Square Enix and Dontnod’s Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time caps off a busy week for episodic adventure games. Just under two months since the French company’s five part series debuted, the more well-known adventure game company, TellTale also released episodes of their Game of Thrones and Tales From the Borderlands series. Of course it’s impossible not to compare and contrast the two companies’ take on adventure gaming. Despite TellTale’s experience in the genre, Dontnod’s Life is Strange is actually better in a number of ways.
Life is Strange is an original IP, and as such has a narrative freedom that licensed games don’t have. Unfortunately, that sword cuts both ways, and an original game doesn’t have the safety net that an established franchise provides. A huge difference Life is Strange boasts over the TellTale games is gameplay, and with Episode Two: Out of Time, players get to use Max’s time rewind ability right out of the gate. Except for the very end, this ability can be used throughout the entire episode, and losing the ability to rewind time at the worst possible time, reminds players how essential remembering details is in an adventure game.
Life is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield, a photography student at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. Though she’s not entirely a loner, she’s certainly not the most popular kid at the school. After a strange and frightening dream, Max discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. The narrative borrows from indie movies like Juno, along with a good sized helping of Veronica Mars, and sets it all to a licensed indie soundtrack. While the dialogue earnestly attempts authenticity, there are occasionally cringe worthy lines. Despite its flaws, and particularly by the ending of this second episode, the overall story is pretty engaging.
Out of Time picks up the day after the events in the first episode of Life is Strange. A new day means a whole new set of problems, in addition to the consequences of Max’s previous choices. Where many of the characters seemed a bit one dimensional in the first episode, in the second episode you really have the ability to get to know everyone a little bit better. Two episodes into Life is Strange, and the seemingly doomed town really starts to feel real. Where TellTale’s games are much more situational, Life is Strange lets you dig deeper and really live Max’s life. The absence of the legacy cursor TellTale relies on, also helps.
Besides filling out Max’s world, Out of Time adds some consequences to the choices she makes. It’s not just the big choices that have weight, all of the relationship building conversations start to mean something. It’s all of the little things, like how Chloe doesn’t really appreciate that you saved her life, but that the desperate Kate Marsh hangs on your every word, that makes all of these interactions feel real. While the first episode made it easy to identify the bad guys, the second episode reveals that it’s not ever quite that simple.
Despite having the time rewind capability from the beginning, it’s the authenticity of the relationships that makes Out of Time so good. Add the character depth to larger areas to explore, a bigger cast, and the Unreal Engine, and in my opinion Life is Strange is a better overall product, than most of TellTale’s offerings. There’s no familiar IP with Life is Strange, but even with a few dialogue issues, the storytelling is excellent. By the end of Out of Time, there’s no way to not be on board for the rest of the ride.
Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Drug Reference, Strong Language, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC
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