#1 A bit of context.
People have started becoming big fans of the “Heavily Story-driven game” genre in recent years. With the breakout success of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead.” and successful indie games like “Gone Home” and “Dear Ester.” They all have been a big source of debate within the gaming community. Mainly, people have asked, “Are these even video games? Can a video game be good on story alone? Can video games deliver a story as good as say, a novel or movie?” And of course the most important question of all, “Is Molina the sexiest human being alive?” There’s no right answer to these questions of course, but if you’d like to know where I stand on these questions: #1 Yes. #2 No. #3 Yes, in fact better if perfected and #4 Obviously. No debate. So, where does Life is Strange fall? I will admit, I don’t have a whole ton of experience with this genre. In fact, I’m not sure at all why these are as highly acclaimed as they are. The only game I’ve played other than this game was Heavy Rain. The game was very flawed, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. Mostly because it was so stupid that it was unintentionally funny. I’m going to be honest with you, I wanted to take this game seriously. I really did. But I couldn’t, believe me I tried. Life is Strange literally makes no sense. At all. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I think I’ve came up with my most honest opinion possible. It was hard, you’ll soon see why.
#2 Story-telling games are inherently flawed.
I have plenty of reasons for coming to this conclusion. Firstly, it causes a disconnect between the main character and the player. Think about it for a second, as a player, you are told that “Your” choices affect the outcome of the story. In these games, you are usually always viewing the story as one character, except in the case of Heavy Rain. Look at it this way, if the main character feels a certain way about something and you feel differently about it, who do you side with? The only logical answer is you because your main character has no say in the matter. They do what ever you tell them to do. What happens, and why this is a bad thing, is that it makes your main character hard to relate to and their motivations inconsistent and confusing. When you’re reading a novel or watching a movie, you see the character making the choices themselves and watching how they deal with the consequences. But in the game, it is you who makes the choices, not them.
The Second problem that arises is the “Illusion of choice.” You might have heard this being used to criticize TT’s The Walking Dead. What people mean when they say this is your choices as the player don’t affect very much at all. It feels like what you choose doesn’t matter at all. The reason those people are right is because many of these games have a very specific structure. There are certain events that need to happen regardless of what choices you make. The only thing that really changes is what people say to you or they’re attitude toward you. But nothing that will majorly affect the course of the story. Therefore, it’s an illusion.
Third, because it’s a video game. Remember when I answered no to question #2? It’s true, video games can’t stand on story alone. Why? Why do you think? It’s a video game. By it’s nature, it’s an “interactive” experience. The gameplay in these games always feel tact on. This is why, stories and interactivity are almost a complete contradiction. Now, before I give you a brain hemerage, let’s talk about the actual game… Prepare your ass-hole viewer, this might hurt.
#2 Life is Stupid.
Needless sex jokes aside, you are Max, an 18 year-old art student at Blackwell Academy. The Academy where it can’t decide whether it’s a high school or a college. Max is somewhat of an extrovert, she doesn’t speak up much, and she says some really awkward stuff. Then again, so does everyone else in this game. Max had came back to Arcadia Bay after 5 years of being gone for a photography degree I think. She’s kind of a self obsessed, judgmental bitch if you listen to what she says about some people, but at the same time, she looks like a person who is very innocent and non-threatening. I’m getting some mixed messages. So, the “Main Mechanic” in this “game” is that Max has the ability to rewind time… Oh boy. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Max was screwing around in the bathroom, taking pictures of butterflies on mop buckets… Is that a common art student thing I don’t get? She then sees Nathan Prescott, a rich kid who’s family owns the entire academy, which they’re very subtle about telling you that. Not. But anyway, he meets up with Chloe, Max’s best friend from a long time ago who she hasn’t talked to at all whatsoever. So much so she didn’t recognize her at all. One thing leads to another and Nathan shoots Chloe because… I’m not sure why actually. This is where Max figures out that she can rewind time. So instead of coping a feel on a hot chick and then rewinding, like I would’ve done, Max decides to try and be a superhero and save her. Are you sure that’s a good idea Max? Are you sure that changing one event that was predestine to happen won’t drastically affect the future? Oh shit, I just gave away the plot twist. Let’s be honest, how could you not predict that? But wait, that’s only the beginning of the stupid shit that happens.
Max hits the fire alarm to save Chloe. This is where the game tells you that items in your inventory stay there when you rewind time. How the flying, shitting, ass crack does that work? So, it seems to me that what ever Max touches is not affected by time rewinding. Max is the only person not affected what so ever by time rewinding… What? How in the… Plot-holes. So. Many. Plotholes! To be fair, making a story that involves a character manipulating time is never a good idea. Time travel is inherently convoluted. For instance, if Max moved something, is that object affected when she reverses time? Does the object move back by itself? What if Max killed someone and then reversed time? Would that person magically come back to life? Isn’t Max technically immortal now? Is it possible for Max to rewind if she was dead? AHHHH! My brain!
