Life is Strange is the latest title from DontNod Entertainment. The title is an episodic adventure where you control high schooler Maxine Caulfield a photography student as she figures out how to balance school life, friendship and weird time related powers. Just your normal school kid stuff then.
The twist with Life is Strange is the unique player ability to rewind time and change the outcomes of your decisions. Its a simple mechanic and one which offers players a range of choices as they proceed through the story. If you ever wondered how your decisions in telltales episodic adventures could have been different Life is Strange is the way in which you can finally do it.
Developer DontNod is keen to stress that even the smallest decisions will have ramifications as you play through each episode. The “Butterfly” effect is the key to offering players plenty of replay ability and we found it promotes a reason to think through that decision you are about to make.
The story starts of with a simple premise to save your friend from danger this is soon after a quick classroom interlude which gets you introduced to the basic navigation controls before setting the player free to explore.
However the story is not quite as straight forward and there certainly appears to be the foundations of a long arcing story to keep us hooked between episodes. To help the player progress along this narrative there are little tit bits along the way which help fill the episode but also highlight some of the struggles a character like Maxine has in day to day life at school. It’s the Cliche’s you would expect in most high school dramas from popularity contests to bullying and high school dating. They are if anything not distracting but there are some subtle plot lines which we hope the developer explores throughout the series otherwise these will have offered little other than filler time.
Each chapter of the game offered a new area to explore and within those were plenty of interactive elements whether it be narrative from interacting with characters or creating new photo opportunities. Your notepad is also a nice way to help expand the world further and as you progress it populates that bit further its your almanac of school life. its an element that certainly will expand your play time if you choose to read every article. We would like to see some practical use of this feature as you could simply avoid this throughout your play through.
Graphically Life is Strange certainly is a step above other narrative titles and Square Enix and DontNod have definitely got a game engine in place that supports the style and play style they are aiming for. The artistic style is fitting of the characters genre and the introduction of the photo taking elements certainly add to the feel that you are actually a photography student. We noticed no performance issues through our playthrough on both PS4 & Xbox One and this was a welcome thing to see as other developers don’t appear to be using an engine as slick. It is worth noting that part of that is due to the title being designed for current gen titles and PC where other games in this genre are developed to cater for the lowest denominator such as mobile and tablet devices.
For the trophy and achievement hunters out there the title also provides a selection of achievements to aim for with a nice split between story progression and exploration mainly tasking the player with capturing photos. Dontnod have even went to the length of adding in a collectible mode where once you have completed your play through you can return to selected chapters and hunt down those photo opportunities without worrying about any impact to the decisions you have made. It should be a straightforward platinum for even the most casual gamer.
Overall we felt that Life is Strange has got itself of to a solid start offering great intrigue to the story whilst tackling real life issues and helping the player feel there is a real consequence to their actions. The ability to rewind time is also brilliant and adds depth to your options as you explore this world. We know theres more in store for us and we cant wait to play episode 2 which is due for release in March.