After a two month wait, Episode 4 of Life is Strange is finally here, but how does the penultimate episode hold up to the rest of the series?
Dark Room is the most complex episode yet, and that is to be expected as all the plotlines start coming together, but while its highs skyrocket, the game gives you a swift kick in the shins to bring you back down a bit.
Episode 3 was rather slow, but it’s ending gave a huge opportunity for Episode 4 to look at how things might have turned out if everything were different, specifically with friendships. However they sadly squandered that early on.
Now, the issue is not that everything changes back, but rather how soon into it Max starts guilt tripping and resets everything back to the way it was. Yes, while neither reality is perfect, the original of the two was probably the best, but it did give a fantastic opportunity to explore further into what has changed, not just with the other characters, but Max herself.
Having read the messages on her phone, I learned that the Max in this reality is a completely different character also. The company she keeps are the very same she once avoided, including both Nathan and Victoria, as well as her not being the student she once was. She is also a part of the drug problem that has taken over Blackwell Academy. With everything flipped on its head, it opened up the chance for Max to learn more about what makes these characters tick, and get the information she needed, as well as have players question the knowledge gained until this point, but instead about 15 or 20 minutes in we were back to the way things were, which is sad.
This is not me saying that the start of the episode wasn’t good though. Dontnod know where to pull on those heart strings, often giving the impression that some of the developers have experience themselves. They especially know how to get me all emotional and shit, as this and Episode 2 both echo two major events in my own life, with the struggle of family and the loss of a close friend.
Also, when you learn of everything that has happened it is understandable that Max would change everything back to normal, especially when asked to do such an incredibly difficult thing. That said, she really loves using her power often, despite her saying several times that it won’t last forever and wants to use it as little as possible, as well as give me the impression that I shouldn’t be rewinding 7 times just because I am not happy with how the Frank situation turned out. Before she had headaches and nosebleeds as the telltale signs that she is overdoing things, but now she can jump years with little to no consequence to her health.
Once everything was back, Max and Chloe continued to investigate the disappearance of Rachel. Not much happens while they are getting all the details, but once that is out the way it presents you with one of the best investigation methods I have seen in a game to date. Like… It made you actually investigate and tie everything together! From text messages, times, codes, drug dealings, the whole shabang! I know right? Mental! Even Batman, “the worlds greatest detective” as people love to call him, only uses tech which does all the work for him. This was more like Sherlock Holmes shit. One thing I will say is it took a little too long, but there was a lot of information to deal with so I’ll give it the thumbs up here.
This leads to what will be the end of your investigation in the “Dark Room”, as you learn the truth about what happened to Rachel and Kate, the corrupt nature of the Prescott family, the depth of the schools drug problems and how they tie together, with a dark, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo vibe.
Finally you are at The Vortex Club party. This is a place you KNEW would be a major plot point early in the game, from the posters, being called The Vortex Club, the “End of the World” party, and being constantly fed information about it. You knew that there was something major going down here, but sadly it failed to be anything worthwhile. Seriously! Nothing happened. You bump into a few people, ask some questions, make a choice which may or may not actually make any difference, then you leave. That’s pretty much it. Three episodes this was all up in my face, and it really bums me out how uninteresting a plotpoint it was.
However this does lead to the biggest cliffhanger in the series yet, as you learn who’s behind everything. But that is for you to find out yourselves.
It is tough for me to say for sure how this episode turned out, because while it all paid off with some fantastic sections, there was also a fee of missed potential. The episode started on a real high note, as nothing is the way it once was, but that is stomped out pretty quickly. After some time we come to the investigation board and find out the shocking truth, leading us to the Vortex Club party, which was teased from the start of the game, only to find it is no more than a crappy teenie bopper with some booze out back. Then the ending, which had me going, “Fuuuuuuuck,” setting up for what looks like will be an amazing finale.
Dontnod can clearly handle both dark and emotional plots very well, so I have a lot of hope for what the final episode will bring, but has it become too much than they can chew? There is a lot here, and with that ending there are more unanswered questions than answered ones. This, on top of the actual danger Arcadia Bay is under could mean that there will be too much going into the final episode, with little choice but to leave some loose threads. Hopefully I am wrong though, and I do have faith that the writers can end it spectacularly.