It did it.

[SPOILER ALERT: This will go deep into spoiler territory from start to finish (seriously more so than any of my writeups so far to date), so if you haven’t played episode five or the entire season yet, close the tab now. Otherwise, you read at your own risk.]

—–

—–

—–

—–

—–

[I’m serious, this goes big on heavy spoilers from literally the beginning of the writeup]

—–

—–

—–

—–

—–

[Last chance]

—–

—–

—–

—–

—–

“Simply put, baring the fuckups to end all fuckups in the finale, Life is Strange is on the verge of accomplishing something amazing and become truly special. For now, episode four sees it take the biggest step forward to become those things because right now, as is, Life is Strange is incredible – warts and all.”

Not only did it stick the landing, it then came to a complete stop, did a twirl and a curtain call.

It did it.

—–

My mind is still in a confuddled mess as I’ve only just finished playing it about nearly an hour ago as of starting to write this. But such is my need to write, at the risk of not letting it settle down, of how much Dontnod did justice to the finale that I have to kind get my thoughts across.

I think if anything, having Chloe sacrifice herself was a forgone conclusion by episode three to me and in turn the most appropriate ending for me considering it felt more natural of the two compared to the other ending with the two getting out of Arcadia Bay post-storm.

But how that was acted out with that scene and the way it was delivered between Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch. Even though you knew what was coming, it still didn’t make it any less devastating. The kiss, despite having chosen to kiss Warren minutes earlier (the nervous little scamp), included.

I had always hoped – though never expected – Dontnod would reuse Mogwai’s Kids Will Be Skeletons from episode three as the final song of the series ala Jose Gonzalez between episodes one and two. The song always felt like it had a sense of finality to it. But to go with Spanish Sahara by Foals was a better choice upon reflection. It suited the tone of what had to go down in the toilets and at the cemetery. It was a perfect choice. It just added to the emotional punch of the ending.

And it was a mighty emotional punch. There are one or two times where I’ve majorly welled up and even shed a tear or two this past season, biggest of all was the gutpunching ending to episode three and the terrific usage of Mogwai in that ending. But as the end of episode five got closer, I could already feel the emotions coming to me in a big way, seeing the characters I had bonded with either in a minor way like Alyssa and helping her get out of shit (again), Stella, Brooke, Juliet to the major characters like Warren, Kate, Victoria, etc. And Chloe of course.

After I realised what I had to do and the aftermath it followed, I was a hot emotional mess, to put it in a nutshell. I had completely lost it. It was the first time I had a full-on, proper cry at a videogame since The Last of Us. That has to mean something. For me, it did. And I think I went with what was the right final decision, even if it was heartbreaking. What an ending. What an episode.

(PS: Also, the game has not been ashamed to hide its Twin Peaks influences on its sleeve, noting one or two sly references in there through, but this episode goes heavy on it at, with a section towards the end showing excellently how insecure someone can be. And as someone who has gone through incredibly insecure doubts of self-esteem and more this past year, it really hit at me)

(PPS: Also, David Madsen is a nominee for turnaround of the century. Especially after all the shit I gave him too earlier in the season, he manages to find the Dark Room and find and take down Jefferson and save me, the bastard. Bloody hell. If anything has proved the saying of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, for better or worse, it’s this entire game.)

—–

And that was that. That was Season 1 of Life is Strange. It started out slow, but with it came some fantastic story beats, terrific performances (wonky dialogue and all) and one of the best licensed soundtracks you will ever hear in a game. And to stay on that, how Dontnod picked their moments to put some amazing music against them.

But if Season 1 will be remembered for anything, it’s the issues the game deals with it and how it deals with them. Bullying, suicide, slut-shaming, death and the grieving process (which especially hits home in the final scenes of the season if you pick the right ending) and thensome.

How Dontnod have managed to deal with all of this and treat them not only with care, but do them right, will absolutely be the game’s legacy. I said before they should be applauded for taking them head on with applied care, but credit also to Square Enix for signing the game and giving them the creative freedom to do as they see fit and give them the support to tackle them.

They also told an excellent story of a teenage girl’s tale of growing up and the baggage that comes with it whilst dealing with the pomp and circumstance of, y’know, rewinding time. Dontnod had mentioned previously the struggles of having the game pitched to publishers who wanted a male centric main character. I don’t think Season 1 would have worked without Max as main character and the relationship between Max and Chloe.

I said before in my thoughts of the last episode, and repeated at the top of this one, that “baring the fuckups to end all fuckups in the finale, Life is Strange is on the verge of accomplishing something amazing and become truly special.” It’s on the verge no more. Its achieved it, in my eyes.

It’s far from perfect. It is far from even breaking my top five games ever, let alone the top three. But I resonated with Life is Strange in such a strong way: the character building, the world building, the incredibly powerful emotional beats. And again, that has to mean something and it does big time. So no, it’s not perfect. But damn if it doesn’t deserve a spot in my top ten games ever. Because it bloody well deserves it.

Dontnod will head off to ramp up work on Vampyr now. But there seems to be hope they will return to Life is Strange at somepoint. To be slightly pedantic, they wouldn’t be calling this the season finale if there wasn’t already a roadmap in where to take the series next. Instead, it’d be a ‘series finale’. And not to mention, Dontnod had previously said if there was a Season Two, it’d feature a different story and set of characters to make the game an anthology series ala True Detective/American Horror Story.

But even if Dontnod hadn’t dropped these little nuggets, quite frankly, Square Enix would be insane not to bring back Life is Strange for a second season considering how incredibly successful Season One has been. Here’s hoping Dontnod get their shot to do another dance at the rodeo.

This journey has gone through so many ups and downs since it started in January. But the journey has all led to this point. Dontnod have taken extra time to get the episode right and that time was well spent. The journey may be over – hopefully for now – but what a ride it was.

The rest of the year may still hold Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront and Just Cause 3, to name a few, as amongst potential game of the year candidates. But I feel pretty safe in calling it now and, even with Fallout 4 on the horizon in less than nearly three weeks time, saying the following words.

Life is Strange is my Game of the Year. And now also one of my favourite games ever.

life is strange 2

Player statistics as of October 20, 2015

Episode One: Crystallis|7/10
Episode Two: Out of Time|8/10
Episode Three: Chaos Theory|10/10
Episode Four: Dark Room|10/10
Episode Five: Polarized|9/10

Advertisements