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Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2015 by Malin
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about the end of the game Life is Strange. To sum it all up, people seem to be disappointed that their choices didn’t matter in the way which they had been promised. However, I think that statement comes with a lot of baggage due to the statement being used in a game that sort of changed the tide for the genre– The Walking Dead. In The Walking Dead, each time you made a decision it was always an impact that was made itself known quite quickly after you made the choice, and in Life is Strange, it isn’t quite so.
The beauty of Life is Strange is not that you can rewind time and make everything perfect– it’s the fact that even with the capability of rewinding time, you have no idea of what good it will do in the long run. Ever since the beginning of episode 1 the player can alter the way characters see them, but they consist mostly of slight shifts that do not change the course of action of the story. Nathan may smile when he sees you and deliver his lines in a less contemptuous fashion, or Chloe might not guilt-trip you for not being on her side in a certain moment, but there are always plenty of memories and scenarios that have already pre-destined a character’s disposition towards you.
In the same way The Walking Dead killed off characters one episode after you could choose to save them or not, Life is Strange may feel for some as though all their hard work was for nothing. But I wonder if that is true. For me, Life is Strange was about exploration rather than the outcome of it. If anything, Life is Strange tells you that you cannot manipulate everyone and everything around you to suit your needs, as you have no idea of the outcome, no matter how far back in time you travel in order to fix it. Perhaps we as players are so used to feeling as though we are all-knowing Gods that we can’t deal with the fact that a game might leave us with nothing more but memories of things that never happened.
We are so used to having “replayability!! everything will be different next time around!!” stuffed down our throats that a game that specifically is made to shift our thoughts of the story it represents as the game develops makes us feel as though we’ve been set up for failure, when in fact, we were taught the same lesson our main character was. Some things must happen, and you are only prolonging its outcome.
Even so, though, DONTNOD gave enough blank space inbetween the time travelling that Max might still have made the decisions you made for her previously. Who is to say that Max will never find herself in the scenario of pouring white paint over Victoria just because one or two characters in the game aren’t at campus anymore?
Personally, I have never been so proud of a game that uses tropes of many crime thrillers or horror movies and still manage to do it far more tasteful than I have seen in games previously. Max might have needed rescuing, but she manipulated her captor to clear the path for her savior as well as guide him towards victory. Thinking about it just now, perhaps it also restored a bit of her faith in adults.
My personal favorite scene in Episode 5 was when Max does not take a picture of Mr. Jefferson as he lay out cold on the floor, his hands duct-taped, just like she had been moments before. There is a trope within horror where the pure victim becomes tainted by their captor in order to make the tables turn. The captor becomes the victim and the victim the captor in this scenario, but there is a certain type of strength in not letting the terrible things that happened to you corrupt you into someone you would never become otherwise.
Perhaps I am bias as I did not mind Jefferson’s exposition dialogue since I myself was curious as to how he justified his actions, and I was so proud over the fact that Max got to deal with the aftermath– the trauma of having one of your rolemodels turn into such an awful, awful person. At first I wondered why her nightmare only consisted of men trying to chase her down, but then I realized that Jefferson probably put a chink into her trust for them. After all, the nightmare happened mere hours after she escaped the Dark Room, and it showed the fear she must have had at that moment, of all men wanting to either kill or possess her, intermingled with the fear of her friends not caring for her at all.
The developers could have ignored Max’s inner self completely to create more of a story for the universe, but the beginning of the game was so devoid of Max’s inner feelings that I found it to be an absolute treat to know what she felt, and the universe had been set up quite neatly beforehand, with certain things left unsaid that I found were fine being left as they were.
In the long run, I found that episode 5 set out to deliver what it promised; finding Rachel Amber and capture her wrong-doers. …and have an amazing adventure with an otherwise lost friend.