Square Enix has released Episode 3: Chaos Theory of Dontnod’s Life is Strange, which has surprisingly turned into the best episodic adventure game series currently in production. From pretty much out of nowhere, Dontnod’s Life is Strange episodes look better, run longer, and, unlike the company’s main competitors’ games, actually feature a primary game mechanic.
That ability to rewind time isn’t just for fickle adventure gamers, it is essential for solving the game’s sometimes substantial puzzles. Most importantly for an episodic series, Dontnod has also been able to maintain a regular semi-monthly schedule.
Unlike the other current episodic adventure games, Life is Strange is built with the Unreal Engine and at its heart is a third person adventure game. The areas to explore are large, which can be tedious when you’re looking for puzzle items, but give a sense of freedom that the game’s competitors lack.
Added onto that are compelling narrative and substantial content to support it. Instead of a high fantasy, science fiction, or zombie apocalypse setting, Life is Strange is pretty pedestrian. The main character, Max, is a high school student at a prep school in the state of Washington, with teenage girl problems. The only thing that makes the story unusual is that Max has visions of the future – that, and she can rewind time.
Chaos Theory picks up the night after the craziness of Episode 2, whichever way it ended, though Life is Strange really lends itself toward multiple playthroughs. Of course, if you saved Kate, you’re the town hero and no one will let you forget it. Unfortunately, that status doesn’t grant as many perks as you might hope. Life is Strange is a dialogue-heavy adventure game, but manages to balance it out with exploration and puzzles that utilize its signature time-rewind mechanic. Episode 3 actually even includes a stealth segment, though Max’s rewind ability ensures you don’t fail.
That stealth segment involves Chloe, of course. Actually, quite a bit of the episode is just about Max and Chloe. That’s really a good thing, because until now, Chloe came across as an entirely destructive force. To me, she is still pretty selfish and doesn’t always have Max’s best interest at heart, but after the third episode, I understand Chloe much better. By the end of this installment, I really cared about her.
Speaking of the ending, it’s a mindblower, and unfortunately we’ll all have to wait a couple of months to see what its real impact is.
Life is Strange’s Chaos Theory still endures some of the issues that plague the earlier episodes, but as you get to know Max and Chloe a little better, their uneven dialogue is more forgivable. Max’s nemesis Victoria is all but absent from the episode, too, which tones down some of the high school drama that tended to weigh down the first two episodes.
Unless there is some colossal failure in the final two episodes, Life is Strange is on track to become the standard that episodic adventure games are measured against.
Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Sexual Themes, Drug Reference, and Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC
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