Life is Strange - Square Enix, Remember Me, rewinding time


Luc Baghadoust, associate producer at DONTNOD, wasn’t thrilled at the reception at the major outlets.


I played all the Episodes on a life-wasting bender the last few days. I love it! It’s the GOTY for me. It might be the last game i ever play! Um. Seriously. Not sure if i want to play other games after this. It’s been on my mind for two days straight. I’m spending all my free time looking up Tumblr and Reddit material about the game.

I’ve played Telltale games and i find them weirdly contrived and artificial even when they’re doing well. They feel like they’re specifically targeting the Sunday Comic crowd at the same time as being authentically faithful to the source material. Both Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands are great for what they are, but they just don’t have that sorrowful, world weary reality and heart of Life is Strange. You can play Tales and like the story and think they do a good job. You play Life is Strange and then bawl your eyes out while hugging your SO and promsing yourself to be a better person from here on out. I predict there’s going to be a whole subgenre of Let’s Play Youtubers watching the final episode of LIS and watching their reactions. There are already a couple vidoes of Let’s Play bros sobbing uncontrollably when they get to the end. In fact i’m actually trying to not shed tears and keep face up at the office just writing this post. it’s ridiculous.


My god. This game.

Just finished ep3 and started the first portion of 4 and well I’m done for the night.


Business wise, they seem happy with the game


It doesn’t get better. /brohug


Finished Episode 4 and 5 back to back. That’s a pretty brutal sequence of events. I like how everything ties back to previous events and there’s an overall logic to it all. The writing is excellent. They force you to make some gut-wrenching choices and, like the real world, a simple-minded morality is often not up to the task.


I just finished this tonight and yeah it was pretty brutal .


[spoiler]I ended up going the Spock route because as painful as it was to sacrifice Chloe, I don’t think I could live with the guilt of knowing my choice resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Chloe may have been the best bud but both Max and Chloe are something like 18 years old and they have a lot of growing to do. Once they get to about 25 they will have transitioned to adulthood. On paper 7 years doesn’t sound like much but the cognitive maturation, if that’s the right way to describe it, between an 18 year old and a 25 year old adult is staggering. By that age Max probably would have her bachelor’s, did some traveling, and settled into her adult job. Chloe, well who knows how she would have turned out. Buckle down and get serious about what she wants to do with her life? Perhaps. Take a chance of making it in Hollywood but ultimately ending up in San Fernando Valley shooting BangBro flicks. Very likely. Imagine tracking Chloe down years from now through Google only to discover videos of her online getting rotisseried by guys with GoPro’s strapped to their heads. I sacrificed Arcadia Bay for that?

While quadriplegic Chloe had me all watery eyed, ‘sacrifice Chloe’ had me sobbing over the keyboard. What and ending that was. It reminded me of an old interview of Spielberg when he was asked why he wanted to make ET and his reply was simple; “I wanted to make a movie that made people cry”. I checked the ‘sacrifice Arcadia’ on YouTube and that was totally weak by comparison with Chloe and Max driving out of a leveled Arcadia to begin a new life. Regardless of that it was still a damn fine game and I’d love to see more from this team. [/spoiler]



I also went the sacrifice Chloe route. I can definitely sympathize with people who wouldn’t sacrifice Chloe, or didn’t feel that it was in character for Max. Some of the justifications people give for sacrificing Arcadia Bay are a bit weird though: “You only see one body”, “If you sacrifice Chloe, it’s your decision that did that, but if the universe decides to destroy Arcadia Bay, that’s just the universe being mean.”

On another note:

“Seriously though, I could frame any one of you in a dark corner, and capture you in a moment of desperation” - I never trusted that guy from the first episode. I think it would be interesting to replay the game and listen to the dialog in the light of what is eventually revealed.

I liked this game better than the TellTale games. I think that for me, more simulationist games where the stories are emergent are ultimately more interesting. But Life is Strange has to be the best so far in the vein of games that are mainly interested in telling a story and use the interactivity to put you in the character’s shoes. Plus the tricks you can do with time manipulating can be pretty fun.


Dontnod did so much with such a small budget. I’m impressed with how alive the characters seem and and how rich their personalities and interactions are, their facial features and physical movements seem light years beyond anything at EA. Dontnod used MOCAP and facial tech in a meaningful way to enrich the characters rather than humanize bad dialog. There are very few fluff or filler moments in the series. It’s a combination of Twin Peaks, a euro-modern Teenage Drama, Donnie Darko and seasoned with a healthy pinch of French Existential Angst, rich enough to sift through the clues for ages but vague and inconclusive enough to never get a satisfying answer.

