Saturday, October 24, 2015

Life is Strange: Episode 5 Polarized - Review

Eight months, two weeks, and six days. That's how long it has been since we first met Max and Chloe, and began following their story through time. It's really hard to believe that it's been that long since we started this adventure, but now it is all finally coming to an end. Life is Strange Episode 5 is now officially out, and we are finally going to get the answers we have been waiting for. It's been a long hard journey for our young friends -- mainly Max, but what awaits them this time is nothing like they seen before. It's a grand conclusion to a great story, and one that will surely be remembered by all. This is Episode 5: Polarized.

The Story:

Life is Strange is the story of a young girl named Max, and her best friend Chloe. After returning home to her childhood town, Max enrolls in a famous art school, and begins pursuing her dreams of becoming a professional photographer; however, what begins as your typical high school story soon evolves into something unexpected. One day after class Max witnesses her childhood friend being shot to death in the girl's bathroom, and as she reaches out for her time resets. Confused about what is going on, Max slowly begins to realize that she has somehow gained the power to rewind time, and she decides to put this ability to good use. By rushing to the bathroom and pulling the fire alarm, Max is able to prevent Chloe's murder, and life goes on for the both of them -- or does it?

Something isn't right in this town of Arcadia Bay. Chloe's friend Rachel has gone missing, a powerful family is slowly consuming all businesses in the area, Chloe's step dad appears to be up to something, and at times it seems like even the school principal is up to something shady. The town is in a dark depressing state, and it feels like no one can be truly trusted. What happened to Rachel? What is going on with Max's friend Kate? Chloe lost her real father shortly after Max originally moved away, but what's going on with her step dad? Who is this family, and who is this Nathan kid who Max saw shoot Chloe? And what about this vision of a tornado destroying the town Max keeps seeing? The game brings forward a lot of questions, and with the final episode we finally do get our answers... Mostly.

Episode 5: Polarized picks up shortly after the shocking end of Episode 4, and once again puts us in Max's shoes as she tries to make things right. Using her powers to rewind and change time, Max goes over everything that has happened up to this point, and she fights for her life in an attempt to fix what she has done wrong. This really makes this particular episode a lot different form the others. Rather than exploring new areas and gathering clues to the mystery, this time around Max is relying on what she already knows, and on what you have seen for yourself. For example, there are moments where you'll be seeing something you remember (from possibly months ago), but knowing what you do now puts it in different light. Sometimes simply looking at a poster on a wall will make you realize the truth, but other times it'll be full memories that you'll relive. Of course, Episode 5 isn't all old locations. There is quite a bit of new here to see as well, but these areas are not the main focus of this last episode. This one is all about getting to the bottom of things, and hopefully finding a way to set it all right.

The main change from Episode 5's story is that it's tone is also much darker. While past episodes had moments of happiness, this one takes on an almost horror like tone. Again, Max is fighting for her life here, and things do take some truly messed up twists. There are moments where you'll be shocked the story is willing to go that far, and there's also times where you'll be seeing something that you can't quite comprehend. Overall though, Episode 5 really sets the perfect mood for the end of this series, and it continues to be exciting from beginning to end. It's easily one of the best moments in this game's story, and it's ending will be burned into your mind for years to come. Anyone wanting an epic conclusion to this story will be happy to know that it does deliver.

The Gameplay:

The gameplay in Episode 5 of Life is Strange hasn't changed. This is a graphical adventure game where you control Max and interact with the world around you. You can walk to just about anything you see, you can use the "look" command to have Max make a comment about something, you can use an "action" command to interact with some objects, and you can also choose to talk to most of the people you see -- with branching dialogue options as well. This part of the gameplay is standard for this genre, but what makes Life is Strange unique is the ability to rewind time.

At any point (with a limit to how far you can go back) Max can rewind time. This means you can not only take back the things you've said to people, but you can also use it to learn information, and then rewind to change the outcome of a conversation with said info. It's a unique system that worked well throughout the game, but with Episode 5 it isn't quite as useful -- at least, when it comes to conversations. While there are moments you'll want to rewind just to see if other choices will have better outcomes, most of the time you'll be using the rewind ability to solve puzzles instead. There are moments where you'll want to get past an obstacle (great song), or you'll need to keep something from happening, and the only way to do so will be by rewinding time. In this sense the rewind ability is used really well in this episode, but those who enjoyed changing the conversations may be a bit let down. Although, considering where we currently are in the story, it wouldn't make sense to expand on the conversation system -- especially with what is going on.

As many would expect, Life is Strange's final episode is still Life is Strange, and it's gameplay hasn't changed. Fans will already know what to expect from it, but at the same time they will also be greeted with a new experience. Some really interesting things happen with this game and it's exploration based gameplay, but that's something I won't be spoiling for you. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

The Good and the Bad:

Where to even begin? Life is Strange was a very unique experience, and it was a story that many of us could relate to. It had great character development, love able characters, a great setting, and a story full of twists and turns. While some moments were better than others, overall it was a game very worth playing. With the final episode, you are left with a wide verity of emotions swerling inside you. Sure, some of the animation can look a bit odd, lips aren't always in sync, and you may notice some minor pop in, but that's just it -- it's all minor. The good greatly outweighs the bad in this one, and after awhile you completely stop noticing such problems. What you're left with though, is an unforgettable game. This episode itself though, it's really something special.

While past episodes of this game never pushed things too far, Episode 5 goes places we wouldn't have expected it to, and it also shows off some amazing character development. There are times where past events will pull at your heart strings as they are brought into the open, there are characters whom will reveal their true selves to you, and there are others who you may have initially disliked but now find yourself concerned for. Max, her friends, and all of their relationships have greatly changed over the course of this game, and Episode 5 does such a great job bringing all of that together. On top of that, this episode also wasn't afraid of doing or saying some controversial things. Leading up to the finale you really don't know what to expect, and some of the things you see will completely shock you. (There are even moments where you may just sit there looking at your screen in horror!) What this episode did is something no one could have possibly seen coming, and it's the perfect ending for the series.

Overall, Life is Strange Episode 5: Polarized is easily one of the best send offs to a series, and it is something everyone who enjoys this type of game should play. What happens in this episode will stay with you for quite some time, and it may even keep you up at night and continue to pull you back in as you drive to work in the morning (at least, that's what happened to me). Needless to say, every moment of this final episode was enjoyable, and it is very well deserving of being a perfect 10/10. Really it's sad to see this one go, but it was well worth the almost year long wait. Good job guys, can't wait to see what game you tackle next.