the art, cosplay photos, and fan fictions. I have met some great people in this community, most of which I’d “sacrifice a town” over.
I just want to thank everyone I’ve come across through Life Is Strange. If you took the time to read this, I do appreciate it. You’re awesome, always remember that. Thanks also go to Dontnod, for creating a game that will forever hold a place in my heart and a character I will never forget in Chloe Price. <3
– Bobby aka Flames