Life Is Strange Episode 3 Review: Chaos Theory


Developer: DontNod

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360

Release Date: May 19th

This review of “Life is Strange Episode 3″ will remain plot-light and spoiler-free. However, it will make passing remarks at certain events of Episode 1 and Episode 2, so please make sure to play through the game’s debut before reading this review!

As the balance of design in recent episodic graphic adventure games leans towards the multitude of illusions in dialogue choices, Life Is Strange continues to beat the drum of exploration and investigation. The introduction of Max’s powers to rewind time brings forth a new realm of gameplay mechanics, as puzzles can be solved not only through gathering of materials, but also by mining information through social interactions. Science fiction and the effects of tampering with quantum physics is at the crux of the aptly-titled Episode 3, “Chaos Theory,” where the limits of time manipulation are explored to seemingly unrecoverable limits.

Picking up from the events of “Out of Time,” the entire town is in shock concerning the climax of the last episode. Determined to uncover the secrets that led so many to peril at Blackwell Academy, Max and Chloe sneak in after hours to dig up dirt on what’s been going on behind closed doors. However, as is the case sometimes when uncovering secrets, the results aren’t always want you wanted to see. What follows is an intense examination of the characterization of our protagonists, who would do anything in the world to make things right again. Unfortunately, to quote the great Dr. Alan Grant, “Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”

…Even the game’s strong voice acting can only do so much with the overuse of 2007-era slang, like “hella” and “amazeballs.”

Life Is Strange Episode 3 took the story pacing to enjoyable new places, in a multitude of ways. Firstly, most of Max’s Blackwell Academy friends are nowhere to be seen, outside of dorm room visits or chance meetings outside of campus. I found it an ideal way of bringing the focus to the overarching story, as we’ve encountered more than enough of the mood-setting harsh reality of high school pack mentality and bullying through the season’s first two entries.

More pertinent, it explored the friendship between Max and Chloe by changing things up. The two work better as equals than within the confines of a demigod and her minion, and you can see how the shift of balance slides towards an even playing field. Leading up to this episode of Life Is Strange, Max acted mostly as a mirror, reflecting and reacting to the hardships of others through their stories. Now, as things take an impossible turn for the worst, Max’s humanity is opened up, finally giving depth beyond her “plain Jane” stock teenager motif.

Breaking into school after dark always seemed to be the pinnacle of being a badass as a kid, and seeing the childhood glee of 18 year-olds doing the same on a more advanced level was a delight. Life Is Strange deals with the burdens of growing up, and it is significant to note just how well a job DontNod does in portraying teenage life realistically. Their main flaw continues to be in dialogue, as even the game’s strong voice acting can only do so much with the overuse of 2007-era slang, like “hella” and “amazeballs.” Calling yourself out for using that language through the voice of a character, furthermore, is just a week cop out, and does little to address the actual problem.

Even though many questions lingered through episodes 1 and 2, Life Is Strange’s “Chaos Theory” best spends its time in the journey to answer them. Whether it be in avoiding getting caught by your principal during curfew, breaking into a locked door using the magic of science or sneaking into someone’s RV, environmental puzzles breathe life into a game focused on detailing the lives of people. The ability to rewind time continues to evolve with new and exciting uses, yet figuring out the logic of social interaction between others and how best to manipulate that to your advantage is much more rewarding.

Each dire, happy or emotional moment continues to come part and parcel with a tight production quality, one that DontNod should be proud of.

Speaking of Max’s powers, it seems like each new episode of Life Is Strange brings something new to the table that changes her ability to harness the reversal of time within the confines of that episode. The first episode saw her jump to the future, the second let Max stop time temporarily altogether. Each instance is crucial to the advancement to the story, and no bigger a time is that true than with “Chaos Theory,” where the ability to rewind time becomes stronger than ever before. For once, we can see the only entity that can impede Max’s progress in the story, and it comes at a frightening cost.

As Life Is Strange Episode 3 comes to its gripping conclusion, we finally see the philosophy and morality behind messing with the past come to the forefront. Many great pieces of science fiction explore how time travel works for the benefit and detriment of life, and “Chaos Theory” shows that, sometimes, you can’t fix the present. The Butterfly Effect sees fate as a winding trail, with predetermined events taking place with different execution. Finally, Max encounters personal consequence that comes with godlike magic, with problems that may not ever be fixed.

Each dire, happy or emotional moment continues to come part and parcel with a tight production quality, one that DontNod should be proud of. “Cinematic” integrity should be strived for only if the dedication towards the medium is at focus, and Life Is Strange best utilizes a strong direction in lighting, framing and audio quality. The use of licensed music tracks, cinematic direction and colorization continues to make the vibe feel like an independent movie, while still maintaining an emphasis on gameplay and its mechanics to bring a duality to the story. Small technical issues, however (including ever-present lip-syncing and a new dialogue track mixing error in the game’s conclusion), still hamper its effectiveness.


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I’ve been personally saying for the past few weeks that this would be the “make or break” turning point for this series, as there needed to be a monumental change in the game’s storytelling to make that leap towards something special. Life Is Strange unabashedly took that step with “Chaos Theory,” as the stakes could not be higher. The slow pacing early in the season was just setting up a cruel twist of fate, with a mid-season finale worthy of widespread discussion. As the bigger story becomes clearer, the game’s story has obtained my rapt attention. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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