Life is Strange Episode 1 Review

After completing the first episode of life is strange, it was fair to say that I was left wondering. This game has definitely got me hooked on its mysteries. Life is Strange has a narrative that is engaging and compels you to continue onwards. However, the game is not without its faults. Either way the first episode of Life is Strange offers a unique story with promise.

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Story
The story focuses on an 18 year old girl called Max. Max has returned to her childhood home of Arcadia Bay to pursue an education at Blackwell Academy. Her best friend from her past also lives here but she has yet to reconnect with her when the game starts. The story that Life is Strange presents, is one that shows promise, as the outline of the sub-plots are interesting. I was, however, disappointed with the execution of its characters and dialogue.

Throughout the first episode we’re introduced to many of the teens that Max goes to school with. However, I found that each character within the game was a stereotype; the bimbo cheerleader and the rich kid who is unstable. These archetypes have been seen before.  I expected to meet a cast of interesting people, but instead I was greeted with dull dialogue. Nevertheless, I am hoping that this first episode will develop as the game progresses so we can see these stereotypes develop into interesting and three dimensional characters.

A flaw which is harder to excuse, is the dialogue, which I found, at times, bizarre and unnatural. Most of Max’s classmates use words like ‘punk ass’, ‘hella’ and so forth. These words are over used in the first episode and sound like they’ve been written by middle aged writer who thinks they’re “down with the kids”. This actually distracted from the story. One minute I would be feeling for Chloe’s situation only to be left indifferent moments later when she opened her mouth and spouted random dialogue that conflicted with the mood of the situation. The execution gave the story less impact and drew you away from it, instead of enticing you in.

At other times the dialogue just felt wrong. For instance, Max has the option to tell the principal that a student had a gun, to which the principal responds with a sigh and a suspicious glance that Max is lying. Now surely if any hint of a gun was mentioned to a principal, alarm bells would sound everywhere. This blasé response seemed unnatural and silly. It was these moments in Life is Strange that made the story standout, but in a bad way.

These flaws aside, Life is Strange does have an interesting plot.

The first episode manages to plant enough seeds to make me want to watch them grow. Max seems to be uncovering a lot of mysteries that lay in Arcadia Bay and it’s these mysteries that keep the game from being a dud. For example, we are introduced to a girl named Kate Marsh who seems to be hiding a great deal. Also, we learn about a missing girl named Rachel Amber who appears to have been someone to everyone but in each case she is a different person, from a saviour to a party girl. These snippets of plot lines that we glimpse in the first episode are what gives Life is Strange promise.

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Design
Life is Strange excels in its design. The game is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. Each song adds to the ambience and develops the tone of the game. Each scene and texture is hand painted and looks stunning. There is great variation in scenery and character models. Character models range from tall, thin, fat, and short and each has their own, unique look. This made each character appear pivotal and integral to the story in some way. The games’ design was also distinctive because its interface was unlike any others in the story telling genre. As Max walks around, everything that can be interacted with, pops out at you so the player always knows what they need to do or what they can do if they wish. This aided game play nicely. The design of Life is Strange was implemented perfectly and I couldn’t find fault.

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Gameplay
The gameplay is typical of a point and click game. However, Life is Strange focuses on storytelling rather than the player solving puzzles. The game includes collectibles in the form of poloroid photos which a player takes and sticks into Max’s journal. In order to find them all players need to manipulate certain objects in the game. This was a nice element to add as it encourages players to search each location thoroughly and added another layer to the gameplay.

Life is Strange also includes time travel. As Max, players can reverse time to the nearest checkpoint and thus they can change their choices. The game demonstrates how far the player is rewinding time by using a spiral. This spiral appears in the top left of the screen, and whenever the player goes past a circle on the spiral, the player has rewound a choice they previously made. This was an interesting aspect that made Life is Strange more than a point and click game. However, I still haven’t come to grips with the mechanic, as sometimes I’m not sure which choice has been rewound and at times it is difficult to stop the travelling process. I am sure that in the coming episodes this mechanic will get easier to use.

Finally, players can access Max’s journal. This journal is the games way of keeping score of everything that has happened. You can read Max’s diaries which help players remember which choices they made, see the map so you can see which locations you have visited, read text messages, look at the collectibles sheet and read character bios. The journal is a perfect tool that keeps record of the games lore and the timeline after you have changed it.

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Glitches
I played Life is Strange on PC and only came across a few glitches. I found that every time I engaged in a conversation the first word or syllable would be cut off. Also there were issues with reflections. Some mirrors would reflect a picture of outside instead of what they should be reflecting which was a room.

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Verdict
Life is Strange is a game that is all about its story. However, it is this aspect of the game that isn’t polished. The gameplay and design work perfectly fine but the story lacks depth and the bad writing leads to its downfall. Nevertheless, Life is Strange promises big things, the story might be let down by its writing but the general plot is engaging and I want to know more. This drive accompanied with its finesse in design makes Life is Strange a game that should be played. My hope is that it evolves in its next episode and lives up to the story it has begun.

20141118_131948138_iOS– Sophie

Sophie is a full time chef but her passion is gaming. She loves playing on PC and the playstation. She grew up on Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Tombi.  Her favourite game dev is Bioware (she is still waiting for the Asari to arrive on Earth). In her spare time she writes, reads and wonders what game she should play next. Catch her on Youtube: https://t.co/YYmj1G1A4u Twitter: @Rain45 Twitch: Rain045 or Tumblr: Rain045 for more gaming FUN!

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One Response to Life is Strange Episode 1 Review

  1. This is a great review, with really valid points. Since English isn’t my native language, I didn’t notice expresions like “hella” in the dialogues being odd, but I’ve read a few times already that many people felt like it was a bit… out of time.

    I like Life is Strange so far, and I forgive how “flat” it seems, because it’s only the first chapter. First chapters in books or the first 20 minutes in films usually bore me a lot too, so I’ll let it pass and see how they develop the story.

    I liked when Max got out of the classroom and suddenly all the students looked… real. Or, at least, more realistic than (cloned) NPCs in other video games. Sure, there’s a lot of stereotypes, but at least it’s not the same body mesh for everyone.

    *Minor spoiler*
    I also liked that I could forgive the bully and comfort her instead of mocking her.
    *End of spoiler*

    Liked by 1 person

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