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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Game Review: Life Is Strange (2015) and Decision Making

 "It's like I'm being punished by the universe."
Developed By: Dontnod Entertainment
Published by: Square Enix
Release Date: Jan. 2015 - Oct. 2015
Platforms: PS3/4, XBOX 360/One, PC, OS X

This doesn't just apply to Chloe, the character who says this, but us, as a player. We waiting month after month for each episode, we picked decisions that we hoped would play out the best in the end and we followed Max around in her life hoping for the best for this shy, quiet, high school girl that we'd grown attached to. However, if you've played the game, you would know that the final decision invalidates every decision you've made in the game. Every single last one. Every relationship you made, every person you helped, every terrible event turned around was made voided as if we were being punished for one wrong decision that we made along the way, but no, it was all supposed to happen regardless of what you did, but even through that, it doesn't make Life is Strange a bad game. If anything that made it a great game. During the final moments of the game, after you picked whatever you decided to pick, you were either angry, hurt, sad, or satisfied as I was and that's what makes a great game. If you can feel something like those emotions, just from hitting a button and watching the consequences of it, that is what makes a good game and this is only one example of the way that decision making that is what makes Life is Strange stand apart from it's predecessors like The Walking Dead, or The Wolf Among Us. 
Life is Strange, as I've stated before, follows the story of Max, a high school student who suddenly develops the ability to travel in time, but here we have a specific story and specific things we're supposed to do, but what? There are many things one thinks about when time travel is mentioned. The possibilities are endless, but the game restricts us not only to not have us wreck havoc and give us some kind of direction, but because it wants us to really think about what we're being presented with. We are a high school student, small and shy, and suddenly we're presented with the ultimate ability, however, there's still only so much we can do. This magical power are great and give us some flexibility in the problems we can pick and choose to solve, but with some of choices we make, there's only so much we can do about their consequences as we are still human and there is some sort of reality we live in. For example, we note that Kate, has a racy video put out on the internet, we can try and console or be kicked out. We can reason with her or let her shut us out and we can aid her in her time of need, but it doesn't erase the video. It doesn't stop the video from being placed out there. Some things happen for a reason and there are some things that the universe controls, not us, no matter how hard we may try to do so. 
We travel back in time to try and stop a mysterious storm that is approaching that seems to be going to destroy the town, find out more about a missing girl and keep our best friend alive along the way, so we aren't going back in time to kill Hitler or anything. We aren't going back in time to fix society, we're going back in time to try and figure out what's causing this storm and why, and even more so, before we're presented with the ability to time travel, there are missing posters for a girl named Rachel Amber plastered everywhere. Why? Maybe our goal is to find her alive and well as well. Maybe we can travel back and save her from some menacing person, but there are...again...things we cannot change. We go on this wonderful time adventure, but in the end, we have to grow up and face the reality we've created by our decisions regardless of what was going on when we made them. For example, we wake up one episode with a plant and there is no contextual background information on said plant. Has it been watered? How much water does it actually need? And if you choose to water it, it dies in the next episode. This is just one example of the decision making aspect of the game. It's not creating horrible consequences like the death of someone or plants for simply going with your gut, but it's an example of the fact that when you make a decision, the outcome of said decision is the thing you cannot control because after the plant dies, it's dead and that's it. 
And again, Life is Strange does this well. People say that it ignores our decisions and gives us crappy outcomes based on things we know nothing about. It's just like real life. We don't know what will happen till it happens and I feel like people don't like that because they want everything to go well and be unreal because it is a video game, but Life is Strange is about life. The time travel twist is great and wonderful, but in the end, the game is supposed to be about life and the decisions we make, which is why I personally love it. The game doesn't rely on fantastic visuals to hook us. We aren't stunned by the graphics. If anything, the lack of sync with the visual and the audio angered me, but I got past it once the story picked up. The story, the themes and everything else are what hook you. The characters, no matter how big or small their role is, grow on you. You can sympathize with just about everyone, no matter how much you hate them initially. While the characters are very much so cliched and the writing is very after-school-special like and every high school TV trope from the stoned skater to the insecure mean girl is presented, you ignore this and start to see them as the people you know because while they're tropes, they're still based off of real people and the things they portray real people in real life. 
Life is Strange is a game filled with magic. Magic and reality are given to us on a platter and we are to pick which option we want and obviously, we pick the magic and the illusion it holds to mask reality, but reality always pokes out when we least expect it. It's a game that I've played time and time again, doing different things each time because at the moment it is fun, but coming to the same conclusion each time because that's just how things are supposed to be. It's a game that will leave you with a bunch of emotions you may not be able to handle, but they're worth it. This game is worth it, so I highly recommend you play it.

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