“We played hide and seek in waterfalls
We were younger, we were younger.
We played hide&seek in waterfalls
We were younger, we were younger.”
Okay let’s rewind time (no pun intended) all the way back to 2015 when Dontnod Entertainment released “Chrysalis” the first episode of its new episodic game series “Life is Strange” this is after the last game Dontnod released, “Remember Me” had bombed. This was at the time most likely the last game that was going to be released so Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch pitched a 5 part episodic game titled “Life Is Strange“. However, the head of Dontnod insisted that they use a time element as previously seen in “Remember Me” they said yes and they and the team started work on the first episode which was released at the end of February. Impressively this was less than a year after the announcement of the game. I remember doing a spoilercast for each episode of Tales From The Borderlands from Telltale Games, and my former writing colleague Adnan would bring up the issue that we eventually got more information last year about Telltale games about it’s issue with releasing games on time. By the time we finished the Tales From The Borderlands spoilercast all five episodes of Life Is Strange were released. So for you reading this that’s Dontnod releasing a five part episodic game in eight-nine months while Telltale released a five part episodic game in nearly a year. In the Slack chat that we talked in Adnan and another writer Chris would also sing the praises of Dontnod and
Life Is Strange. So once the game went on sale I bought it on Steam and PlayStation 4 to try and support the developers of the game and I did the same with the prequel to Life Is Strange titled Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. So fast forward three and a half years and I am creating content for the Los Harrow Games YouTube channel, (would you kindly subscribe?) and the only ongoing things I have are Star Trek: Evolution and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, so I figure,”I have nothing to lose and I have been hearing great things about Life Is Strange so I decided to record each episode for the channel.
So in Life Is Strange you are placed in the shoes of Maxine Caulfield a student at Blackwell Academy which so happens to be a very prestigious school and I discovered that one of the game director’s went to art school and wanted the player to be an art student which fits perfectly as the game starts out with a dream about Max in a very intense storm and once you wake up you end up taking a selfie which sets everything in motion. You are *supposedly* a hipster who doesn’t care about what other people think and after witnessing a tragedy in the bathroom you go back to class. I don’t think I presented that well, you rewind time and reverse time all the way back to the beginning of the game and Max is the only one with the knowledge of what happened in the bathroom. You end up setting up the event in motion when it comes to cause and effect and actually prevent the tragedy from occurring. It is once you leave the bathroom where you get your first choice. In a Telltale game you would make a choice thinking things would change but in reality everything is pre-determined without your knowledge. This happens in EVERY GAME Telltale did post The Walking Dead. It was either adapt or die and they chose to die. But back to Life Is Strange, unlike Telltale’s games your choices actually have consequences. I won’t mention the first big one that shows up in Episode 2. But it is a matter of life or death. The end of the game is similar but on a grand scale. To quote Mr. Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” All that aside this moment, the ending of Chrysalis to be specific had me hooked since:
A few minutes later I recorded an episode of the Los Harrow Games Podcast and I was stunned and speechless as an effect of playing the first episode. The game has elements inspired by The Walking Dead, Gone Home, and surprisingly Heavy Rain. Some people call the game a walking simulator and while that may be semi-accurate in certain spots it is a big mystery that ends up going in an entirely different direction that I still rank as one of the biggest twist endings to a game in recent memory. For those of you who did see my playthrough on the LHG YouTube channel I basically said “to hell with logic” and committed genocide. Luckily, there is a critically acclaimed ongoing comic book series that picks up where this ending left off and I have read the first arc at least four times. That is how much I love the two leads in the game who are voiced by Hannah Telle (Max) and Ashly Burch (Chloe). When I read the comic I read the dialogue in all of their voices, Warren, David, Rachel, Joyce, and anyone else who reappeared. The character of Rachel Amber is both the driving force of the first game and the prequel Before the Storm. She is also an easter egg for the two game directors Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch similar to the way Noob Saibot was a nod in the Mortal Kombat games to Ed Boon and John Tobias. The music for the Life Is Strange series is equally as amazing as the other elements of the four games in the series (Life Is Strange 1, Before the Storm, The Adventures of Captain Spirit, and Life Strange 2). The original score to the first game is by Syd Matters while Before the Storm is by Daughter.
This game not only changed my life but the lives of everyone at Dontnod as it was both a financial and critical success. This was in a way the Final Fantasy of Dontnod as it not only saved the company from closure and made them one of the hottest developers in Europe. The comic book series I was mentioning isn’t the only adaptation of the game as there is a digital series in the works over at Hulu. As I write this the sequel to the game that follows new characters with some easter eggs to the first game is nearly at the halfway point and rather than being a master of time, you are on the run from a severe injustice done to you and your brother and encounter both the best and worst of humanity in a big road trip. Frankly put, the Life Is Strange brand is here to stay for quite a while and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.