Life is Strange: Episode 4 - Dark Room (PC) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 09 August 2015 / 4,651 Views
Warning: This review contains major spoilers for previous episodes in the Life is Strange series and more minor spoilers for the episode being reviewed.
Life is Strange has come a long way in a very short amount of time. We’ve gone from college kid nerves, to time control, to attempted suicide, to time travel, to drug problems all in the space of three episodes. The series has garnered more and more praise and attention as time has gone on, but where does Dontnod Entertainment take the story from here and how does it start wrapping everything up?
Dark Room is a solid but unspectacular episode. Key story threads are starting to reach their conclusions and certain mysteries are being resolved. Rachel's disappearance is explained (with shocking results), for example, but other mysteries are starting to pop up; answers often lead to more questions. It all makes me wonder if Dontnod can actually tie it all up neatly in the final episode even if it wants to. At this stage a second season is looking inevitable.
While some storylines reach their conclusions others, annoyingly, seem to go nowhere (most notably the shocking end of the previous episode). Max’s foray into an alternative reality was apparently all for naught; a taste of what could have been, but what ultimately won’t be. Dontnod has pulled the rug from under the player, asking you to wonder at how far Max’s powers can go before hastily reconsidering the offer. Whilst this would be tolerable in most other games, up until now Life is Strange has given you relative freedom in the choices you make. For Dontnod to now make this decision for you will therefore make some feel a little bit cheated.
One nice touch in this episode is a scene where all of the evidence acquired by the player up until this point in the story is presented on the wall. It’s up to you to then piece it all together. It's a refreshingly challenging sequence, and will stretch most players' puzzle solving skills for the first time. Unlike the memorable puzzle sequence in the second episode, which is a frustrating test of memorisation, this one provides you with all of the clues and tasks you with joining the dots.
On the flip side, it's really rather strange how no-one seems to give a shit about the coming end of the world in Arcadia Bay. The rapture has been a recurring theme in the series so far and yet no one seems to care very much; an odd omission in an otherwise well-rounded cast of characters. The science teacher, for example, just shrugs it all off after getting in touch with NASA to query unexpected eclipses and double moons.
Dark Room otherwise does a very good job of fleshing out characters, especially those which are close in one way or another to Max. I managed to become friends with Victoria, who had previously been my nemesis, while relations with Nathan continued to sour. Dontnod evolved these relationships by playing out the results of prior choices. Thankfully for my own playthrough I’ve thus far been a kind Max, so my results were satisfactory. Looking at stats at the end, however, I expect a lot of players will now be regretting certain decisions.
On the whole Dark Room is a decent episode. The conclusion certainly left me wanting more, if only to see how Dontnod take things from here, but it's not without clear storytelling faults. Character inconsistencies and story dead-ends mar an otherwise superb narrative series that is starting to really pay off.
This review is based on a digital copy of Life is Strange for the PC