It’s also refreshing to play a game that remained coherent over several episodes. While they may have made some adjustments the game’s plot was clearly laid out from the beginning and carried to its conclusion. It is also nice to play a game with a heart and soul by writers that have clearly read more than comic books during their lives.

David Cage clearly has his work cut out for him. Life is Strange is one of the, if not the, best game of the year and something that will be talked about for a long time. It is going to win a lot of awards.

End Game Thoughts

[spoiler]For some reason the end of the third act set me on edge far more than the end of the fourth. Those sorts of scenes, where somebody has unintentionally hurt someone they love and their love interest looks at them with undisguised happiness pluck my heart strings something fierce. Very puppy dog eyes. At the end of the fourth, well, Chloe is always dying and I wasn’t too worried; it was the Chloe scenes during the suicide and finding Rachel that were so well acted.

I could talk a long time about the ending(s). Many people feel disappointed for superficial reasons (my choices didn’t matter!) but there are more sophisticated arguments against it, despite the overall narrative structure and symbolism clearly pointing toward Sacrificing Chloe as the “real” ending. If Chloe and Max’s relationship is a Twin-Peaks-y sort of way than I think Sacrificing Chloe makes sense but it becomes more problematic if they are romantically involved.

That said I chose to Sacrifice Arcadia Bay because I’m a sucker for romance and in my view such a spiteful universe doesn’t get to set terms. I played the game as if it were an extended love story. The French-ish insistence on destiny and the inevitably of tragedy start to unravel a bit under careful scrutiny, i think, and there are problematic if unintentional issues with the representation of same sex relationships. But the endings were entirely a success in getting people to think about the wider meaning of the game. And while the cutscene for the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay needs to be so much more it’s actually kind of amazing how many subtle emotions they managed to pack into the few glances of Chloe and Max that they did share, and I like it better on repeat viewings.[/spoiler]


Earlier in this thread I mentioned I couldn’t even get through Episode 1. I got bored. After a several month hiatus, I pushed through. Around the diner scene in Episode 2 my interest started increasing…a little. By the end of Episode 2 I was invested. Up until that point I had stuck with my choices, even when I realized they weren’t optimal (unless I realized it and could rewind something). Once I found out that I could change the event at the end of Episode 2 by replaying that section, I had to. I felt dirty doing it, but I had to. I couldn’t continue the game on the path I was on knowing I could do something about it.

Some of the game still bugs me, like Max’s overly dramatic descriptions of every object she inspects - like how it is so sad it is to see a grounded boat. Really? How does she get through each day?

But, I’m interested now and a little emotionally drained. Not quite Telltale’s The Walking Dead interested, but interested. Damn I love Clementine and Lee.

I just finished Episode 3 and I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. Even when the game went down the final path of that episode I had my own ideas where it would end up and it didn’t go that way. It didn’t quite have the emotional impact as episode 2, but it was good.

Episode 3

Even with Chloe in the wheelchair, she seemed happy so the trade off was probably a worthwhile one. She had her dad at least.


I just read it as her being aware of the emotional valence of things, and feeling free to express that in her inner monologue. Not that she’s pushing to tears by everything she sees. I mean, she goes through some serious shit without curling up into a ball or hiding under her bed. You never really know much stress someone can be under without breaking. Sort of the hard versus tough distinction.


I picked this up on the Steam sale and I have played through two chapters. So far it is simply fantastic. Maybe there is too much teen angst involved but it is really well done and the story has done a wonderful job of getting me emotionally invested in these characters.


After I got through episode one (which made me quit for several months), I enjoyed episode 2-5 so I’m glad I didn’t give permanently.


I could talk about this game for an hour and a day but I don’t think Qt3 has much overlap with the market for this. It’s still everything I can do not to splurge out a rambling multi page review / detox about the game regardless of that.

For other views, one Verge author declared it to be his favorite TV show this year. In this Guardian article, DONTNOD reveals how they shopped around until they found SquareEnix because every other publisher wanted to make the main character a guy; by default, a female lead was considered a bad idea.

It is probably one of the most important games of the year and certainly its the most unabashedly emotionally affecting. Watch the Geek Remix YouTube series and get a sense of how the girls will pick out even slight changes in language or word choice and see that DONTNOD was very careful about what they were saying and revealing throughout the game even around secondary or relatively side issues that aren’t essential to the plot but help flesh out the world. Fans have discovered and posted a lot of cut audio from the game that, while no longer “canonical”, helps explain some of the tones and themes in later episodes that might seem not completely congruent, which would be interesting to discuss… but only among fans who have completed the game. It’s actually hard not to talk about it and not spoil the whole thing.