I can hear the defenders now,”Praxsi, you’re being too critical. You shouldn’t think about that much.” I get why people make this argument, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to ignore questions like these all the way through. It’s not just little inconsistencies like these either, there’s a big problem with this overall concept in that how does any of your choices have any weight behind them if you could just change it at any time? No really, Max is basically a time god now.
On second thought, she’s not very good at it considering she could only go backward in time a certain amount. How much? It’s not consistent at all. Sometimes you can go very far, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you can’t rewind at all until a certain thing happens first. It makes no sense! Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Easy, it’s the main selling point of the game. It’s the main thing that ties the story together. If your main mechanic has no logic or consistency to it, it’s hard to care honestly. Maybe if some of these questions were addressed in any way, even if it didn’t make 100% sense, it would feel like the game was trying to have a consistent world.
#3 Life is Contrived
The situations that occur in this game couldn’t be anymore contrived! Seriously! Ok, let me just start from the beginning. So Max saves Sam, I mean Chloe. They both escape, but Max is confronted by David, the security guard, who is extremely convinced that Max did something wrong, even though he has no proof whatsoever. It’s implied that he’s an overly protective, fascist bully but still, you would think someone who wants more security would try to have solid proof before accusing people of shit. She gets saved by the principal who is also convinced she did something wrong as well, for no real reason except that she “looks” guilty. Keep in mind, it’s not like he called you over to talk to him. This game gives you the illusion that you could just walk out if you wanted to, but if you try to, you’re forced to talk to him. Player choice huh?
At this point, you could either rat out Nathan or hide the truth. Max really does want to rat out Nathan, but you can choose not to. That’s what I choose to do, but for some reason, the principal is still convinced that you’re lying, even though he has no reason to and has no evidence. What do these choices lead to? You eventually get confronted by Nathan for ratting him out if you do. But if you don’t, he confronts you anyway… Ok, wait a minute, let’s back up and examine this whole conundrum:
First of all, Chloe is expelled from Blackwell. Why did they let her back on campus?
Two, why didn’t they check the entire bathroom? It would’ve only taken 2 seconds, but they didn’t… because plot.
Third, Nathan was planning on shooting Chloe, why did he try to do it at the BATHROOM OF THE VERY SCHOOL HE ATTENDS!
Fourth, why was Chloe surprised he had a gun, and why didn’t she bring a gun. Oh, a guy who is known for having drugs is armed?! Who could’ve guessed that?!
Fifth, how did Nathan know you were there?! He didn’t check the entire bathroom, like he should have! It’s implied that he saw Max’s torn up picture, so that’s how he knew, but again, that doesn’t prove that she was there at that moment! IT’S NOT LIKE HE COULD’VE CHECKED THE ENTIRE BATHROOM!
Sixth, if Max really did want to save her, why didn’t she just rewind time and wait until Chloe came by the bathroom and stopped her then?! That would’ve made far more sense! They’re friends, and Chloe recognized her instantly, so it would’ve been far more effective! It’s almost like Max forgot that she could rewind time and do that!
Speaking of characters that are complete idiots, Max is a fucking idiot! This is very true if you think about it. For instance, later on in the episode, Victoria, the local bitch, and her henchmen are blocking your way to your dorm. What would you do? I would’ve turned back time so that I could enter before she got there in the first place. Sounds sensible, right? Does Max do that? Of course not! Max would rather turn on the sprinklers to get them all wet. Ok, maybe Max just had a grudge with her and did it for personal reasons. That would be fine. Can you enter your dorm after you do? NO! Why?
What you have to do is tamper a paint bucket so that it falls on her and ruins her clothes. That was so completely unnecessary. Max is very much a bitch, which would be fine if that was her character, but it isn’t. Max just completely forgot that she could reverse time. Our main character! Ladies and Gentlemen!
#4 The plotholes will consume the world!
Shit, there’re so many more examples of how this story just doesn’t work. But I don’t want this review to be 1,000,000,000,000,000,000… DAYS long. Are there any good things about this game? Well, yes. The Art style I quite like, and the story is at least well presented to you. The problem only arises when you stop to think about it. There are points in the story that are really sad and depressing. I could really get invested if it wasn’t for the fact that NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE!!!… If you guys want, I could keep expanding on this game. I defiantly have a lot to say about the ending. Despite what you may think, I don’t hate this game. This game intrigues me. That doesn’t mean it’s good, but this game baffles me! I’m Molina, and I love you ❤