Opinion: Life is Strange Came to a Disappointing End - ArticlePatrick Day-Childs , posted on 21 October 2015 / 5,867 Views
Warning: This opinion piece contains major spoilers for all five episodes of Life is Strange.
Yesterday I finally finished the fifth episode of Life is Strange, the time travelling episodic drama developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix.
Sadly, despite a promising build up in the preceding four episodes - one which left me highly anticipating the finale - I found the ending to be a huge disappointment.
So where did it all go wrong? Life is Strange had, up until the final episode, perfectly captured the emotional turmoil of first world teenagehood. While playing you genuinely felt empathy for Max, her friends, and even some of her enemies. Dontnod understood deeply that Life is Strange would live and die by its ability to tell an emotional story, and the development team largely succeeded in making you feel as if you were in the middle of an emotional tornado while at the same time giving you the freedom to try and conquer those issues with a wide set of potential physical choices and dialogue options.
Episode 5, which is aptly titled Polarized, marks a departure from that sound base. It's essentially a wrap-up episode that is surprisingly devoid of emotion. In the episode the tornado that the player was given a vision of all the way back in the first episode is finally on top of you. There's misery aplenty, but at no point do you feel involved in the misery; rather, you just witness it.
As the episode opens, you're trapped with your captor, and around 30 minutes to an hour of the episode is spent travelling through photographs and changing time. However, at the end of this segment nothing has changed, which makes it feel like a pointless, time-wasting exercise; a way to slowly drag players through the game without them feeling stung by purchasing half an episode.
And yet all that could be forgiven if you were given more choice, which is the big issue here. At no point are you given any real choice throughout the episode. The game I had loved for its variety of choices and their consequences had become linear in a bid to wrap things up neatly. Saving your friends as a tornado is about to hit, for example, ends up feeling hollow, and the decision over whether or not to tell David about Chloe’s death has no effect.
Furthermore, one of the series' two major gameplay elements was needlessly removed and replaced with an ill-thought-out and dull stealth segment. In this stealth segment you must watch patrols and move cautiously... in theory. In reality the fact that you can control time means there’s no real challenge there and again it comes to feel like filler content.
It all culminates in a binary 'live or die' final decision. I had hoped for countless options; I had hoped for certain decisions that had been made to reverberate through to the final closing segments. Instead there are just two - love or die - and I was left with a sinking feeling of disappointment. The game is never pushed to its limits. Interesting concepts are proposed but never fully explored.
What could have been a deep, complex, and emotional end to the series instead feels anti-climactic and uninspiring. Dontnod has created a wonderful series but Polarized does not do it justice.