Enidigm, if this is not the place to talk about the game well then shame on the rest of Qt3 for not playing such a great story. I am more than happy to detox the game with you.

I finished up the game last night at 1:30 AM. Oh boy.

Non-Spoiler Comments
The first few episodes are the best because to me they felt the most grounded. The world was fully fleshed out and getting to know Arcadia Falls was like getting to know a character. While the teen stuff was done over the top (“hella”, “bitches”, etc) and in stereotypes it was still well done. By the last couple I felt I was being emotionally manipulated and it broke that fourth wall. The last episode was a bit weird and had some frustrating-inducing sequences. But it is certainly on par with The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us from Telltale.

Here be spoilers!

[spoiler]The emotional manipulation was going back to before William died and having Chloe then dying. I understand they could not let that have a happy ending but it was still a bit too obvious.

As far as my final choice, my best friend died a few years ago after he and I did not talk for a few years. I did not get the chance that Max did to bring him back and make amends and it is the biggest regret of my life. So there was no way I was going to let Chloe die.

That final episode was just downright weird though. The sneak through the dream lighthouse sequence was awful and I still have no idea what happened for about an hour of game play. [/spoiler]


I loved it myself but there wasn’t any discussion happening here so I talked about it over on RPS.


Was waiting for the last episode, now I am overloaded with games to play, but I hope to get it in before the end of the year.


This game should have received a better reception here at Qt3. I am still mulling over the ending and choices I made a week after wrapping up the story.


I bought this on sale for $10 the other night when the game awards sale was going on. It was $10 on both Xbox Live and PSN.

In the first episode, I’ve been quite impressed so far. I was expecting something along the lines of a Telltale game, but the time-reversal mechanic makes this one feel quite different.


Hurray! I’ll take you up on your offer. Be careful what you wish for though ^^.

Honestly though it might be too late, as it’s almost been a month and I feel about as reconciled with the ending as I can hope to be. I didn’t play the episodes as they were released but in one big chunk, so i don’t have the months of speculation and fandom of theories, hopes and dreams, only to be twisted at the end. I’ve run over the many facets of the game in my mind many times, trying to work the emotions evoked by the game out of my system, watched some of the more literate Let’s Plays, ect. In some ways this will just be talking to talk.


[spoiler] I think that the end of the game and the nightmare sequence seem to show that there are three possible interpretations as to what the game was actually about. In one way it’s possible to see Max’s journey as being about giving her more time to have a relationship with and say goodbye to Chloe. So it’s possible that the paranormal event in the game are actually reflections of Max’s psychological state, which well might be true as on the last beach sequence Max tells Chloe her worry that the storm and the nightmare both might be caused by her subconscious. On this interpretation the game is simply giving Max more time but while the ending and the lesson is preordained, the tension (the storm) is her subconscious is unwilling or unable to let go of Chloe. This also resolves the contradiction when the first time Max discovers her time rewinding powers she pops back into the classroom from the bathroom even though it is later established that when she rewinds she stays in place.

Another possibility is that Max’s powers derived from Chloe’s spirit unwilling to pass from this world because of her premature death and unhappiness stemming from her abusive teenage years and the disappearance of her best friend Rachel Amber, and Chloe’s spirit animal the butterfly wants to help Chloe find peace and thus be able to pass from this work to the next. In this interpretation Chloe’s behavior exhibits a certain amount of selfishness by indirectly drafting Max into traveling multiple timelines in order to resolve her old friend’s problems. The game seems to make some reference to this in the nightmare sequence when in the diner Max confronts herself and the alternate version of Max accuses Chloe of manipulating Max, and everyone else in the diner is begging Max not to kill them. Fans on Reddit discovered unused audio clips from the sequence revealing that Chloe at one point was a character in that sequence and that she question Max’s apparent decision to sacrifice the town on behalf of her and complained that Max is only doing this out of a sense of guilt for her not being there over the past five years. Of course this isn’t canon but it’s interesting I think as an explanation that’s one reason why the nightmare sequence seems tonally incoherent. Fans also discovered text intended as a prompt for the voice actresses but apparently not used where at the end of the game Chloe begs Max to sacrifice to town and not her. Clearly that would have changed the moral parity of the endings and made Chloe a much less sympathetic character, but it is interesting that at one point they intended the game to go that way. The so-called Pricefield museum that shows Max walking through memories she shared with Chloe does also seem to indicate that it is resolving the death of Rachael Amber that gives Chloe’s spirit the resolution it needs to depart since discovering Rachel Amber together is the last memory of the sequence before reaching the lighthouse.

