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Life is Strange: a hella annoying game

Before this year, people were always surprised when I told them I hadn’t properly played Life is Strange. That’s because it should have really appealed to me with its female protagonist and strong narrative, plus it’s one of those releases that everyone you know seems to rave about.

If you haven’t yet played Life is Strange and intend to do so, I’d recommend navigating away from this post now and coming back later. There are some spoilers in the following paragraphs which may spoil your enjoyment of the game.

But thanks to a complicated relationship with this game, it’s taken me five years to finally complete it. I didn’t pick up the first instalment when it was published in January 2015 because episodic games just aren’t for me and I’d wanted to wait until the whole title was available. But a house move and other adult responsibilities meant I didn’t get the opportunity until September 2017, when I then discovered that it wasn’t what I wanted from a gaming experience at the time and didn’t progress to the second episode.

From that point onward I had so many friends tell me I ‘really needed to finish Life is Strange’. Their comments were intended to be helpful recommendations but weirdly they had the opposite effect. When a game is continuously hyped up, whether it be by the press or people closer to you, it makes me think that it’s too good to me true and then I’m reluctant to give it my attention. This is exactly what happened with Fallout 76 and Red Dead Redemption 2 (and look how they turned out).

But when our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 took place earlier this year, I realised it was it time to let go of my apprehensions and give DONTNOD Entertainment’s darling a fair shot. I replayed the first episode on day seven, moved on to the second on day 42 and then finished the others during a week in March. After five years I’m finally done with Life is Strange and I feel a weird sort of achievement, even though I sadly missed the part with the giant squirrels in the window.

But that’s not to say I’m now in love with it and am going to start telling everyone to play it.

In my first post about the game in 2017, I mentioned that I hadn’t warmed to Max as a character. I’m afraid to say that’s still the case after completing all the instalments and she’s never going to make it onto my favourites list. It’s clear the developer designed her as a shy, introverted opposite to Chloe as having two strong protagonists may have been overwhelming for a title like this; but at times she was so frustratingly passive that it made me want to shake some sense into her. It’s only her powers that make her interesting.

And speaking of Chloe, I can’t claim to be a fan of hers either. There’s certainly more to her than Max, she didn’t grate on me as much and her scenes within Life is Strange are more enjoyable; but I’m still struggling to understand why so many gamers love her as much as they do. She’s obviously had a difficult upbringing and certain events have had an impact on her personality, but most of the time she’s just a rebellious teenager who wants to revolt against the world. Nothing new there then.

Now let’s move on to Warren. While streaming the game, the friends who joined us in chat told us that players hate him because they think he’s a ‘stalker’. I have several issues with this. Firstly, the nightmare sequence happens inside Max’s head and may therefore not be representative of Warren’s feelings; secondly, if it is in any way representative, surely the locker is more a metaphor for unrequited love; and thirdly, he’s wetter than a lettuce. There’s simple nothing to like or dislike about him, so those how hate him seem to be taking it a bit far.

Life is Strange is one those releases which falls flat if you don’t like the main characters. Everything hangs on the player making a connection with them because the narrative is so tightly focused on their lives and reactions to each other, even if the story implies that the villain will have an impact on the wider world. If you’re unable to form that relationship with your protagonists, you’re more inclined to not overlook the unbelievable set-up, gaping plot holes and inconsistent game mechanics.

Speaking of which, there’s one such hole that I must discuss here: the storm. At the very start of the first episode Max has a vision about a tornado hitting Arcadia Bay followed by further environmental disasters, and she mentions them to nobody other than Chloe and Warren (and the homeless lady if you make that decision). Then at the Vortex Club party when the teenagers see two moons in the sky, they all just pass it off as a freak event and carry on drinking. Hello, people – it looks like your world is about to end and this might be a good time to panic.

We were also told by our friends in the stream chat that some players consider the storm to be ‘Rachel’s revenge’ thanks to a line said by Chloe during episode five. Reading up about this on the internet reveals a whole host of theories about how Rachel Amber was able to control the elements using her emotions, and how Max’s powers may be a gift from her. This is all just too far fetched for me. It feels as though some people fell so in love with Life is Strange and its characters, that they then spent far too much time trying to plug the plot holes.

