Okay so I'm going to say right off the bat, Life is Strange did manage to redeem itself for the most part. Do I think it was better than Tales From the Borderlands? Heck no. I actually wanted to play Tales again after LiS for various reasons. Would I recommend the game to someone? Only a very specific few, not like Tales from the Borderlands, which I've recommended to people who don't even play videogames. I was going to buy LiS for my dad, but it hinged on the answer to "How well do you tolerate highschool drama crap?" which you should ask yourself before you consider the game.
|Also not recommended if hipsters piss you off (no seriously.)|
Anyway, I'm going to get into the details here.
A big part is that I was playing it a bit wrong. I was playing it like a Telltale game (The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales From The Borderlands, Game of Thrones, Minecraft: Story Mode) Every one of them plays a specific way which I eventually caught on to. A lot of their heaviest choices involve choosing to save the life of Person 1 or Person 2. You can't save both, and the choice haunts you endlessly through further choices and dialogue with the rest of the group. What I eventually discovered is that, no matter which person you save, that person now seems to be Marked For Death, Final Destination style.
|1924194125 sequels later and it's a parody of itself.|
Anyway, that's how I treated LiS, along with my dad saying "Because of the ending, none of the choices actually matter." This made some haunting choices easier to bear, but I still found myself reversing time to make a few changes and that, in itself, is exactly what the game should be doing: Making choices heavy.
Yes, Max is a bit of a boring hipster, nothing about the game changed my opinion of her, but that's okay because it's really Chloe who makes the entire story. Life is Strange really comes down to one thing: Chloe. Or rather, Max and Chloe's friendship. This game is the literal definition of passing the Bechdel Test.
|Although nothing ruins Girl's Night faster than a natural disaster, amirite?|
With the exception of the end, Episode 2 was complete filler. It's dead weight, padding. It wasn't until the beginning of Episode 3 that I really started to enjoy myself. After breaking into the school and riffling through the Principal's office the girls decide to go for a swim in the school, that was the exact moment it hooked me.
|Using the quote "An otter in my water" is now on my list of things to do.|
Episode 4 is when all the pieces come together. This is, of course, after Max learns that the past should remain in the past and they find Rachel Amber. Just as I was reaching the end of the episode I thought to myself "Wow they could end right about here."
On to Episode 5. After figuring everything out, and ending up in a bad situation, it's all about Max trying to fix things. I didn't try to keep up with the branching timelines as Max goes forward and back over the course of minutes or days to try and make everything right that went so wrong.
The thing that bugged me about Episode 5 was the bullcrap trippy stuff that I swear took up 50% of the episode. It's like the creators thought to themselves "There's not enough story left to make up an entire episode, let's just take some LSD and mash our faces on the keyboard until something comes out."
The episode gets back on track right at the end for you to make the hardest choice. I do mean the hardest choice, I've played Telltale games that had easier choices than this, ones that got people killed. Neither one is entirely satisfying, nor is either one "right."
So far I've been pretty spoiler free, but I'm going to go ahead and break it here for the sake of review.
So, hey, spoilers.
Despite solving the murder and fixing everything there's still the issue of the storm.
Now, I already had a feeling that Chloe was somehow Marked for Death. She dies so many times.
1. Gunshot (which is how Max discovers her powers in the first place.)
2. Gunshot ricochet during Chloe target practicing with a gun in a junkyard.
3. Hit by train after her foot gets stuck in the track.
5. I'm also pretty sure she gets stabbed to death at one point, but I talked my way out of that situation.
6. Killed in the storm during a very forked timeline.
7. Gunshot again.
|The girl's a lead magnet.|
Chloe herself even mentions it, that her continued existence is the reason for the storm. She owns up to it, giving Max one last chance to go back and fix it by letting her die that very first time. That's when you get the choice to sacrifice Chloe and keep the storm from destroying the town, or else sacrifice the town for Chloe's continued existence.
I saw both endings, the first one I choose I always consider my playthrough canon though, and in this case it was to sacrifice the town and keep Chloe alive. At first I wasn't so sure, it was only after giving it extensive thought that I knew I'd made the right choice. I put myself in Max's shoes and someone I loved in Chloe's shoes, and there was no question what I could choose. Second, there was kind of small background information about the spirits of Native Americans being upset about a new housing development being built, along with a rich family based on corruption. Max's powers and the town's destruction are easily seen as their retribution. Max was simply the conduit, and Chloe was the spark. Third, messing with time caused the storm in the first place, wouldn't it be better not to mess with it again? Finally, as I said, the entire story revolves about Chloe. Everything Max does, she does for Chloe. For her to die in the end means, in a lot of ways, it was all for nothing.
A lot of people felt like the end was bullcrap, but it could have only ended one of the two ways.
Okay guys, end spoilers.
I do feel like I wasted my time on a lot of things. There is a metric crapton of characters, all with longwinded dialogue. 90% of it is a waste of time. One in particular was a goth girl in the school who talked like her teeth were stuck together. Her name is Alyssa, I literally had to look up her name because I never even bothered to remember it. I rewound every single time, I babied that girl, and for what? So she can quote a Robert Frost poem at me at the end.
"I shall be telling this with a sigh. / Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I... / took the one less traveled by. / And that has made all the difference."
There, I just saved you a ton of effort in the game (although apparently if you don't do all of that stuff she dies at the end.)
Samuel, the school groundskeeper, was another character I expected to play a much larger role, so I interacted with him a lot. In the end there was nothing significant about him in the story, but he's good for more of the background fluff if you want to devour every last bit of the game's background goings on and lore. The game is just loaded with all kinds of symbolism, a ton of which I missed. Colors, animals (the only one I caught was the whole doe motif with Max), and pictures.
|SO MUCH SYMBOLISM YOU HAVE NO IDEA.|
There is also a lot of fine details, character's faces are subtle, this is the only game I've seen where you can see it in someone's eyes when they're crying or about to cry. I don't mean obvious tears, I mean how their eyes get puffy and red, ugly. Real life stuff.
I was wrong to have compared Life is Strange to Tales from the Borderlands previously, they're apples and oranges. It's like comparing Minecraft to Battlefield just because they both have the same first person shooter perspective, or a comedy to a drama just because they're both movies. Both games are fantastic, but if I were stranded on a tropical island with only one game, I'd choose Tales from the Borderlands.
Life is Strange is definitely up there though, maybe Top Ten, but I'd have to really give it some thought. Top Twenty at least though.