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'Episode 4: Dark Room,' like its title implies takes 'Life is Strange' down a very dark path. From star to finish, there's no letting up, and even with another chapter to go, 'Life is Strange' has already cemented its place as an iconic adventure game.

PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Life is Strange: Episode 4 – Dark Room’

If you were shocked by the ending of the last episode, just wait until you get into the second half of Life is Strange: Episode 4 – Dark Room. While Dontnod’s episodic adventure game has been setting up a fairly dark reality, Episode 3 revealed that an alternate timeline isn’t necessarily better. While Life is Strange has dealt with a number of adult issues, the point of view of the main protagonists held back some of the story’s maturity. With Dark Room, Life is Strange leaves behind all of its youthfulness, and becomes a dark, gritty, adult experience.

Life is Strange, Episode 4, Dark RoomEpisoide 3: Chaos Theory ended with Max’s time manipulation forcing her childhood friend, Chloe, into a wheel chair as a quadriplegic, with no sensation below her neck. In the two months between episodes, I pondered which reality was actually the better reality. This same dilemma is played out in Max’s head throughout the beginning of Episode 4. Dontnod actually does a good job of filling out the world in this alternate reality. From the changes at Chloe’s home to text messages on Max’s phone, this new world feels complete, and adequately prepares the player to choose between the two possibilities. That choice never comes.

While you could possibly argue that maybe Chloe is happier with her whole family, despite her paralysis, luckily, Life is Strange doesn’t burden the player with that decision. Just because we don’t have to make that decision, doesn’t mean that Dontnod makes it easy. The whole alternate reality bit is wrapped up in the first third of the episode, but not before offering an equally hard choice for Max to make. While the choice offers significant weight, it’s unclear what the long term consequences are.  Chloe’s suffering and the weight of it all overwhelms Max to the point that, despite her good intentions, she has to return to the original timeline’s reality.

Life is Strange, Episode 4, Dark RoomEpisode 4: Dark Room starts off kicking you in the gut and doesn’t let up at all for the next few hours. As a matter of fact the pace quickens throughout, setting up another shocking ending. Any previous complaints about the game’s subject matter being juvenile don’t apply to this episode. Surprisingly, at this point of the story, everyone involved has grown up quite a bit. Even those only tangentially involved in the tale have had to face the consequences of the new reality in Arcadia Bay. It’s this growth and evolution of the characters that really speaks to Dontnod’s ability to tell a story.

Life is Strange, Episode 4, Dark RoomDontnod might not be a pioneer of the episodic adventure game genre, but they seem to be doing everything right. While the narrative is its strongest selling point, Life is Strange has a lot going for it. Its 3D gameplay and well executed soundtrack, along with the publisher’s ability to stay on schedule, help the game stand out. There are some minor technical glitches, but nothing fatal and much less noticeable than its main competition. Speaking of that competition, while those games might be easier to start playing, Life is Strange offers an unprecedented level of depth and immersion for an adventure game.

 

 

esrb, MatureLife is Strange: Episode 4 – Dark Room is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Intense Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Drug Reference, Strong Language, and Crude Humor This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.

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