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Life is Strange Episode 3 Review
The third part of Dontnod’s episodic adventure really starts to dig into the mystery surrounding Arcadia Bay. While Episode 1 was a fine introduction to the characters and Episode 2 expanded on what Max could do with her newfound powers, Episode 3 shows Max using those powers to investigate what’s been going on with the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber, the bizarre environmental changes, and the corrupt Prescott family that runs the Blackwell school as well as the town of Arcadia Bay itself.
Once again Maxine (Max) Caulfield uses her mysterious power to rewind time as a tool to investigate the goings on in Arcadia Bay. While playing as her you really feel like a detective, piecing together evidence like a puzzle that just doesn’t seem to have enough pieces. Multiple people are suspicious but how many are secretive because they’re hiding something? The principle is clearly taking bribes from the wealthy Prescott family, but is he doing it because he’s part of the conspiracy or does he just not have a choice? David Madsen has cameras everywhere and is constantly following and interrogating students who clearly haven’t done anything. Is he legitimately trying to solve the mystery behind the disappearances or is he somehow involved with them?
The game opens with Max sneaking out to meet with her best friend Chloe and investigate the school late at night. The girls look through student files in the principal’s office and eventually end their up at the school swimming pool to have some fun. After almost getting caught by the Blackwell security guard, they make their way back to Chloe’s house to spend the night before continuing their investigation in the morning.
Like the previous episodes, the decisions Max has made up to this point have a real impact on how the story progresses. She’s treated differently based on what she’s said or done. If she lied or otherwise hid the truth, people tend to trust her less. If she’s followed up on certain pieces of evidence, then she can work with that evidence, if she’s bounced around between facts she has to solve things in different ways. Finding the right evidence sometimes means doing things you’re not proud of.
In this episode Max will break and enter, steal, hack, and bluff her way to finding the truth. Unfortunately most of these questions are only answered by more questions at the end of the episode, which has a twist ending that completely throws the story on its head. It really does apply to the title: Chaos Theory.
Beyond the story-long consequences that Max’s decisions make, this game has shown to have some very well-rounded characters. Even unlikable characters like David Madsen and Nathan Prescott are shown to have more depth if you really try to get to know them. This doesn’t necessarily make them likable, but it gives you an idea of what things are like from their point of view.
Kate Marsh is another character that, while likable, seemed kind of one-note in the beginning, but digging deeper in the previous episodes showed she was much more than just a shy, religious girl who struggles with bullies. Even Mr. Jefferson, a character I did not like very much and was suspicious about since Episode 1, did something at the beginning of this episode that totally changed my mind about him.
I haven’t been to high school in over a decade so I honestly can’t tell if this game catches the atmosphere of current high school life but it does seem to capture the personality of most teenagers I know.
Like the previous episodes, this game isn’t for everyone. There’s no real enemy to defeat or tricky mechanics to understand. The puzzles aren’t even very hard. This is a game where the story certainly comes first, not the gameplay, but that’s okay. Not all video games need to be about the gameplay, which is something I would never have said before now, but the mystery in intrigueing, like a good mystery novel. The gameplay is used to guide the story rather than using it for addictive button mashing.
The world of Life is Strange is just like our world, with realistic people and realistic problems. As much as I’ve enjoyed other episodic adventure games, it’s nice to play one that feels just like real life, with people who feel real. I’ve actually had friends who remind me a lot of Max, Chloe, and even Warren. It’s like they’re real people and that makes me want to help them solve this mystery. Episode 4 can’t come quickly enough!
This game has been released on PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. This review is based on the PC version.