QCF: Life is Strange: Episode 5: Polarized
Thursday, February 4, 2016
GeorgieBoysAXE in Dontnod Entertainment, Life is Strange, Polarized, QCF Reviews, Time travelin' more like time rewinding, choices, dark, like darker than Dark Room, strong mature content

 guess that Ian Malcom, the Chaos Theorist of Jurassic Park said it best when he quipped at another character within the story, John Hammond, that Life, uhhhh, finds a way…

In the context of that story, this philosophy was used as a McGuffin to introduce tension. Tension that would lead the game through a series of events that steered the plot towards it’s tragic turn within the penultimate chapter of this harrowing youth drama.

The subtitle “Polarized” most certainly lives up to its name, this entry will test your emotional constitution more than any other interactive experience would ever dare to.

I’m not going to pull any punches here; the last episode walked a thin tight rope of taste when it came its depiction of disturbingly dark subject matter, so it was only a matter of time before the Finale would fail to discern the line between what’s enthralling, and what’s just plain disgusting.

I had a difficult time playing through “Polarized” and to be honest, that’s largely why this review is so late—I need to play through it again, just to make absolute sure that I was giving the conclusion of Life is Strange the benefit of the doubt after all the time and investment that was give thus far.

It’s given me the opportunity to fully formulate my final opinion towards this portion of the season; and that’s the fact that “Polarized” doesn’t give a shit about restraint—it’s intentionally designed to tear down every story-telling convention, and wall of comfort that players may have thought they had.

And for that, I can partially applaud its efforts, partially…

The gift of impulse time-travel starts to unravel into something that we suspected was bigger than Max could have ever really comprehended, a string of disorienting scenes for us, and repercussions that steadily drive miss Ms. Caufield onto the brink of madness.

The run-through of events within the game’s closure and everything that lead up to it are constantly reimagined, changing through one iteration after the other, rendering the pain and trauma they caused into nothing more than inconsequential annoyances as a result—a demeaning concept that’s sole function is to break Max’s character.

This weird, Palahniuk-esque, arthouse nightmare fuel presentation, filled with questionable content that’s morally irrehensible by any decent human standard, managed to come full circle with a metaphysical message, one about life being, strange.

While it is true that my impressions of this direction with the plot, and the nuances of its delivery were better appreciated after multiple play-throughs of the episode, Polarized consistently managed to still fall short with the follow-through when it came to the ending sequence, and the binary choices that it boils it all down to.

In a turn of events that’re comparable to the controversies of Mass Effect 3’s ending sequence to the epic, space-drama saga, one choice is a tainted with one that sullies the joy of keeping what you want with guilt, and disaster, or going along with ensuring an outcome that’s more altruistic then it is fulfilling.

Neither one of these endings are particularly good, only existing to derive a reflection of what a player is willing to do in extreme circumstances, without any real closure, or sense of accomplishment. I really want to argue that one of them DOES contain some semblance of a reward, but it’s completely drowned out by sea of guilt as it scene obnoxiously rubs in the aftermath of your decision.

In spite of these issues with the finish to the overall game, the surreal build up in the start of this final episode, and the unique pace of suspense and reflection around everything that’s been done to reach its conclusion does add to Life is Strange as a whole.

Polarized is far from the best episode by virtue of having such a weak identity in the individual content that it brings to the table, but the work it puts into connecting all the pieces of the story, and more importantly, HOW it makes these connections, is what really makes it an integral chapter.

In short, my afterthoughts on all of the episodes as one inclusive game, is nothing short one of the more memorable episodic adventures that we’ve seen in some time.

Article originally appeared on Press Pause Radio (http://www.presspauseradio.com/).
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