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Life is Strange Episode 3 Review: Life in Chaos

/ Jul 13th, 2015 No Comments

Life is Strange Episode 3

Life is Strange Episode 3: Chaos Theory is an anchor point for Dontnod Entertainment‘s first foray into episodic storytelling. Chaos Theory is that crucial middle that pulls together the introductory chapters of the story while preparing us for the final act. Like any television show that leaves the audience with a big reveal right during a winter break, Life is Strange has had every opportunity to fall into similar trappings. How long are players supposed to be teased with all this time traveling before it’s explained? Will there ever be any resolution to this Twin Peaks-esque mystery behind Rachel Amber’s disappearance?

Perhaps the biggest task weighing on Chaos Theory is how to pick up the story after the gut-wrenching suicide attempt of Kate Marsh. Considering it’s one of the most emotionally impactful moments in recent gaming, Dontnod has quite the burden on its shoulders. As the vast amount of diverging plot threads and player choice intertwine, will it all remain meaningful? Episode 3 won’t satisfy every curiosity but somehow tops the most gripping parts of the first half of the season.

Thieves in the Night

After the events of the previous day, the whole campus of Blackwell Academy is trying to cope. Max Caulfield’s efforts to literally talk Kate Marsh off the edge are noted by students, staff, and everyone else in her life. Those who bullied Kate leave messages on dry erase boards outside their doors wishing her strength in recovery or regretting her tragic death. It’s a hollow effort that matches quite well with how bullying works in our society.
 

Life is Strange Episode 3

A darker tone resonates through most of Episode 3.


Kate’s tragedy and Max’s attempt at playing a modern day hero soon take a backseat after Max leaves Blackwell. It was initially disappointing to have little resolution with this piece of story. For such a crucial event in Episode 2, why was it not focused on more in Episode 3? I wondered why there was no scene with Max visiting Kate in the hospital, or even a phone call between the two. The thirst for answers is understandable but most of the events of Chaos Theory unfold shortly after that trying school day.

Max and her blue-haired friend Chloe Price are taking it upon themselves to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Amber, Chloe’s friend who most believe just left rather than went missing. Max wants to use her powers to solve the mystery while also looking into the Vortex Club, whose members held a party where Kate was drugged. Chloe decides that the best course of action is to break into Blackwell’s principal’s office.

It’s here that the game begins to take a more urgent tone. In previous episodes, Max and Chloe spent time bonding with these moments punctuated by a new threat or brief action. When Max lost her ability to reverse time on the rooftop with Kate, it stripped her of a vital tool. Even though Max has her power back, there’s a lot at stake. Time is running out and there is a need to move forward. Coupled with the dark and empty halls of Blackwell, an ominous air creeps in that doesn’t dissipate, even as the episode ends.

Timeless Bond

The interaction between Max and Chloe continues to be a reason to invest in Life is Strange. What started out as a rocky relationship affected by years of no contact is transforming into a realistic portrayal of two teenage girls. Yes, the writing still feels a bit contrived and forced, but Hannah Telle as Max and Ashly Burch as Chloe really sell the characters. As the choices players make throughout the story feel increasingly important, it’s hard not to wonder how the two girls will react to one another.
 

Life Is Strange Episode 3

Max and Chloe’s relationship is believable and genuine despite some awkward writing.


Chloe brings Max out of her introverted ways and the player is able to guide Max however they see fit. After discovering information about Rachel and a few other key figures in Arcadia Bay, the two girls bond at Blackwell’s pool. Dontnod has inserted these moments into the episodes fluidly, making them a natural progression of the girls’ relationship. Blackwell may be full of cliche jocks and nerds and Max and Chloe may act a little cliche themselves, but its in these tropes that the writing really finds heart.

As much as I want to see where the mystery of Rachel Amber goes, I’m just as interested to see how it affects the growing trust and love between Max and Chloe. It’s obvious Max may be worried that she is just Rachel’s replacement and, if we ever meet Rachel, there will certainly be some interesting results.

Going Too Far

Near the end of the episode Chloe learns that Rachel was having a relationship with resident sleazebag drug dealer Frank Bowers, who was also the guy harassing Max and Chloe in Episode 2. Throughout Chaos Theory Chloe has taken some personal hits. A combative relationship with her stepfather, issues with Frank, and some truths about Rachel make her feel that everything has gone wrong since her father died.

Like Episode 2, Episode 3 wraps up in a fairly short amount of time. Lasting no longer than a couple of hours, players will still encounter the same odd lip syncing, good music, and light puzzle elements. However, Episode 3 is paced better due to the amount of scene changes and opportunities for exposition. Players are given more to do and more time to process the story.
 

Life Is Strange Episode 3

As the threat of a devastating tornado comes closer, things start getting stranger.


It all leads up to a quiet moment in Max’s dorm room where she takes the time to look at a picture of her and Chloe as children. Suddenly, Max is at Chloe’s house having traveled back in time to the day the picture was taken. The day Chloe’s father died. For the third time, Max is able to save a life using her new-found power. It’s a moment of panic as the player scrambles for a solution while also exploring Chloe’s house for answers or a way to prove she is in the past.

Life is Strange has only gotten better with each passing episode. Episode 1 showed a lot of promise and Dontnod has continued to deliver on dramatic moments. The developer has not been afraid to use big moments in the story. When Chaos Theory comes to a close, Max’s world is literally in chaos. Strange things are happening in Arcadia Bay and Chloe’s fate is even more shocking. What really needs to happen, though, is for these events to be more than just shock. With only two more episodes left, a lot of questions remain, and the standards get even higher.

Life is Strange was reviewed on PS4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
 

Ben Sheene

Ben Sheene

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ben is from Kentucky where he originally began playing games (an activity he still continues to this day). With a love for writing he graduated from Centre College with a BA in English. He recently moved to California to pursue whatever future endeavors were there. A passion for music, gaming, blogging, and existing keeps him up at night and crafts him into the person he is today.
Ben Sheene

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LIFE IS STRANGE EPISODE 3 REVIEW: LIFE IN CHAOS

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall85%

STORY9

The middle point of the series lays many cards on the table and puts its characters in a more precarious position. Somehow Dontnod topped the gripping conclusion of Episode 2 for a head-spinning cliffhanger.

WRITING8.5

Dontnod is juggling a lot of moving parts going into Chaos Theory but the awkward bits of writing become less obvious as the game captures the relationship between Max and Chloe.

VOICE ACTING8.5

A string of intense story moments allows much of the voice cast to push their talent, making you forget the occasional awkward dialogue.

REPLAY8

Combined with difficult choices and the ability to go back in time, it's hard not to want to go back to the beginning of the series to see just how tiny choices may shape events throughout.

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