Life is Strange is a rare gem of game developed by Dontnod and published by Square Enix in 2015, and three years later its ability to craft an immersive and emotional narrative still holds up. The plot centres around Maxine (Max) Caulfield returning to her home of Arcadia Bay to attend a prestigious arts college, Blackwell Academy, and her anxieties about reuniting with her childhood friend, Chloe, after she feels she abandoned her when she moved away.
The relationship between Max and Chloe is integral to the emotive aspect of the narrative, whatever happens, no matter the flaws in their characters you’re always rooting for them due to the intense bond they share, despite not being in contact for 5 years. One of the many positives about this game is that it manages to make all the characters feel very real and flawed, even the villains of the game.
Life is Strange manages to make all the characters seem very real and flawed, even the villains
Over five short episodes, the game takes you on Max’s journey as she learns to take control of her new-found time bending power. Max can turn back time, therefore enabling her to make different decisions in different situations if they turn out badly.
This works great as both an in-game puzzle solving mechanic and narrative device, creating many alternate worlds that Max can learn from. Basically, Max has everyone’s dream power - a real life reload your save game, if you will - to make sure nothing goes wrong, but will her powers end up being all they were cracked up to be?
The use of acoustic guitar-based songs really emphasises the melancholic, youthful themes
One of the greatest things about this game is that it has arguably one of the greatest soundtracks in any video game ever. I know that may seem like a rather bold claim but the use of acoustic guitar-based songs really emphasises the melancholic, youthful themes of the game, whilst adding an emotional backdrop to particularly intense scenes. If you were curious I’d check out: “Mt. Washington” by The Local Natives, “To All of You” and “Something Good” by Syd Matters and “In My Mind” by Amanda Palmer. These songs are made much better when thought of in the context of the game however.
Life is Strange offers an emotional journey that not a lot of games of recent years have managed to deliver, even if its prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm, whilst recommended, doesn’t quite live up to the atmosphere and plot that Life is Strange offers.