The third possibility is of course the one we have in which Max’s powers are not intended to be explained and the storm and supernatural disasters are unintended consequences of gaining this power. This might be the most likely explanation considering that DONTNOD left many plot threads from the Twin Peaks inspired subtext of the game hanging and unresolved, and by the end of the game more or less forgotten, and so other alternate interpretations which may have been intended earlier on were left uncompleted and and so the third possibility wins by default. It is possible this is because of budgetary problems, and it could also be that a mere adventure game would have far less emotional impact if there was a stereotypically comic book resolution that left players feeling satisfied and not feeling the pain of loss and death, which they achieved with the ending as it stands now. In this explanation it is the journey not the ending of the game that matters, or at least so they publicly say. But there’s no doubt that the symbolism of the game had always pointed to sacrificing Chloe as being the true ending the developers intended. That is, there is a great deal of symbolism and hidden messages pointing to having to sacrifice Chloe, but there’s almost none except for apocalyptic omens pointing to sacrificing the town. And arguably the true moral impact of the game, that we have to be better today to the people, friends and family around us and not tomorrow is lost if saving Chloe were the true intent. But I don’t think they had it in them to condemn players for saving Chloe and so tried to make both endings as open ended (and therefore unsatisfying) as they were, since they needed a second choice since the true impact of that final choice would be lost if it were simply an accumulation of decisions that were mathematically added and subtracted and then provided to the player as a result of choices that had made throughout the game, and making one ending clearly better than the other would’ve been an obviously bad idea.

I don’t mind the fact that the game intentionally plays with players’ emotions, sometimes flagrantly, because of the emotional immaturity of both gamers and the games they play, and because of the seriousness of the topics being addressed. Although there are some examples in the indie world of games that have a deep emotional core there’re a few games as well written and not based around combat as Life is Strange that also have a significant budget for voice dialog, an excellent soundtrack and artistically inspired graphics and scenes. I think I am gratified to see so many YouTubers having such deep emotional connection with the game. In many ways I think this game has a healthy impact on the people who play it (aside from perhaps the crippling ennui, pathos, dejection, depression, and never ending feeling of sadness!) since it inspires them reevaluate their own lives.

All that being said I do feel that sacrificing Chloe relies too heavily on a noble lie. The reason the game posits Chloe’s death is acceptable is because the world is providentially ordered and at the best possible outcome for everyone has already been baked into reality. Max’s unexpected powers throw a wrench into the metaphysical works and she is forced to discover this truth on her own. When you sacrifice Chloe everyone else gets the best possible outcome (aside from Max) and all the hard work that Max did is discovered to be unnecessary. But the problem is this isn’t the way reality actually is. If simply maximizing outcomes was the standard then it’s plausible we could change the ending into something terrible but instructive. Max could sacrifice Chloe and then wake up in the darkroom only to discover too late that this alternate timeline still ended in her death as well as the deaths of Chloe, Victoria, Kate and Rachel, and the justice for these crimes lost. But hey at least the tornado didn’t happen and Arcadia Bay is still safe, right? I think everyone playing the game would absolutely reject that outcome and would sacrifice the town instead of Chloe. Terrible experience however shows us in the real world providentially ordained justice doesn’t seem to happen and the murder of innocents often goes unpunished and their loss not leading to a reckoning for their society.

Of course it’s true that anyone choosing to save Chloe will try to rationalize or justify doing this, and I am no exception. I also rejected games apparent condemnation of Max’s supposed selfishness since I genuinely felt she was trying to do the best thing possible in almost every circumstance. I sort of imagine the save Chloe ending as a kind of Romeo and Juliet revisionism where they’re standing on the shores of the Adriatic watching Venice burn. Frankly I’m unwilling to let all of Max’s hard work be wasted and Chloe’s unfulfilled life end right when she’s discovered the person who can fulfill it, and I put my faith in that rare but real possibility of that the rare high school couple mature and selfless enough that they can have a relationship which stands the test of time. I also object to the unintentional message it seems to give girls that doing nothing is the best thing; I’d rather teach girls to burn Arcadia Bay down to defend the ones they love then cry in a corner while the one they love dies.