Life is Strange Episode 3 review

Reviews Xbox One Reviews

Where do I start with this? If you’ve been following the exploits of Max Caulfield and her friend Chloe at Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay, then you’ll be pretty much up to speed on where the story is so far. If not, the first thing you’ll get in Episode 3 of Life is Strange, Chaos Theory, after the mammoth 1.5GB update, is a quick recap on the narrative so far. You could also remind yourself with our review of Episode 2, here.

So, depending on your previous choices, Max wakes in her dorm, asleep on her desk. Her laptop is on and her friend Chloe is texting with insistence. The first thing you have to do is explore, then leave the dorm. Reflecting on the choices you’ve made, your journey could be different. Indeed, one of the hardest things in this game as I’ve progressed is to try not to give away too many spoilers. If you’ve played Episode 2, Out of Time, though, Max will either be in a very dark place, or a very light, uplifting one.

Thanks to my choices in my last play-through, I’m in a dark place. The mood is definitely sombre as Max looks for an excuse to displace her sorrow and channel her energies and her power into something more constructive. Chloe is the one that provides that channel and is pretty happy to provide that direction.

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On the way to meet Chloe, you stumble across Principal Wells, who has taken to drowning his sorrows and it’s your first real task to creep past him. This, in truth, was the first time I have felt a little lost in Life is Strange, but eventually, and feeling a little daft, I worked out what I needed to do.

This is all incidental really, an entrée to the main course if you like. The main course throughout this episode is the developing relationship between Max and Chloe. There are some touching moments during their foray through the school. The interactions between them in the previous episodes has always seemed a little strained, with Chloe’s infectious energy tempered by the more level-headed Max. Initially this dynamic hasn’t changed, but as the girls get a little closer, it doesn’t take long for Chloe’s infectiousness to rub off and Max is soon off on a fetch quest as they try a quick breaking and entering into the Principal’s office.

I’ll come back to the developing relationship shortly, after a brief moan about the fetch quests. There are more than one in the episode that require multiple items and none of them are that challenging. If anything, they’re a welcome break from the hella dialogue between Max and Chloe as you inevitably go for the bits and pieces you need on your own. I have to mention here that the dialogue has improved greatly from the first episode. Each character seems to have matured out of the pseudo-street speak of the terminally fourteen and it helps to grow that character interaction. Chloe even pokes fun at Max when she says it, and it’s thankfully the only time it’s uttered. See, I told you I’d come back to the developing banter between the two characters.

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The next sequences are probably the most awkward and confusing in the series so far. Chloe and Max go for a swim in the pool and it starts to feel a little uncomfortable. After dodging the Academy Security you’re off to Chloe’s for a sleepover. The writers here then explore the shared experience-bringing-people-closer theory as Chloe almost dares Max to kiss her. At this point I was wondering where the narrative was going and whether this was going to develop into one of the decidedly questionable Indie offerings for the 360. Thankfully, it doesn’t develop past that, but I do think it helps Max to decide what she’s about to do with her power.

Up until now, you’ve probably been forced to use Max’s power around 3 times. I’m not sure if this is conscious choice on the part of the writers, bearing in mind that the more Max uses her powers, the higher the risk of her having some sort of blackout, or that the opportunities thus far for the need to rewind have been few and far between. The next few sequences will make up for it.

Firstly, after the awkward incident in Chloe’s bedroom, you’re faced with the task of going through Chloe’s Step-Dad’s laptop. You’ll need all your wander and search skills here as the pesky PC is password protected. There are a number of places that password could be, so be sure to search everywhere. Once you’ve done this, you’re on to a confrontation with the Step-douche himself. There’s a major decision looming here, as a warning, and it might affect how the rest of the episode turns out. This is all kicked off by a breakfast conversation with Chloe’s mum, who is understandably concerned at her daughter’s actions and erratic nature. The relationship between Joyce and Max is easy-going and feels about right for a parental-friend and isn’t condescending in any way, which is refreshing. These sequences serve to help Max with her final course of action.

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The next sequences see Chloe and Max sparring with dealer-Frank again, well, Max mainly. This is set in the Diner and you will need all your dialogue-trawling skills to achieve a goal to get the girls into Frank’s motorhome. To do this, you’ll need to speak to the polar opposites of Officer Berry and the Bi-Polar Nathan Prescott. I have to admit to finding Prescott’s willingness to talk a little strange considering his seeming-hatred for Max, but talk he does, and he and Officer Berry provide you with the opportunity you’re looking for with Frank to get what you need and pursue Chloe’s obsession with finding Rachel Amber’s fate. The contents of the motorhome only further enrages Chloe however and it cements her volatile nature, seemingly angry at the whole world.

This is the final catalyst that pushes Max to go back to school and the final scenes are where she discovers a new side to her power. I’m not going to spoil this too much for anyone who hasn’t played this yet, but the whole story so far is turned, spun and dumped unceremoniously on its already dizzy and confused head. Dontnod certainly know how to lob a curve-ball. This one doesn’t just curve, it dips, spins, stops, slows down and speeds up, all at the same time.

Life Is Strange, Episode 3: Chaos Theory certainly lives up to its name then. From a sombre, almost serene start, depending on the outcome of Episode 2 of course, to the mind-melting plot-twist at the end, the few hours I spent guiding Max through what turns out to be mainly Chloe’s world whizzed by at speed. There is the sense of a little Twin Peaks about this, and those with eagle-eyes will spot a clue in the Diner toilets, but I get a sense that no matter how much Max tries to investigate Kate’s situation, Chloe’s infectious personality dominates the episode and I’m finding myself more and more detached from Max’s own situation. This middle episode though, has a proper blockbuster ending and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. It’s better than any soap that’s on at the minute that’s for sure.

Thanks to Square Enix for supporting TiX

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A lifelong gamer, staring at the wrong side of the forties, I'm a huge Halo series fan. Started gaming way back in the days of the Amstrad CPC464. Midlander through birth, married with son, COD virgin, so be gentle. Twitter: @PhilK_TiX