The heart of the series has always been the immutable friendship between Max and Chloe – conspicuous by her absence in the trailer above – but it is this dynamic that is cast in a new light by this dramatic change. Regardless of the circumstances, they are as close as ever and, just as we saw with the rekindling of their relationship during the first episode, these are two people who may have lost touch over a number of years, but whose bonds are particularly strong.
Ultimately, it’s a choice which exists in its own bubble, but it’s one that is no less profound, as it paints the American healthcare system in stark light and calls into question the value of life at all costs. With Max’s ability to alter time and for you to weigh up each and every side of a decision, it’s a fleeting moment, but it’s one that will be no less profound and difficult for so many people to deal with.
From this point, the episode sets off at quite a pace towards the series’ endgame. Once again, the investigation into Rachel Amber’s disappearance takes centre stage, following on from all that we’ve learnt in the first three episodes and finally allowing you connect the dots in a meaningful fashion.
Alongside some surprisingly traditional point & click adventure sleuthing and puzzle solving, there’s also plenty of opportunities to show off Max’s abilities, in tandem with a new go-getting approach to overcoming the obstacles in her way. One particular encounter with the dubious character of the drug dealing Frank is simply outstanding, with a stand-offish conversation that can end a number of ways – bringing the question of mortality to the fore once more – depending not just on your decisions on the spot, but drawing from a number of your previous actions for a lot of possible permutations.
With a number of the key discoveries along the way, including the episode’s eponymous Dark Room, you can see Life Is Strange’s numerous inspirations from across film and TV quite clearly. The real difference is how engaged you are in the characters and the story. Rather than merely rooting for the heroine, it’s your choices which have gone some way to shape the story, and so there is a greater emotional attachment as you head towards a major confrontation and turning point at the Vortex Club’s End of the World party, with lives once again hanging in the balance.
It’s at this party that the game can look both at its best and at its worst. Though they’re relatively easy to overlook given the quality of the actual story being told, there are still those jarring moments with poor animations and lip synching, and these are compounded by the odd looking low polygon character models which can be found at the End of the World party. On the other hand, the strobe lighting and deep hues of colour that are used to light up the darkness of the college’s swimming pool manages to look simply gorgeous.
Of course, there is no happy ending to be found at the end of this penultimate episode. It’s another episode filled with bizarre imagery, from beached whales to twin moons, which points to the hurricane from Max’s dream coming true. More than that, though, Dontnod have excelled themselves, setting up a final episode with yet another shocking and deeply affecting cliffhanger.
As the credits rolled at the end of the episode, I was left trying to digest not just the final few moments, but the episode as a whole. There were several very powerful moments, with Dontnod’s mature approach to the subject matter and ambiguous decision making key, as they tackled the theme of life and death that ran throughout. Alongside some great puzzles and use of Max’s time warping power, this is the best episode yet.
Originally published by www.thesixthaxis.com