Best of 2015: Life is Strange

by on December 13, 2015

2015 has been the year of Life is Strange, springing up in digital shops back in January and enthralling us for nine months. There have been podcasts, spoilercasts, analysis articles, you name it, all dedicated to people talking about how the series has made them feel. This wonderful game came out of nowhere and captivated many with its combination of excellent storytelling, Telltale style gameplay and a rousing soundtrack.

After the commercial failure of DONTNOD Entertainment’s first title, Remember Me, it’s surprising that someone took a chance on their next game – especially considering the risk-averse climate that exists in the world of videogames right now. But it seems that Square-Enix saw something good in Remember Me, and with Telltale’s games showing that the episodic adventure game formula is proving to be popular, they decided to give Life is Strange a chance.

Life is Strange brought us Maxine Caulfield (a young lady resembling Remember Me’s Nilin), who has returned to her former hometown of Arcadia Bay to study photography under world renowned photographer Mark Jefferson. Zoning out during class one day, Max dreams about a huge storm coming to wipe out the town, and from then on her life is never the same.

Bearing witness to the murder of her former best friend, Chloe, in the girl’s restroom leads Max to discover that she has the power to rewind time. What follows is a story about teen angst, unrequited love, time travel and a murder mystery with a twist that really springs out of left field. As you follow Max and Chloe through the course of the five episodes, you’ll be made to laugh and most definitely cry as the game besieges you with tough choices to make. There are times that you’ll query if what you did was right, or if the outcome could even be changed; can you save Kate Marsh? Should you have shot Frank? Did you pull the plug on Chloe’s life support?

Even the smaller choices felt like they carried weight, there’s just something about that little butterfly in the top-left corner that really makes you wonder if what you did was the right thing; it’s so much more affecting than Telltale’s ‘X will remember that.’ routine. Many times I found myself overwhelmed by the choice before me and I had to walk away and consider what I was about to do. I can’t recall any other game that’s made me do that.

Life is Strange moves at a leisurely pace, but there’s always some sort of impetus propelling you onwards; you just have to keep on moving. It’s nice then that throughout the game there are several points where you can just sit down and chill. Background noise fades out, the music comes through more and Max monologues about the stuff that’s been going on. These are great moments to just kick back and listen to the game’s superbly chill soundtrack. Whether it’s sitting in the park, laying on Chloe’s bed or taking in the art at the gallery, it’s just really nice to stop and take stock.

In a year where that’s seen Metal Gear Solid V, Destiny: The Taken King, Transformers Devastation and the sublime Rocket League, Life is Strange more than holds it’s own. I don’t often gush wildly over something, but the way LiS made me feel was unlike anything else I played this year.

There really isn’t much more I can say about this game. No amount of superlatives I can dish out for it can adequately convey just how special it is to me. So, I want to finish by thanking DONTNOD for inviting me into Arcadia Bay and letting me hang out with Max and Chloe. 2015 wouldn’t have been the same without them.