Wednesday
Sep092015

QCF: Life Is Strange: Episode 4: Dark Room

hen we last left off on Life is Strange, players were greeted with the best of intention going horribly awry, and how the consequence of changing one thing, lead to changing everything—Max copes with this and the Dark Room, and the end result will be sure to leave anyone who experiences it shaken.

While Episode 3’s Chaos Theory still stands as the magnum opus of the season, The Dark Room keeps up that momentum, and stands as the chef d'oeuvre to the finale of Life is Strange. All of the development to the cause and effect of Dontnod Entertainment’s choice-driven has a scale of influence in the predicaments that’s follow, and that fact that it brilliant builds from those experience that player’s have invested into the series so far, is what makes the impact of each outcome that’s reaped so provoking.

Well, all but one particular scene of the episode, a rather disappointing attempt that ends up exploiting emotion more than actually eliciting any from you; a cruel twist that’s purely designed to rattle any resolve that you have carried in your decisions.

Without divulging any of the details surrounding this particular instance, you’re thrown into a setting that’s directly born out of the consequence of Max’s ability to meddle with the natural order of the cause and effect in life—it’s all a bit sudden, and even traumatic for some, especially after coming this far with her.

While I’ll give credit to the fact that the event in question did everything churned my stomach in every uncomfortable way that it could—but the whole thing felt cheap.

The hardship wasn’t organic to the character development or the plot in any way, it was just a low blow that the games threw at you for the sake of simply throwing it at you. Thankfully, the episode is expedient with this specific segment, and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome

Moving on though, the adventure picks up some real steam shortly after this little hiccup of detour, and it’s where it really starts to get under your skin.

The intrigue of this game has always been the irony that levity behind what you choice you make is by no means simplified by your gift of being able to rewind back to consider the alternative—and up until now, all the possible avenues to progress were  mostly binary; one of two potential routes for the game to follow.

What makes The Dark Room significantly better than anything that Life is Strange has done at this point, is that it covers a lot of ground with the all of the conflicts the duo have encountered, and the approach that you choose to run with is the most expansive it has ever been in terms of utility, depth, and outcome.

The girls have their goal in mind, and enough leads to follow, the narrative and pace radically picks up, leaving for little to no time to deliberate on what the best verdict to your quest should be—which is further convoluted by the expanded olive branch-like outcome to everything that’s done.

The Characters that you have interacted with up until this point will be affected in manner that will change them for the rest of their being, and the alluded consequence to how it all weigh in on Max’s fate in the last episode is hinted to just enough to make journey to episode’s startling end, all the more impactful.

There is another concern with the game, and it’s a bit difficult to address, but is still worth noting.

Following a story, and evaluating it critically as a game has been a challenge, considering the struggle involved with a critique that requires a degree of subterfuge to the details and plot points define what makes the experience so good—but the subject matter that’s explored here is a bit heavy, like trigger-warning heavy.

It’s a direction that the title doesn’t do very well to prepare players for, and while Dontnod makes strides to offer consolation and forums to discuss the sensitive themes and events that transpire in this entry to Life is Strange, it’s still a bit too much to dish out within in just a single episode.

The fact that this all of this delicate elements all unfold within the fourth episode, in  season that’s comprise of  five entries in total, is wildly inconsiderate to the potential demographic of individuals who may the content too disturbing to continue.

The whole “crack a few eggs to make an omelet” argument can be made when it comes to the story being able to have all of the creative freedom and direction it need to hit home with everyone else, but all in all, the accessibility of the game is now substantially narrowed down, and becomes a bit trickier to recommend.

Personally, I thought it was all done tastefully within the bounds of every line that was encroached in order to shape the plot out to the grand picture it is leading up to be, but interpretation is relative when it comes to the portrayal of sexual abuse, mental disorders, violence, and so on in media.

So bear that in mind—here’s to hoping that Episode 5: Polarized will capitalize on all of the hardship that this episode has forced Max and us to endure.

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