I played through the whole season of Life is Strange over the weekend, starting on Friday night with episode 1, then episode 2 and part of 3 on Saturday, and the rest of the game on Sunday. Evidently, I enjoyed the experience.
Often I don’t feel engaged with the characters and world of a video game; there’s often a lot detail to wade through beyond the protagonist’s personal story that can make exploring a game universe feel like a chore at times. For example, in Shenmue and Mass Effect, there’s a lot of detail, but much of that detail isn’t personal, it’s about portraying a larger universe that the characters have been thrust into. That’s not always a bad thing, but too much of it can take away from a tightly focused story.
Life is Strange is not one of those games - it’s more like Panzer Dragoon Saga in that the respect, the game universe and the characters in it nearly all feel connected to Max’s life in some way. The locations are minimal as well, with not much space to explore, but there’s depth to them. It does indeed feel grounded in reality. The small parts of the world that are explorable feel lived in. Even though there’s also a science fiction element, it is for the most part used to further enhance the story and characters rather than just being there as a cool gameplay mechanic. I felt really engrossed in the story, continually wanting to see what happens next - that’s not something that I can say about most video game stories.
Although Life is Strange is primarily a story based game, there is some gameplay here, mainly in the form of examining environments with minor interactions, responding to multiple choice conversations (which actually effect later parts of the story), and a great time travel mechanic. There are no combat mechanics and no quick time events, which I am thankful for (indeed, the fact that Life is Strange works so well without QTEs proves, to me, that modern games don’t need QTEs to tell cinematic stories).
It’s essentially a “choose your own adventure” game. I haven’t played the Telltale games either (I intend to try them), but from what I hear the consequences of your actions are further reaching in Life is Strange. For example, a choice that I made in episode 1 (which I didn’t think much of at the time) had a ripple effect throughout the game and ended up changing a character’s actions in episode 4. There seems to be many small variations to the story like this, although I’ll need to replay the game to really see how many big variations to the story there are. That brings me to the ending:
I was also disappointed with the ending. Much of the last episode felt a bit disconnected from the strong sense of a consistent reality presented in episodes 1 - 4. Perhaps I’ll pick up more detail from a second play through, but it seems that we didn’t learn much more about the mysterious events relating to the tornado and the origins of max’s ability, we just saw more effects. Yet we’re asked to believe that there could only be two choices in the end, without an in-depth explanation as to why. This seems contrived, given that we’re presented with many alternative choices for other events earlier in the game.
The ending aside, I’m very pleased to have played through Life is Strange. Thanks for recommending it @Draikin. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the potential sequel.