Square Enix’s Life is Strange Episode 1 Review

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Life is Strange is a story-based game that features player choices, where the consequences of all your in-game actions and decisions will impact the past, present and future. The choose your own adventure genre is alive and well, and this time Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment are trying their hands at it with Life is Strange, a graphic adventure that follows a high school student and her life.

You are Maxine Caulfield, an 18-year-old girl who is just returning to her home city of Arcadia after receiving a scholarship to study photography at a private school for high school seniors called Blackwell Academy. Little does she know that the school is going to be the least of her worries. Max is very observational and a very talented photographer which is a key component in the game. She is also an introvert, dealing with the drama of being the new kid while still discovering herself. Oh and she has the power to rewind time to change the future.

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The game starts out normal enough with a routine day in school, until a shocking turn of events lead Max to discover she has the extraordinary ability of rewinding time. This is the main idea that the story for Life is Strange is based upon. Just about every character you encounter that you can speak to will evolve your story in one way or another, so keep in mind that today’s enemy could possibly be tomorrow’s ally.

How would you handle life’s situations if you could rewind time and change your answer after finding out how the other person would feel about your answers? Would you stay true to your feelings or would you use this new information and tell them what they want to hear? Would you save a friend if it meant putting someone else or even yourself in danger? Some of the decisions you make will show immediate consequences while others will be seen in future episodes.

The game makes sure to give you a notification when you have made a decision that will be altering your story. There is a limit to how far back Max can rewind time, so be sure of your decisions because you can only rewind while still in the current area. Once you change locations your decisions are locked. I thought that a time travel ability in a game about choice would take out some of the fun or replay value of the game, but the way it is executed is done perfectly, allowing me to effectively gather information about my decision so I could make the choice that fit me best.

The game also keeps track of player’s decisions. At the end of each chapter they show you a collective response of both your friends and other online players around the world, so you can see how your choices stack up with everyone. After completing chapters within each episode you have the ability to replay them, which allows you to either change your choices or play it in collectible mode so that you can make choices to get certain photo ops, which occur under specific conditions after certain choices have been made.

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The music and graphics for Life is Strange fit perfectly hand in hand. Every transition that occurs highlights the beautiful artwork and they cleverly use in-game stereos and other audio devices to input their soundtrack into the game, which matches the stories mood and progress. The game feels like a piece of art or a movie as much as it does a game, thanks to the way the character portray emotions and pull from a deep backstory that has made them into what they are today.

Dontnod has crafted an intriguing narrative focusing on self-discovery with lots of twists and turns, all circling around our protagonist’s new power and the butterfly effect. The game has some similar characteristics to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls with its pacing and movie-style narrative, but it’s done in an episodic format similar to Telltale’s The Walking Dead and their other licensed-game properties.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first playthrough of episode 1, and for the most part enjoyed the outcomes of my early decisions so far. My second save file will be used to see some of the other results based on the opposite key choices I made. There were even a few Easter eggs that I came across, undoubtedly there to remind you that this is part of the Square Enix family. Make sure to check out the trailer below to see firsthand just how strange life can be.

Episode 1 releases January 30th for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC, with each following episode launching every six weeks after the first. The first episode will set you back $4.99, or for $19.99 you can get the full five-episode package. And in case you want to dip your toes in and try the game before shelling out for the full game, you can buy the season pass for $16.99 to get the rest of the game at a discounted rate.

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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Jada Griffin
Jada Griffin 334 posts

Legends tell of a princess captured and raised by Ninjas to be their future leader. Jada was trained from an early age to max the luck stat, always strike first and to never surrender.