Life is Strange seemingly came out of nowhere when the first episode arrived at the start of this year. It had me hooked from the first few minutes and events stayed in my thoughts long after I finished each episode. Dontnod Entertainment have shown that episodic games can work, they made me care about the characters and I’ve genuinely looked forward to each instalment.
Now the final episode, Polarized, is here and the title definitely fits the finale. It’s taken nearly 9 months to play through a week in the life of Max Caulfield but it’s been well worth it. Episode 4 threw another unexpected twist which resulted in the darkest episode of the season. The cliffhanger ending left players desperate for the final episode.
Episode 5 kicks off right after the shocking events of the last episode. After finally finding the truth behind the disappearance of Rachel Amber, Max finds herself alone and in danger. She needs to escape and find a way of fixing things.
Fortunately Max has a special ability that lets her rewind and manipulate time. However after feeling invincible in earlier episodes she’s now come to realise that her power comes with consequences. Changing events in time, no matter how small the change, can result in huge changes in the future.
Going back to make one thing right can make a lot of other things wrong. This episode see’s Max jumping around all over the place trying to fix things for the better. However it’s impossible to ever predict how things will play out and fixing one thing can make lots of other things go wrong.
It’s a very different episode that shows us a side of Max we haven’t seen before. She still wants to help everyone but she is a lot angrier and more forceful. She’s prepared to speak her mind instead of holding her opinions back and isn’t afraid of upsetting people.
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Moving towards the end Max gets to revisit many of her past decisions. I liked the way the developers presented this allowing Max to kind of walk through her memories. What I didn’t like was the stealth sections. The stealth bits have previously been done well but here they are clumsy and frustrating. You seem to have no choice but to continually get spotted and rewind to get past them.
Episode 5 feels the most linear of all the episodes which is a shame after making so many decisions. Obviously the developers have to tie up the season for all players but it would have been nice to see more paths through the finale. There’s also a lot less of the little quiet touches and things to explore. Ultimately this episode comes down to one big final difficult decision for Max. It’s handled wonderfully and really emotional. I had to sit and think for a short while before I could commit but was satisfied with the conclusion.
Life is Strange has been a fantastic series, packed with emotion and not afraid to tackle difficult issues. Dontnod have crafted one of the finest interactive stories ever created and I’d urge everyone to play it. Life is Strange is a strong contender for Game of the Year.
Life is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized was reviewed using an Xbox One digital download code supplied by Square Enix.
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Dontnod Entertainment Release Date: October 20, 2015 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also available on: PS4, PC