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'Life is Strange' has cool premise but suffers from dull characters

Matt Daniels
Staff Writer

Story focused video games seem to be all the rage now especially with titles like Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” being so successful. Since these games often are not very strong in the gameplay department, they often must compensate for it by having a very engaging, well-written story. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the biggest weaknesses of “Life is Strange,” thanks to its awkward, clumsy and sometimes even painful dialogue and its very cliche cast of characters.

"Life is Strange" revolves around the friendship between Max and Chloe and Max's time-travel ability. (Photo courtesy gamespot.com)
“Life is Strange” revolves around the friendship between Max and Chloe and Max’s time-traveling ability. (Photo courtesy gamespot.com)

Developed by Dontnod Entertainment, “Life is Strange” is an episodic point-and-click adventure game, very much like Telltale’s adventure games. Throughout the game, you make various choices that will have their own benefits and consequences, such as determining the fate of certain characters. At the moment, only the first two episodes have been released, which each episode releasing seven weeks after the previous one. You play as Max Caulfield, a quiet, artsy high school senior who loves photography. After a mysterious dream of a giant tornado engulfing her town, she discovers that she has gained the ability to reverse time. The power is limited however, as she can only go so far back in time without it having intense strain on her body. Max also meets an old friend of hers named Chloe, who she hasn’t spoken to since moving away several years ago.

This time traveling power is one of the main draws and mechanics of the game, allowing you to undo decisions you’ve made and see different outcomes for that specific scene. Once you leave the area in which the decisions take place, you’re stuck with whatever choice you go with, affecting future events. This ability also allows you to solve puzzles during which any item you find while exploring stays with you even if you turn back time. This is easily the most well-executed part of the game, and it’s certainly rewarding seeing how undoing certain mistakes and discovering pieces of information affects later scenes.

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Where the issue lies is mainly in the writing. In order for a story like this to work,, you really need strong, relatable characters. Many characters are stereotypical high school drama archetypes. You have the main character who’s shy and misunderstood by her peers, the snobby rich girl, the pot-smoking skater kids, the stern principal, the goth chick, the weird janitor and so on. It’s pretty much a parade of cliches, with none of them receiving any notable character development yet.

Then of course there’s Chloe, who may be the most annoying, insufferable character out of all of them. While the others are generally just one note, Chloe is incredibly unlikable. She acts as the rebellious, tough chick who likes to listen to punk rock, drink beer, smoke, and act like a selfish brat. You know those scenes in TV shows and movies where the parents are trying to look hip with the kids by saying all kinds of ridiculous slang? That’s pretty much what most of the dialog for Chloe’s character is like, saying words like “amazeballs” and “hella.” Most of the writing in general feels awkward and forced and many times I found myself rolling my eyes. Much of the dialogue is describing things on screen that the audience can already see, making the characters sound like weird aliens or something. People don’t speak the way the characters do in this game, thus there’s no way to relate to them. If you can’t relate to them, then you just stop caring about what happens to them and the story fails outright.

“Life is Strange” has a great premise and a cool time travel mechanic, but the script and focus on high school drama ends up making it a rather irritating ride. Since it’s not complete yet, and still has a chance to redeem itself in future episodes, there won’t be a score just yet.