Sunday, March 29, 2015

Life Is Strange: Episode 2 Out of Time - Review

Well here we are again! After over a month long wait Life Is Strange Episode 2 is finally out. It's already becoming clear just how hard it'll be waiting for each episode, but one can't help but wonder if it's really worth that wait. Now that we are past the introduction episode, what is this game really like? Will the future episodes live up to our expectations? Well, truthfully it's a bit too early to say, but we can focus on what's currently in front of us -- that being Episode 2 "Out of Time."

Now although I've already reviewed Episode 1 (feel free to go back and read it if you haven't), I'm still going to be tackling this review as if it were a new game. The simple fact is each part of this game will be focusing on something different, and because of that no two episodes will really feel the same. Yes the basics are the same, but the way it changes and evolves for each player as the story advances will provide a different gameplay experience. The real reason one might read this review is to find out if the game is headed in a good or bad direction, but those who know nothing about the first episode will learn about the game as a whole as well -- so, with that being said feel free to keep on reading (no matter who you are), and let us get started!

The Story:

Life Is Strange, as some of you may know, is a game about a young girl named Max who discovers she has the strange power to rewind time. After witnessing a young girl being shot to death in the bathroom at her school, she reaches out in horror as the world around her goes back to how it was less than an hour ago. Upon discovering what she can do, she sets out to prevent the murder, and by doing so she gets wrapped up into something much bigger -- but what? Life Is Strange is a mystery, and throughout the first episode players were slowly introduced to it. The things Max does, the things she sees -- they are somehow connected, but how? As an intro chapter, none of the questions brought up were actually answered (as to be expected), but that's what keeps us going. If you've played the first episode, then you've already seen the questions, and are now coming back to hopefully learn more. You've learned about the shooter, you've talked to people around her school, and you've gotten involved in people's lives. Now it's finally time to see what happens next, and once again put Max's time traveling powers to work.

As to be expected, Episode 2 picks up directly after the first (and to avoid spoilers I will not be telling you how that one ended). Now that Max has had a day to mess with her powers, she's become obsessed with learning more about them. She's reading books, watching movies, going to science fiction websites, and even asking others what they know about the subject of time travel. She wants to know how she is doing what she is doing, and she wants to know why as well. How come she, a normal 18 year old, can do what scientists aren't even close to being able to do? Of course it's possible to travel forward in time -- as the future has yet to happen, but how can she go back? Well, she doesn't learn that over night (even with who knows how many rewinds to give her unlimited time). With no choice but to finally move on with her day, she walks out into the hall, and heads for the shower room.

Like with Episode 1, Episode 2 focuses on the world around Max, and the people in it. There's a lot going on at this school, and it's up to the player to decide if they want to get involved or not. This time around there's a much larger focus on one of Max's friends who's going through a pretty hard time at the moment, but it also focuses a lot on the choices you personally made. Due to this game being controlled by your actions, each player will actually go into this and have a different experience. While I am personally getting threats by text message for one of my actions, many of you may avoid it completely. With Episode 2 it already has become clear just how much Max's actions will change the game, and that's where this episode really shines -- of course there's much more to this episode's story than that, but like I said, no spoilers.

The Gameplay:

Not much has actually changed from Episode 1, but again that is to be expected. Life Is Strange is an interactive drama, and like most it has players controlling the main character and interacting with the world. As you walk around, objects can either be looked at (which results in Max making a comment about them), or interacted with, and there's also people you can talk to (or choose not to). This sort of thing is all standard for this type of game, and anyone who has played anything in this genre will instantly feel right at home. The whole game is based on immersion, not action, and is the sort of thing you want to play only if you are interested in the story.

The thing that makes Life Is Strange stand out above other similar games is the use of time travel. At any point Max can actually rewind time and undo things that you have done, and she will remember the original outcome of said actions. For example, early on into this episode you talk talk to a girl who will freak out on you for making a comment about her mean friend. During this outburst, she'll mention her mom, and Max will be able to rewind time and use that information to change the conversation for the better -- if you choose to that is. It's this sort of thing that makes Life Is Strange great, and it also allows you to see different outcomes for some of the more harder choices as well. The thing is though, unlike in the first episode, this one throws tough choices at you right from the get go, and even with your ability to rewind time, you will still walk away from these choices with an uneasy feeling. Did you do the right thing? Who knows! You can't let it get to you, and you just have to move on and face the consequences (if there are any). Either way though, Episode 2 really does make you make some hard decisions, and at least a few can GREATLY alter the future. (Trust me, you will see...)

Besides walking around, talking to people, and making choices as you progress through the story, Life Is Strange also has extra content which you can either completely ignore, or use to extend each episode's length. Max carries with her a journal and her camera at all times, and in it you'll find a wide verity of information and pictures. Each character has a bio which you can read, Max writes down her past experiences (including what happened to her before Episode 1 started), and she also has a page for "extra" pictures to be place. When it comes to the actual journal, this is where you can simply read about different events and characters in the game, and get a little bit more insight on the game -- meanwhile photos are collectibles you can find (or rather, take) as you do specific things throughout the game. Some of these photos require you to do specific things for them to pop up, sort of like a puzzle, but others can easily be found. The game also has a collection mode so you can go back and find them if you missed any, so they really are a nice extra (and they reward you with achievements/trophies).

Although Episode 2 isn't too much different than Episode 1, it does actually have a bit more gameplay, a lot more choices to make, and we see the results of some of your previous choices as well. If you're someone who liked Episode 1, but were hoping for something more, Episode 2 does provide it. It's roughly around the same length as the first, but with so much going on it is clearly an episode that you'll be revisiting quite a bit if you want to see all of the possible outcomes in future episodes.

The Good and the Bad:

Just as last time, Life Is Strange doesn't really have any "bad points." The mouth movements of the character's don't perfectly match what is being said (which can cause it to look a bit strange at first -- something you'll instantly notice), but it's something that is easy to overlook and you do get used to after awhile... It's just that it's been so long since the first episode that you will most likely notice it again. Other than that though, the game is pretty solid. It controls just fine, there's a lot to interact with, the story is very immersive, and the music is top notch. While some games have a promising start but begin to fall apart the more you get into it, Life Is Strange has thankfully not done that (yet). Of course we don't know what the future will bring us, but as long as this game continues down this road, it will be fine. This game is one that will hook you each time you play, and it will leave you begging for more as the credits roll. Of course, it all depends if you like this sort of game. If you're the type of person who wants action, and tons of gameplay, then this may not be for you -- it's more for those who want a story more than anything else.

Really it feels kind of strange to do this, but overall I'm going to have to give this game the very same score I gave Episode 1. It's an easy 9/10, with only some minor issues really holding it back. While these issues are easy to overlook (which means I may up the rating in future episodes -- or drop it depending on where this game goes), Episode 2 just isn't quite "there" yet. It's great, sure, but it is still early on and more of an intro episode just as Episode 1. Knowing this type of game, things may get crazy soon, so maybe Episode 3 on up will completely blow us away, and leave us talking about it for years to come. Who knows, but we'll see! Either way, if you liked Episode 1, Episode 2 was worth the wait.