Screenshot of Life is Strange Game Cover

What is Life is Strange

Life is Strange is a graphic adventure videogame published by Square Enix and developed by French studio Dontnod Entertainment. It has an episodic structure, with five chapters that were released gradually in 2015. The game can be played on all popular consoles, as well as desktop computers powered by OS X and Microsoft Windows. It spent two years in development and was welcomed with critical acclaim, as fans hope for a sequel.

Key facts about Life is Strange

  • Life is Strange has strong characters that players can easily relate to.
  • The narrative is strong and compelling, with each choice made by players impacting the story.
  • Life is Strange has an original game mechanic that revolves around the ability to rewind time.
  • The action is slow paced and players are supposed to explore the environment and pay attention to details.
  • Life is Strange’s success is the result of clever writing and great acting for the main characters.

Gameplay of Life is Strange

Life Is Strange gameplay is enhanced by the third person view and is heavily based on human interactions and exploration. Players have a big world to roam and they need to interact with both people and objects. There are plenty of puzzles to solve, but few of them are truly complex so players rarely get frustrated by the mini games. In addition to the main storyline, players are supposed to solve various side quests which involve the finding and retrieving of various items.

Most of the objects collected during the main campaign are stored in the game inventory and can be used later on. Life Is Strange is centered on the decision-making process and players can always return to their most important actions. The mechanic of rewinding time allows a great deal of flexibility and empowers players to explore different scenarios. As they explore the fictional setting of Arcadia Bay, they can freely move back in time to undo almost all actions. The lessons learned can be used to make better choices.

Plot of Life is Strange

Life Is Strange story begins on October 7, 2013 and has Maxine Caulfield as the central character. During her photography class at Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay, she catches a glimpse into the future. After witnessing the destruction of Arcadia Bay by a tornado, she rushes to the restroom hoping to recover from the stressful event. This is where she prevents the murder of an unknown girl by Nathan Prescott, one of her rich colleagues.

This is the starting point of a string of events that will have Maxine reunited with Chloe Price, her childhood friend. She discovers her to be the girl she saved in the restroom and they get together to catch up. Players gradually get to know the other students at Blackwell Academy, Chloe’s mother and foster father, as well as Prof. Jefferson. Interactions with all these characters reveal the story of Rachel Amber, a former student who went missing a couple of years before.

Screenshot of Life is Strange Max and Chloe
Screenshot of Life is Strange Max and Chloe

Max and Chloe try to find out what happened to Rachel, but each discovery leads to more questions. This is where the Life Is Strange narrative gets more exciting, as players need to look for hints, solve puzzles and establish new connections. As Maxine travels back and forth in time, she learns more about what happened to Chloe while she’s been away. She tries to alter the past to prevent various tragedies, but quite often fails and creates new ones.

The plot thickens in the fourth episode, when the two girls get closer to discovering what happened to Rachel Amber. We won’t spoil the fun by telling you what happens in the end. Let’s just say that players will be surprised by the outcome and have to make some heartbreaking decisions.

Development of Life is Strange

Life Is Strange spent more than two years in development, as Dontnod Entertainment wanted to get everything right. Finding the actors to bring the characters to life was a part of the challenge but the effort was worthwhile. This is the second game produced by the French studio after Remember Me, which also had a female as central character. A small team of only 15 people started working on this project which gained traction after Square Enix jumped on the bandwagon.

The company used most of the resources to pay voice actors, to make characters as credible as possible. The goal was to make the game look and feel authentic and the development team visited the Pacific Northwest where the story would unfold. Hannah Telle was offered the part for Maxine Caulfield, while Ashly Burch ended up playing Chloe Price. She audited for both roles but was chosen for the latter.

Screenshot of Life is Strange Winning Photo
Screenshot of Life is Strange Winning Photo

Where can I download Life is Strange?

The game can be downloaded from Dontnod’s official website, where players can also acquire their first videogame Remember Me. It’s possible to download the episodes individually or buy the entire pack with a single click. Many players choose the former, as they get to catch a glimpse at what the game has to offer. Life Is Strange has a fantastic soundtrack that can also be downloaded and which features various artists. The main score was composed by Jonathan Morali, a member of Syd Matters band.

The video game was based largely on subscriptions and at some point its development was actually in doubt. Fans who are hoping for a sequel or another string of episode, should support the company by acquiring the game. Granted it doesn’t have the competitive nature of major eSports games such as League of Legends, StarCraft 2 Legacy of the Void, Counter Strike Global Offensive or Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, it’s nothing short of amazing.

What are others saying about Life is Strange?

Life Is Strange reviews are overwhelmingly positive and most of their authors were utterly impressed by the story. Those who played on consoles and desktop computers were happy with the gaming experience. The game doesn’t require a great deal of resources and runs smoothly on any device. With an aggregated Metacritic score 85 out of 100, it was equally celebrated by the critics and regular players. It was also nominated for several Game of the Year awards and left players hungry for a sequel.

Compared to the Remember Me video game produced by the French studio it was regarded as a major step forward. Players were impressed with how the developers managed to build strong characters and encourage self-exploration. Players and critics alike were taken away by the manner in which the game makes every decision feel important. It all culminates with the grand finale and the multiple endings that highlight this game quality.

Screenshot of Life is Strange Aftermath
Screenshot of Life is Strange Aftermath

Criticism was mainly directed at the way developers chose to progress the plot and some character inconsistencies. In regard to the decision-making process and the impact of choices, some were unhappy with the manner the game ended. They felt that players were never really in control of what happened and their actions were channeled towards the same inexorable conclusions. Still, few games managed to generate so much enthusiasm and divide players at the same time. It’s only fitting. Given the fact that the name of the final episode is “Polarized”.

My rating of Life is Strange

I’ve been playing video games since I was a little kid and it’s really hard to impress me with anything. It’s been a while since I gave up trying to find the perfect game in terms of graphics, narrative, story and gameplay. Life is Strange is far from scoring perfect marks in all these chapters, but the whole is greater than its parts. It took some convincing from friends who play the game to pick it up and give it a chance. Now I really can’t overstate my satisfaction with the decision of playing it.

Life is Strange is probably not the best game I played this year and definitely not the best unveiled in 2016. However I’m quite certain that this game impressed me more than pretty much every other video game I played over a decade. The manner in which the story progresses, the way characters evolve and the impact of every decision made, make it such an amazing game. It’s the kind of videogame that leaves a long-lasting impression on players and a void that hard to fill by playing anything else.

This is only the third flawless review score of 10 out of 10 I ever give to a videogame. I purposely waited for two months to rate it after finishing the game, to make sure I’m not rating it while still under its spell. I feel as strongly about it today as I did in September and I stand behind this review score. If you can only play one game this year, choose Life is Strange; you won’t regret it.

Overall Score