Initial Impressions – Life is Strange (Episode One – Chrysalis)

Remember a few weeks back when I wrote an article about my thoughts on Dontnod Entertainment’s newest game, Life is Strange, being turned away from certain publishers for its female lead character? Well the game in question was released this past week and I had the pleasure of downloading it and playing it, and I rather enjoyed it! Life is Strange is an episodic series of games set to release a couple of months apart, totaling five full episodes. Episode one – Chrysalis is out now on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.

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The story follows a young woman named Max as she struggles with a new school, a broken friendship, and a strange new power – the power to reverse time. This mechanic makes this game stand out, leaving its mark on the gaming world in a great way. The game is very narrative driven and almost everything you do, from watering a plant in your room to telling the principal about a student with a gun, will have some sort of consequence later on. In this sense it is a bit like the Telltale games, though I found that Life is Strange has a lot more environmental space to explore as well as more choices to make, ranging from seemingly insignificant to possibly life threatening. The rewind time mechanic is also unique and lends a new perspective to narrative-based, episodic games.

Every choice you make can be undone and done differently through Max’s ability to rewind time. You can make a choice, realize it was the wrong choice or want to see what another choice would have lead to, and simply rewind to do it differently (or not at all). This mechanic can also be used in conversations, allowing you to go back and say something different to the person you are talking to, as well as in crucial parts of the story. I think it’s a really cool thing to have in a choice-heavy game as it lets you play around with all the possibilities without having to play through the episode multiple times.

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The narrative itself is also rather unique, touching on some serious issues and having a lot of social commentary. I really like it when video game stories dig deep and do new things with narrative, making it not only something relatable but also something purely intriguing. It also has it’s video-game like elements such as the ability to rewind time, which is not a realistic ability that humans possess. All in all I found Life is Strange to have the perfect balance of realism and fiction, making it believable and touching yet still obviously a video game. While things may seem simple within the story, its obvious that something else is going on which is yet to be seen which drives the player to keep pushing forward

The characters in Life is Strange have depth, which is another feature I love in games like this. It’s key to have the characters involved in heavy narrative-based games to be realistic and to be relatable (or the opposite for villainous characters), otherwise the story will feel pointless. Max is an interesting lead character because she isn’t typical, she isn’t expected and she has some grit yet she is also very sweet. She showcases a level of agency that should be a standard for main characters, yet sadly isn’t. The developers did a great job with creating her and making her into the character she is. Other characters in the game feel similar in that they are all multidimensional, some more than others, and all feel like individuals.

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I found the narrative when paired with the intriguing characters, the simple gameplay and the rewind time feature make for pure entertainment. Playing through episode one of Life is Strange was enjoyable and of course left off on a cliff hanger, making me want the next episode to be released ASAP. I’d definitely recommend picking this game up or at least trying out the free demo that is available, it’s a game you really don’t want to miss – especially if you are fond of the narrative-based, episodic games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

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