Arcadia Bay continues to surprise us while its secrets remain hidden.
As part of Gamereactor UK's new policy towards episodic titles, we'll discuss individual episodes as they release but leave a final roundup verdict until the entire season is completed. As a reflection on that, these recaps will also pinpoint the strongest and weakest elements we found in each episode, and as such contain spoilers.
Hours removed from playing the final section of Life is Strange's third episode - Chaos Theory - we're still trying to collect our thoughts. This mid-season episode certainly manages to turn things upside down, but let's not start at the very end of it, but instead explore what the episode offers players from its beginning.
The episode is almost entirely focused on Max and Chloe and in the beginning we're baited into believing that we're actually going to do some detective work. The events of the previous episode hang over Max like a dark cloud, and as the episode progresses it grows ever more tempting to go back to the previous chapter and make different choices.
From a gameplay perspective this episode doesn't really bring anything new into the mix. Proven formulas and more variations on using your time rewind ability to escape situation and erase traces of your actions. This results in a slightly higher pacing than in previous chapters, and you have to actively seek out some of the optional decisions outside of the main story arc (we managed to miss quite a few of these in our playthrough). Unlike the first couple of episodes where we constantly found ourselves second guessing our choices and rewinding, we played this one rather straight forward. Rather than the choices in front of us that we could alter and affect we kept going back to and thinking about choices made in earlier chapters.
As we've come to expect the music and artistic choices are spot on, and we're starting to get used to some of the somewhat awkward dialogue choices (Chloe in particular and her constant "hella"). At this point we've sort of grown accustomed to it and see it as something natural within Life is Strange.
At this point your adventure and ours may have played out fairly differently depending on our decisions leading up to this point, but regardless of what decisions you've made the third episode does offer a number of chances to look at the outcomes of your decisions for various characters including Nathan Prescott and David Marsden. Victoria continues to be incredibly annoying and the more we learn about Frank the creepier he seems. But no-one in Arcadia Bay is simply black or white, they're all different shades of grey.
There is a particular moment when you can opt to put Frank's dog in harm's way, something that could potentially free up more time to search his caravan, but prior to this you've learnt from a cop how Frank rescued him from a dog fighting ring. It's one of the choices where a huge majority of players (including us) opted to not put the dog in danger, something the developers surely knew so we suppose there is a hefty price to pay for that down the line. Or maybe, just maybe, the developers will let us get away with being nice this one time.
This episode is a bit of a paradox (yeah, that's a pun right there) in that it appears rather mellow in part as there's plenty of time to get closer to Chloe and there is even time for some nocturnal pool antics. But that's not to say there aren't things going on. There are opportunities to get on really bad terms with Frank, there's plenty of sneaking around, there's even a pipe bomb, and domestic issues blowing up. There's nothing quite as dramatic as the climax of episode two though.
But there really isn't anything to prepare you for what happens at the end of the episode where Max's time warping powers provide yet another twist that we can really only compare to the infamous scene in Dallas with Bobby in the shower. It's not the exact same context or even consequence, but it certainly turns Arcadia Bay upside down. At the end of it we're looking at a situation where we may have to make a choice between what our best friend wants (even if it's not what's best for her) and what's best for Arcadia Bay and everyone that lives there. But we could be entirely wrong about that. It may not even be a choice down the line or perhaps the game will take yet another unexpected turn before the end. What we do know is that everything has changed.
We're still completely in the dark as to the mystery surrounding Rachel Amber and how it's connected to what has happened to Kate. But at least it feels as if the investigation has kicked off, and we cannot wait (although we'll have to) for episode four to arrive.
We reviewed the first episode of Life is Strange (with score and all) over here and the second episode (no score) over here - from here on we'll review each episode with this kind of recap and then we'll review the full season (with a score) as it concludes.