Monday, August 3, 2015

Life is Strange: Episode 4 Dark Room - Review


Over half a year ago the first episode of Life is Strange went up. It was a unique new adventure game, and it showed a lot of promise. Sure, back then no one was quite sure where this game would go, but now that we've seen four out of the five episodes, that has changed. Finally we are at the point where the game is fully fleshed out, and the game's main focus, the power of choice, is in full swing. EVERYTHING you may or may not have done is now greatly changing the story, and with Episode 4 comes even more hard choices. But once again, putting all of that aside, just how is Episode 4 on it's own? Well, if you've come this far, there's really no reason to turn back now. If you're still unsure though, or if you have yet to play the game at all -- well, then this review is for you. This is Life is Strange: Episode 4 Dark Room.

The Story:

Life is Strange is still the story of a young girl named Max who returns to her home town of Arcadea Bay to go to a famous school for art students. She's a young photographer, and she is there to follow her dreams of becoming one of the best -- of course, things don't go as planned. Max doesn't fit in very well, she's not a part of the "cool kids," she struggles to show off her talent, and those who she is close to are going through hard times as well. Max feels powerless to help those around her, but after going to the restroom to wash her face all of that changes.

While in there, a boy (who is a troubled student) walks in, and a young girl follows after -- this girl is none other than Chloe, Max's childhood friend whom she hasn't seen in years. The two argue as Max hides behind a bathroom stall, and soon after Chloe is shot dead. At this moment, as Max reaches her arm out for her fallen friend, time freezes, and everything resets. Once again she's back in the classroom, reliving the same lecture, as she is left completely dazed and confused. What happened? How did she get this power? How can she use this power? Could she save Chloe with it? All of these questions race through Max's head, but instead of worrying about it, she acts. Max makes her way to the bathroom, pulls a fire alarm to prevent Chloe from being shot, and she then begins her new life of trying to help those in need. The thing is, this school isn't how it should be. Something dark is happening behind the scenes, and Max is determined to get to the bottom of it.


After reuniting with Chloe, and telling her about her powers, the two go out to find what happened to a missing girl named Rachel Amber. She was Chloe's best friend after Max left, and the two had been through a lot. Shortly after Chloe's first best friend moved away, her dad died, she got a step dad she didn't like, and her life completely fell apart. She dyed her hair blue, she got into drugs (and other things), and she rebelled against her mom and step dad. Her life became a complete mess up until the point she met Rachel. According to Chloe the two were working hard to leave the town and start a new life, but sadly that never happened.

With Rachel gone, Chloe began hanging up signs looking for her, but it was to no avail. No one knew where she had gone, and Chloe never found any hard leads herself, but using Max's power that was all about to change. Max soon found herself in the middle of everything, with each Episode focusing on something slightly different. During the course of the game we got to see how different people were connected to each other, and how different past events directly tied in with Rachel's disappearance. As each episode released we got closer and closer to solving the mystery, and now with Episode 4 some of the biggest unanswered questions are finally answered.


Episode 4's story is one that has a beginning you will NEVER forget. If you've seen the ending of Episode 3, which was a huge shocker, then Episode 4 will continue that and fill you with a wide verity of emotions. It's one of the most memorable parts in a video game you'll see in quite awhile, but it doesn't last the entire episode. In fact, soon after the opening things will fall back into place, and you'll continue on just as you had in the first three. It sets the stages, and lets you see the game in a new way, but soon you'll be back to investigating the mysteries of Arcadia Bay.

The main focus of Episode 4 is on the Vortex club. If you've been following the series, you would realize that this game takes place on the day of the big "End of the World" party that has been advertised since the start. With very strange things happening at the end of each episode, and with Max's visions of a tornado destroying the place, it really does feel as if this party will be the "end of the world." A lot of mysteries surround the Vortex Club and the massive family who owns nearly the entire town -- the Prescotts, and now it is finally time to get to the bottom of it... Sort of.


While the fourth Episode does in fact answer a lot of questions, and it is filled with some of the most shocking moments the game has seen so far -- but because of that, a lot of new questions replace the old. Yes, you're going to finally learn the answer to some of the major questions you may have had, but new ones will take their place and set the stage for Episode 5. This makes Episode 4 the largest yet, and possibly be even better than the third. This time around the story also takes you to a much wider range of locations, and there will even be new text messages and extras for you to read during the first section. Overall this episode's story seemed to be much longer than past ones, and it is a perfect way to begin wrapping everything up. As mentioned before, if you've made it this far, you don't want to stop now -- and if you've never played, what are you waiting for?