I now have absolutely no desire to play Life is Strange: Before the Storm. I don’t particularly care how Chloe and Rachel met or what their relationship was like before Max returned to Arcadia Bay, and I certainly don’t want to listen to them saying ‘hella’ all the time. I’m aware I could be giving the series a hard time though due to my reluctant reaction to hype as described above. If only I had the power to go back in time myself and play Life is Strange when it was first released, to see if my reaction to the game would have been different.

I’m also conscious of the fact that playing such a narrative-heavy title on stream, when your attention is split between what’s being discussed in chat and what’s happening in the story, may not have helped my negative opinions. That’s why one day I’d like to play Life is Strange 2 off camera to see if the experience is any different. Surely there must be something I’m going to like about the franchise, seeing as so many of my blogging friends keep telling me it’s one I should like?

That’s not going to be for a while though. I’m not sure my other-half could manage to go through another five-episodes of teenage angst right now.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

25 thoughts on “Life is Strange: a hella annoying game Leave a comment

  1. Always such a condescending sounding thing to say but important to try these to have a based opinion on. Personally I enjoyed the title and it’s prequel but one of my close friends of similar tastes pretty much described it as teenage angst simulator so seemingly a bit of a ‘marmite game’. Have to admire the 00’s emo soundtrack 🤷🏼‍♂️

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    • Yeah, I think you’re right in that this is one of those Marmite titles. Far more people I know loved Life is Strange than hated it; but I can’t recall any of them sitting on the fence and having a mixed opinion.

      If you can’t connect to the characters, then it’s game over. It sounds as though your friend and I felt similar because there was far too much teenage angst for me – and I just couldn’t forget about the fact that the protagonists were all too caught up in their own world to do something about the tornado. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

      • 🤔I’m not questioning the meteorological department of Arcadia Bay but the whole premise does rely on believing the premonitions of a very shy quiet teen.

        I never picked up the Rachel/Tornado connections, curious as may have missed it but didn’t pick up your final decision?

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        • I had no hesitation in rewinding time and not saving Chloe! I kept questioning though why Max didn’t prevent her from getting shot, *then* stop rewinding time. 🤔

          There’s a bit of the end where Chloe says something like: “This storm could be Rachel’s revenge, our revenge.”

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  2. Definitely a Marmite title. Chalk me one of the minority who just detested Life is Strange right off the bat and couldn’t manage to finish it despite all the hype. The characters felt like adult French men trying to pretend to be angsty teenage girls – awkward, to say the least. The storyline was trying to push these two odd characters together and all I wanted to do was make a quick u-turn in another direction and walk away from it all – the school, the relationships, everything.

    Then finally, the game mechanic revolved around regretting one’s choices and decisions and continually rewinding time to see what else could have been, which was antithetical to my life philosophy, which is more “choices define you and your destiny, and there’s no point regretting the decision and hoping to rewind the clock,” This lends itself more to playing branching narrative games where one can see the result of those choices. Life is Strange meanwhile just insisted that I keep rewinding time, to reach story paths I had no interest in going, when I was like, “Why?! Can’t we just move forward and see what happens next?”

    The kicker was hearing about the ending and wondering why one would even bother to go through the experience if the ending was just going to get preachy and counter everything that had gone on before. I suppose if you really related to the characters, the journey would have been worth it. I didn’t, so it sounded like an unpleasant train ride cooped up with people I didn’t like to get to somewhere I had no interest in going. I’m glad the title exists, for people who enjoyed it. I just wasn’t one of them.

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    • I hear you! All the way through my playthrough, I kept making comments on stream about how rewinding time never works out well in narratives and Max was making stupid decisions. There were certain points where it was obvious that doing a rewind was going to mess things up even more than they already were… but she insisted on doing it anyway. 😕

      I had no hesitation during the final decision about ditching Chloe and felt absolutely no emotion when she didn’t survive. I just couldn’t bring myself to like either of the protagonists and, if it hadn’t been for streaming the game, I’m not sure I’d have even finished it.

