Platforms PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer Dontnod Entertainment Publisher Square Enix
Genre Point and Click Adventure Platform Played On PC
If you have not taken the time to sit down and play the first four episodes of Life is Strange, you should be aware that this review has spoilers!
Life is Strange crashed into my library and blew me away earlier this year. If you follow Analog Addiction, you probably already know that I have had very few negative things to say about the series thus far. Dontnod Entertainment’s foray into the episodic adventure genre has been mostly successful, creating characters and plots that players can relate to and care about. Each episode gave us something new to think about, some new mechanic to explore. That said, the final episode did not measure up to its predecessors. This is your official warning: here there be spoilers.
Picking up directly after the intensely emotional climax of Episode 4: Dark Room, Polarized begins simply enough. Max has been captured by her twisted photography teacher and has to find a way to use her power in order to escape and do what she does best: save Chloe Price. This time, she must save her friend from the freak storm poised to shred Arcadia Bay to pieces. This relatively simple objective turns into a twisted adventure through Max’s time in captivity as well as a whirlwind trip through what adds up to the events of all five episodes.
After the gut wrenching climax of Dark Room, the exposition-heavy Polarized feels a little abrupt and, on occasion, a bit tiresome. One of the strengths of Life is Strange has been its complex characters, and it was a bit of a letdown to watch Jefferson deliver a rather flat “this is my evil plan” speech. I recall thinking more than once “okay, hurry this along so I can save Chloe.” Additionally, Max, Chloe, and the player spend all this time investigating Nathan in previous episodes only for him to be killed off before Polarized even begins. There is a short voicemail in which he expresses remorse and warns Max about Jefferson, but it feels almost like an afterthought. Not everyone is treated that way, though; Principal Wells spends some time with Max in one of the alternate realities and expresses his regret over his own inaction, seemingly with the intention to do better in the future. David gets to redeem himself a bit as well, rescuing Max from the dark room and admitting that he knows he’s behaved poorly, even expressing regret for his treatment of Chloe.
Mechanically, the game focuses a lot more on Max’s ability to travel back into old photos. The focus mechanic is a little difficult to pin down, but the game offers an auto focus button, which was useful. The action feels a bit overused by the end of the game, and the cutscenes that showed the changing future were a visual reminder that all of your previous choices were almost irrelevant. Max’s short term rewind power also comes in handy, particularly in the scene where David rescues her from the dark room. It is actually possible to watch Jefferson shoot him in a variety of circumstances before performing the right action. It is interesting to note that several different actions can lead to the exact same outcome.
As the episode goes on and the scenes got weirder, Max is also faced with an eerie, suitably uncomfortable stealth sort of mini game wherein she must navigate a bewildering maze full of everyone in her life that causes her stress. The “avoid the creeps with flashlights” game does not have much in the way of consequences, though, as Max can just rewind anytime she sees a flashlight heading her way.
Max is not, however, all powerful, which seems to be what Polarized is trying to tell us from the jump. The final choice lies with the player, and as much as I love this game, I wish the decision had not been so predictable. Max can save Chloe from the storm, rescuing her best friend one more time, or she can go back to the moment before Chloe is killed and just let it happen. For four episodes, Dontnod kept me on my toes and excited, and then in the final few moments it went completely Butterfly Effect. (Literally; there is an actual butterfly. Subtle.)
Overall, Polarized offers a tidy end to Chloe and Max’s story. Loose ends are wrapped up and even if Max chooses to sacrifice Chloe, the game ends on an almost hopeful note. As far as games in general go, Polarized is a not a bad way to spend two hours, but it suffers because the previous episodes are so great. It is also rather frustrating that, in a game that revolves entirely around the consequences of the choices you make, the one final choice can make all of the earlier decisions feel less important. That said, Life is Strange as a whole is still worth the time; the characters are, for the most part, well thought out and relatable, and it is pretty awesome to watch Max go from timid wallflower to confident time traveler.
- Relatable characters
- Tidy conclusion to Max and Chloe’s story
- Interesting exploration of alternate realities
- Somewhat predictable final choice makes previous choices irrelevant