Coming To Terms With Life Is Strange’s Finale
Endings are tricky, and one of the hardest parts of any media to get right. Consumers often have expectations and want to feel like their time is well spent. Good endings leave you feeling like you got something out of the journey, but a bad one can overshadow the entire adventure. After all, the finale echoes long after the experience is over.
As games focus on choices as part of the interactive experience, expectations arise on how much control players should have over the actual authored story. We saw just how heated this can get over Mass Effect 3's ending. Dontnod's Life is Strange is another game to take on the challenge of choice and involving players in the narrative, and while it's done a great job of making certain options and scenes appear based on your decisions, the ending left fans divided. In a way, Dontnod may have been on to something when it titled Life is Strange's final episode, "Polarized."
Note: Do not read on if you have not completed Life is Strange in its entirety.
I land on the side that enjoyed the finale; however, due to avoiding spoilers in my review, I wasn't able to discuss in-depth what struck a chord with me. Up front I want to acknowledge that the ending is far from perfect and it will mean different things to different people, but for me it was more proof that video games can be deeply affecting.
I'm going to be blunt. To me, Life is Strange's ending (actually the whole journey) is about accepting the death of a loved one. It all started with Max trying to prevent Chloe's death, and no matter how hard she tries with her time-traveling powers, Chloe still ends up with a similar fate. Chloe was never meant to live.
I'll admit Dontnod made a big oversight in the finale by not explaining how Max's power came to be, but while that detail would have been nice, the finale doesn't pack a punch because of Max's powers. The moving friendship between Max and Chloe is where it shines. The whole series has built up the importance of this relationship, showing the two bonding and even taking us into their pasts to show how big a part of each other's lives they've been. This relationship is the most authentic part of Life is Strange and the final moments of the ending showcase that wonderfully.
Many of us can relate to Max's struggle to accept the death of someone close to us and wanting so desperately to change that outcome. Dontnod made me care about Chloe, and I'm not the only one. When it came down to that final decision where you must choose between saving Arcadia Bay and Chloe - players were almost split. Some players voiced disappointment in this as the final choice, but I saw it as something much more. It put the decision on the player to decide if they were willing to accept Chloe's death and finally say goodbye. To me, choosing Chloe, meant you weren't ready, you still hoped to find a way to keep her alive. Many people know this feeling all too well when they hear the worst of odds for someone's prognosis. We always hope that we can prevent the worst, defy science, and beat the odds somehow.
When I hit the choice, I took the opportunity to reflect. So many times I had tried to save Chloe, hoping to avoid this moment. As she spoke about how Max and her will always have these memories together and that can't be taken away, I knew it was time to let go and accept Chloe's dismal fate. I saved Arcadia Bay, and then I got choked up. Watching the funeral scene and seeing Chloe's family and friends say goodbye felt all too real. A few months ago I lost my grandma and had been through similar emotions. You don't want those moments to be real, but they are. Life doesn't stop and you can't change the outcome (not even time-travel could achieve this). But as Chloe said, nobody can take away your moments with someone.
As I said earlier, people will feel different ways about Life is Strange. I found it at its best when it wasn't focusing on the supernatural elements, but instead targeted real life and its hardships. Tackling the subject of losing someone you love resonated with me strongly; I'm sure I'm not the only who felt this way.
How did you feel about the ending? Feel free to discuss what worked and what didn't for you in the comments below.