Do you remember the first time you went away from home? To live by yourself in a strange city about which you knew nothing? Enjoying the newfound freedom along with its difficulties. Facing those difficulties by yourself. Making difficult choices and moving on to the next challenge. Trying to make something of yourself in the limited time you have on this planet. It’s something which all of us experience and relate to. But ever wondered what life is like for someone else? How differently does the person sitting next to you interprets the things which you are witnessing? What’s going on in their head?
‘Life is Strange’ is a unique game. It is not your usual ‘point & shoot’ game, or the already cliché ‘battle royale’ genre. The game is a step in a different direction. You will not be controlling massive armies, fighting in wars, jumping off mountains or racing against your friends in multi-million dollar sports cars. Instead you will be assuming the role of an 18 year old girl called Max; and peek into and experience her life, from her perspective.
The story begins with Max who has has recently moved back to her old home of Arcadia from Seattle to study photography in the renowned Blackwell Institute. It is the first time she has moved away from home and is slowly learning what life is like without the sugarcoating. How to deal with people, problems and most of all, herself.
The core gameplay mechanic of Life is Strange can be divided into two parts. The first one is making hard choices. Throughout the game you will enter situations where you have to choose between two or more choices. Depending on the choices you make, the storyline of the game will be affected. The game forces you to be decisive. The game puts you in a dilemma throughout its story. We can compare this decision making system to Mass Effect where certain choices could affect the final outcome of the game. However there is a twist to this system.
The twist brings us to the second part of the core gameplay mechanic. Reversing time. Max discovers that she has the power to reverse time. Hence, you can take a decision. If you don’t like the consequences you can simply reverse time and choose the other option. You can reverse time as much as you want. But you can only move on by choosing one of the options. There is no third way out.
The ability to reverse your decisions indeed adds a distinct flavour to the game. You will find yourself reversing time more often than not. Curiosity will get the better of you. The ‘What if?’ factor in this game is extraordinarily high. In contrast, Mass Effect had greater consequences for our actions, but the ‘What if?’ factor was not as high due to the reason that it’s story was spread out over three different installments of the franchise (Each installment giving you at least 20 hours of playtime). To arrive at a certain decision again, you may have to go through an entire game (or even two games) just to reach that decision. Whereas, in Life is Strange it is not so. You can come back to a specific point in the story quickly.
Multiple consequences or story lines adds heavily to the ‘replayability’ of any game. According to a rough calculation by me. An episode takes at least 2 hours to finish if you completely explore the maps. There are 5 episodes, so that’s at least 10 hours of playtime. The multiple story lines adds at least another 25 hours of playtime. The total comes out to be 35 hours. This is a good amount of playtime for a game of its price.
Life is Strange follows an episodic structure rather than the usual continuous story line. The game is divided into episodes like a television (or web) series. It is quite interesting to see short clips of “what will happen in the next episode?” or “recap” of the previous episode. The latter is useful especially when you return to the game after a long time. To summarize, the game is an interactive series.
However, there are a two places where I personally feel the game falls short of perfection.
One of my biggest complaints is the character model. A game which is so heavily dependent on its story and characters. The character models are quite dismal. Whenever they talk, you cannot see the emotions being expressed on their faces. This is a game which was released in 2015, which is 4 years after L.A. Noire released and the latter has the best facial expressions till date. Funding cannot be an excuse since Square Enix was involved in this project. Better character models would have definitely improved the experience of the game.
Another shortfall is that the game world should have more activities. There are small side activities like clicking photographs throughout episodes and collecting for a journal which Max maintains. But there could be more! Like the posters on gun control! Maybe those classes could actually be integrated into the game and not be left just as comic relief.
This game is not for the usual gamer. As I have exemplified earlier in the review. You will not be doing your usual battles or races. Instead you will be experiencing life. In fact, you should play this game as it has highlighted the problems of our so-called ‘modern society’ and shines a light on various social issues like gender inequality which women face in developed countries such as the United States of America. This game could be one of the methods of developing deeper understanding of these issues and inculcate sensitivity among the people. You will be at the receiving end while playing this game. It will give you the ability to empathize.
Episode 1 is available for free on Steam. The remaining episodes are available for Rs.565.00/- (All episodes are included in this price) which is quite reasonable. As aforementioned, the game with its ‘replayability’ has value for money. You don’t need to wait for a sale or price drop to purchase it. I assure you, that you will enjoy this game like I have if you can accept its unconventionality. Don’t be in a dilemma and let this one pass. Go and experience it.
I would like to conclude this review with a quote from the game, which kind of summarizes the game and even to a certain extent, life.
“Always take the shot” – Mark Jefferson, Life is Strange
Check out this video to get a glimpse of the game!
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