The Gameplay:

Life is Strange, is, and always will be an interactive drama. (Have I said this before?) You take control of Max, walk around different areas, talk to people, choose from dialogue branches, and you can also hear comments from Max when you use the "look" action to examine different things. Each area of the game is packed full of things for you to interact with, and even returning areas from previous episodes will have some sort of new way to interact with it. There's also extra photos you can take to unlock achievements, and some areas even have puzzles for you to solve -- especially during key moments in the story. While none of this is new to the genre, what makes Life is Strange so unique is the time traveling aspect, and how you can use Max's time powers.


Rather than simply talking to someone, and choosing what you think may be the best option -- Life is Strange lets you rewind time to change just about any outcome you don't like. Did a conversation take a turn for the worse? Well, during it you may have learned something new you can use to your advantage. For example one moment in this episode has a few possible outcomes, but the first time you're most likely going to make things take a turn for the worse. Using what you now know from seeing it, new dialogue options and actions will appear that you can use to prevent it. Of course this particular conversation can still take a turn for the worse (and you can still pass it), but it really does come down to how you use the new information given to you. Past examples from earlier episodes include a girl who seems to hate your guts, but during her outbreak you learn about her sick mom. You can then turn around, rewind time, and then talk to her about it to cheer her up. Of course this one isn't key to the story (unlike the one in Episode 4), but Life is Strange is filled with these moments, and they all do have an effect the game in some way or another. Sometimes even not so important conversations will in return change the story just because of the information you learned. It's a deep system that has carried over into each episode, and soon it will all come together in the final part.


Of course, there is a limit to your time powers. You can only rewind up to specific points -- or rather, up until you change areas and advance the story. Until you go to the next key checkpoint and select "leave," you can undo everything you've done in that current location. Now sure, there were a few moments in the past Episodes where you couldn't (due to story reasons), but these times are few and far between, and they do not take away from the game at all. Other than that, you are completely free to do as you wish, and that gives the game a lot of replay value -- even before you finish it. With that being said though, this game is one that you may want to replay time and time again once the full thing is out. Sure, you'll know the answers to the mystery by then, but at least you'll be able to try to go about solving it in a different way (and alter the story greatly while doing so). In short, Life is Strange has great replayability, and it's gameplay is top notch.

The Good and the Bad:

Life is Strange is an amazing story, but again, it may not be for everyone. Yes it centers around two young women, but it's a game for everyone. It has a really well thought out story, a unique art style, and top notch music. Personally I was never into the genres included in the game, but it fits the game very well, and you may just find yourself humming the songs for years to come. The game just has a lot of charm in general, and it really helps add to the enjoyment. It's a game that sucks you into it's world, and it is really hard to leave it -- sadly the credits kind of force you to. Although there are many other games out there like this, the time mechanics add a breath of fresh air; something that a lot more games really should try to do.


On the down side, the game isn't perfect, and if you like it or not really comes down to what you enjoy in games. This is a story based game, not a gameplay based one, and some people may be put off by it's "hipster" high school student speak. If you can't stand words or sayings like "for reals" or "hella," you may find yourself cringing. While the game doesn't go overboard with it (at least not as much as they did in the first Episode), it may be enough to turn people off. Even so, if you can get past it, and if you like story based games, you'll find that Life is Strange is one to remember. The only other real downside is that at times lip syncing can get off, some animations can be a bit stiff, and throughout Episode 4 I personally noticed objects randomly flashing from time to time. It was never long, but it was kind of strange at times to look into the sky and see it quickly flash into existence. Of course these are just minor technical problems (that can be fixed with a patch), so I'm not going to let it impact my feelings on this one.

With all of that being said, this Episode was great. It's really sad to see the game getting close to it's end, but it's been one heck of a ride. I can't wait to see what happens next, but I know that I'm going to miss it when it's all said and done. It is a game I'll be sure to return to once the final part comes out, and I personally cannot wait to see how else I could have changed the game. This one really is something special, and Episode 4 did not disappoint. This is why I'm getting Life is Strange: Episode 4 Dark Room yet another perfect 10/10. The early episodes started out a little rough, but now things are in full swing.

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