Life Is Strange Preview – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Life Is Strange Preview

Away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy crowds that clambered over every game at EGX this year, we attended a session behind closed doors for Square Enix, where their biggest reveal was the ambitious Life Is Strange. Yes everyone already knows about the new IP from the developers of Remember Me, Dontnod Entertainment. This was different, as for the first time we would see the game in action, via a live demo presentation. Life Is Strange is going to be an episodic adventure featuring a teenage girl called Max, who you play throughout the game, and her long lost best friend Chloe. To set the scene, Max moved away from her home town many years ago with no contact with Chloe since, now she has moved back to Arcadia, and is studying photography at the local college, where of course she runs into her childhood friend in somewhat strange and dangerous circumstances.

Turn on the music Max

Max’s town is set in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest of America, a town you learn holds many tantalising secrets, which you and Chloe vow to unravel. Following a rather brisk altercation, in which your camera was broken, you go back to Chloe’s house – and this is where the demo begins. Chloe asks you to put on some music while she lights up a joint on the bed, it is here that you can see the sheer amount of things you can interact with in the environment, not only in Chloe’s bedroom but throughout the entire game. Exploring various objects will allow you to delve deeper into the background of the character and Max’s own childhood, which I have a feeling is going to feature more than you may think throughout the episodes. Getting back to the story, you are trying to put on some music for Chloe, while doing so you knock over a snow globe which annoys her. What will you do now? You have just annoyed your long lost friend within an hour of meeting her, well Max can rewind time!. So simply rewinding to the second before you knocked it over and avoiding that situation erases that action from ever happening.

Sounds a bit complicated, but let me elaborate,Max can undo any action or conversation by rewinding time and simply choosing a different course of action. This may make everything seem simple, but we were assured by the developer that any course of action you take, even by correcting the simplest of mistakes, may have far reaching consequences down the road. They will affect something somewhere in the game, and these repercussions can be devastating in later play. You are free to rewind conversations and try every route to get the answer you want, but will it be the right one in regards to the wider picture? We have heard this before from Telltale and their Walking Dead series, but we were assured that in this series there will be consequences for your actions, whether they be story altering or not. In the next scene we made our way downstairs to find some tools to fix Max’s broken camera, where we see some of the puzzles that you will encounter and have to overcome, this one was rather simple but effective to get the point across. The tools where on top of the boiler, out of Max’s reach, by simply turning on the boiler it rattled the tools until they fell. However, now they are down behind a cupboard out of reach, what do you do? Well you rewind time, place some cardboard under the cupboard where you already know the tools will fall, and hey presto, you can simply slide them out on the cardboard.

I need those tools!

This mechanic of gameplay is quite stunning to watch as the entire scene actually rewinds as you watch much like rewinding a DVD. Honestly looking at it you have to give credit to Dontnod for achieving it. The developer was really pushing the focus on the storyline. Dontnod consider themselves a AAA Indie developer, meaning that they may have the resources that a AAA studio has, but they tackle issues and stories that only indie developers would try. I found this quite interesting as the developer talked about the story and characters, with something akin to a father talking about his children. It was quite apparent that they are putting their heart and soul into every detail of the story. This was also evident in the graphical style of the game, where in every scene you can see even the minutest details lovingly recreated in hand painted textures. Chloe’s bedroom was, I suppose a typical teenage girls room, that was rebelling against the authority figure of her strict military step father. Posters adorned the walls beside graffiti, while her possessions were strewn in every corner and across the wooden floor. When you do actually put on the music that Chloe asked you to, it again sets the scene of a small town, with curtains twitching if a stranger were to appear. In fact, I found the music quite haunting while somewhat soothing at the same time.

While we continue to see more and more of these episodic games coming onto the market due mainly to the success of Telltale’s series. It appears to me from what I have seen that this one has something more to offer the gamer, a depth that has not been realised before in this type of game. A story that had me intrigued even though I only witnessed a very short part of it, with characters that react to their surroundings and actions in a way never before delivered to our screens. Each episode will be playable in just a few hours, but that depends on how much of this rich and diverse world you want to explore, it may well last longer if you decide to rewind every situation until you are happy with the outcome, but remember your actions will have far reaching consequences, that you may not be able to undo. The fact of the matter is “Life Is Strange” and Dontnod Entertainment are out to prove it. The first episode of Life Is Strange is due out on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC in the Spring of 2015, until then we will just have to hope that it continues to deliver.