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  3. I’ll be skipping it based on what I saw from your streams! Life is Strange 2 looks like it could be more my cup of tea. Their new title, Twin Mirror, looks interesting too, much less teenage angsty 😁

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    • I saw a developer session about Twin Mirror at an expo a couple of years ago and it looked pretty good. But the fact it’s going to be episodic and an Epic Store exclusive for the first year has put me off a little… I’ll wait for your stream, I think. 😆

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  4. This pretty much encapsulates exactly how I felt about this title. I didn’t mind Max so much, but I couldn’t stand Chloe. She’s just shitty for the sake of being shitty a lot of the time, and I struggled to empathize with her. The callous way she treats Max (who seems to suffer when she uses her powers?) bothered me as well. I couldn’t get into the characters, so the game was pretty much a no-go for me, like you said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My thoughts exactly! I couldn’t stand Chloe. She blamed Max for her parents moving away “You left me behind!” and her dad for…dying “He went and abandoned me!”. Bad things happening may explain her toxic behavior, but do not excuse it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This totally sums it up! I think the thing I disliked most about Chloe was how she behaved as though everything was *always* someone’s fault. We all have moments like that when we’re teenagers, but it just felt like she was never going to take responsibility for any of her actions or their consequences. 😕

        Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone who joined us in the chat during our stream loved Chloe, so not liking her felt a bit weird. But I just couldn’t get over how ‘bratty teenager’ she was – sure, she’s more interesting than Max but that doesn’t make her a good character. If it hadn’t been for streaming for the game, I don’t think I would have made it to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know I shouldn’t pass judgment on a game without playing it myself, but I was pretty sure I’d hate Life Is Strange because the characters seemed so irritating just from watching a few streams. And I don’t have time to play a game that I’ll probably end up hating anyway. You’re also right about the hype train — sometimes a game deserves it all and ends up being just that great, but in too many cases, you’ll play the thing and realize that all the supposed innovation in it was already achieved by some other game ten years ago that everyone ignored back then, and that game did what the hyped-up one is attempting a lot more effectively.

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    • That level of hype immediately makes me suspicious of any game. I’m aware that might make me unfairly judge certain titles because I go into them ‘trying’ to dislike them as a result – but experience has shown that the more noise there is about a release, the more of a disappointment it’s likely to be.

      I do see why so many people love Life is Strange, and if got more people into playing narrative games then great. It’s just not one for me because the characters weren’t people I was ever going to warm to.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I tried the first chapter and couldn’t do it. This game was just not for me, as you say it’s the characters and it is a character driven plot. Although this seems to oddly be a common thread in the comment section …

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    • Yeah, I’m genuinely surprised by how many people felt a similar way about Life is Strange! I know so many who love the game and was therefore expecting to be in a minority. It’s good to find out I’ve got some company in the Anti-Max-and-Chloe Club. 😉

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  7. Dude, the post is hella honest and that’s totally cool. Also, you did mention the squirrel-zillas. Yay! 😁

    As I babbled at you in chat during your stream, I connected with LiS a lot because I had no prior knowledge of it and played it during a time when I was really depressed. I was bullied relentlessly growing up and seeing all the crap Max had to endure really clicked with me. Chloe is the badass BFF I always wanted and I saw Warren as her cool bro. It’s all about the viewer’s perspective when it comes to stories. People will get different things out of every narrative and nothing will click with everyone. That’s why I don’t really feel pressure to play games people keep recommending. Either I’ll get to it or not at my own pace. Pressure to play just ruins everything, haha.

    I’m also totally sure LiS being the easiest Platinum Trophy I ever got had nothing to do with my immense enjoyment of the game….

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    • Hella hella hella hella hella hella hella hella hella hella hella hella ARGH!

      I do wonder what my reaction to Life is Strange would have been like if I’d played it when it was released, before all the hype and recommendations. I think I still would have ended up being annoyed at how nobody was that bothered about the impending environmental doom, and also at the overuse of the word ‘hella’ – but maybe those giant squirrels would have made me overlook those minor flaws. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I found it to be more than the sum of its parts, I found the setting and characters to be rather cliche but remember getting quite wrapped up in all the drama.

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    • I honestly think that if I’d played Life is Strange when it was originally released, rather than five years later, I would have really enjoyed it. It’s likely the hype I’d heard about the game during that time made me overly critical of it during my playthrough and I was too busy ‘reviewing’ rather than playing it.

      One day I’ll get around to the second game, and we can see if that fares any better. 🙂

      Like

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