Life is Strange


I mostly play Destiny these days (more on that in a few days) and while I have played a good number of indie games on the side of that it has mostly been fleeting experiences that I did not have any meaningful reason to reflect upon – and then, there is dontnod’s Life Is Strange that wrapped up last week.

Dontnod built the interesting and beautiful “Remember Me” a few years back, reportedly it had some issues with realizing the design but I opted to watch a supercut of the story presentation rather than play the game and quite enjoyed the world they built – I was looking forward to Life is Strange as soon as I heard about it, but more so after learning that they were playing to their strengths and omitting the action gameplay for a modern adventure-game story presentation. While not exactly an unusual occurrence these days (Fullbright comes to mind) it i always nice to see an AAA developer making the most of their successful ideas even if it means abandoning genre conventions.

Life is Strange is an amazing game – I say that first to get my opinion out of the way, because there are many things to nitpick, and even more things that not everyone will appreciate. There is some rote puzzle gameplay, the interface does not always support a smooth experience and although the amount of content produced by such a small team in such a short time is impressive, it sometimes overreaches and things like shoddy lipsyncing removes gravitas. The odd variation of teenspeak can grating at first. With a varied cast of characters most people will dislike someone and some people will feel like the game – despite being about choice and consequence – nudges them into making certain choices. Perhaps most importantly, this being a story about time travel it has the uncomfortable position of either not explaining anything or losing its more human bits in favor of extended sci-fi blabber that still will not be convincing – after having discussed this with many people, I do not think there is a middle ground to satisfy everyone here.

So Life is Strange is not for everyone. It most certainly was for me though.

I have not been playing telltale’s offerings so I do not have a lot of prior experience with this kind of adventure game, but allowing the player to see the immediate results of their actions without revealing the long-term consequences makes them personal and almost moral rather than game-y economic choices. It also used the fact that it is an episodic game to great effect since in most cases the effects of your choices would not be visible until several months down the line. Life is Strange also had a good mixture of some truly intense moments and some delightfully low-key opportunities to reminisce, and despite the aforementioned puzzles it had moments of pure genius when it came to delivering a story with the gameplay itself. It has characters that appear as stereotypes at first but reveal themselves to have layers when you get them to open up and – I should point out this is very much a personal preference – it has the good sense to focus on these characters to the end instead of losing itself in sci-fi. There’s also a metanarrative going on in the conclusion that I found very well instrumented.

Dontnod is working on Vampyr now, not much is known at this point but I, for one, can’t wait.

Posted on Oct 29/15 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »