Life is Strange: Episode 3 – Chaos Theory Review
If you could eliminate the worst moment of someone's life, would you? Every important event — good or bad — shapes the person you are, and taking away these tribulations would change who you eventually become. As we've seen across time-travel fiction, going into the past and future and changing events can have huge repercussions. The latest episode of Life is Strange explores more of this concept, showing characters at their worst and explaining how these events have affected them.
Life is Strange is doing a great job at acknowledging choices — big and small — you've made. The biggest choice came at the end of the previous episode, which determined whether you saved a certain character's life. This chapter focuses on the aftermath of this event and characters' reactions. Because I was able to save the aforementioned character, Max has been made into a town hero of sorts, but it hardly feels like a victory. Things are still chaotic, with corruption and supernatural occurrences abounding. The pacing has slowed down to give Max time to make sense of it all and repair her broken friendship with Chloe. I enjoyed learning more about the past they share, especially seeing what led to Chloe's rebellious path.
The writing is still at its best when it's tapping into raw emotions, like Chloe confronting her feelings about her father's tragic death, and Max's guilt at letting their friendship fall to the wayside. In a lot of ways, this episode has mellowed characters' personalities; it feels like you're just seeing people at their worst — not crazy exaggerated archetypes. The best part doesn't come until Chaos Theory's finale, though. This is when Life is Strange turns everything on its head, showing the true dangers of messing with time. It focuses on the temptations that come with Max's strange power, which I really enjoyed. I gasped at the episode's final moments, and I can't wait to see what's next.
My problems with Chaos Theory revolve around the gameplay and puzzles being too obtuse. I found this particularly frustrating in a sequence that has you sneaking past the principal to get out of the dorms at night. The game makes it seem like you can get around him by sneaking around in the environment, but you're supposed to use your time-travel powers. It would have been great to have a reminder of this after I failed a few times. Also, in another sequence, I needed to find ingredients to cook, but the eggs aren't in a logical place (like the fridge) — they're in an entirely different room. The character I'm helping doesn't provide even the slightest hint.
I like that Dontnod is keeping actual puzzles in, but a lot of these are just boring fetch quests where you're scouring the environment for a hidden item. However, one stealth sequence was done well and stands as an example of what I'd like to see more. In this scenario, I broke into an area and had to avoid a guard searching for me with his flashlight. I had fun outsmarting him and liked the tension of possibly getting caught. As for the choices, Chaos Theory didn't have as many hard or intriguing ones as I would have liked, but the surprising ending of the episode makes up for it.
Life is Strange's story continues to be interesting. I like being blindsided by where the plot is going next, and it really is a different kind of video game experience. I keep wondering how some of my choices will play out, and I'm invested in these characters and the world. Hopefully, Dontnod can make everything between the characters' struggles and supernatural occurrences feel satisfying and pay off in the end.
Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. Life is Strange is also available on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.