“For every action there is a reaction.”
Did you ever wonder what would happen if you could rewind the time and change a specific event to your advantage? How would you feel if you could go back and remake a school test you previously failed, say the right thing to that person you accidentally hurt? Life Is Strange is about time manipulation, where every different action could lead to a different universe. The ‘Chaos Theory‘ is the main theme in this game, which I will describe and analyze today according to my own impressions and speculations.
Life Is Strange is a video game split in five episodes developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix, available for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The five parts have been released periodically throughout 2015 and apparently a second season is already in the plans. Rumors say the sequel will probably be released in 2017, but nothing has been confirmed yet and I doubt we’ll see it before 2018.
The first episode of LIS is now permanently free for all platforms!
The gameplay consists in making choices which may affect the upcoming events. You need to study your surroundings, find specific items and gain more informations from as many characters as possible.
Life Is Strange contains tons of references related to movies (there’s a sort of easter egg where Max defines Final Fantasy: The Spirith Within one of the best syfy movies ever made and we all know by now that Square Enix released that 3D film in 2001 receiving many bad reviews) and TV shows (due to the time travel topic they mention Doctor Who quite often).
Another thing that I absolutely love about this game is its epic soundtrack. You should definitely check it out here.
Warning: This article is quite long and contains huge spoilers for the entire game from now on, if you still want to play it and do not wish to see your experience ruined, you should definitely check the article once you’re done with it 😀
The game starts with a young girl lost into a forest during a powerful storm and you have to follow the given directions guiding her to the Lighthouse over the hill. A huge and deadly tornado is approaching and a few seconds later the girl wakes up from what seemed like a simple, yet very realistic, nightmare in class.
The main character is an 18yo girl named Max Caulfield, who is attending the Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay (Oregon) to become a professional photographer. Her photography teacher, the charming Mark Jefferson, is one of the most talented artists and part of the reason why Max decided to move back in Arcadia after spending five long years in Seattle with her family. There, however, things are not exactly simple due to the high competition raised by Victoria Chase, an insicure classmate so desperately trying to get Jefferson’s attention and bullying Max’s friend Kate Marsh, dragging the whole school against the girl. Kate, in fact, is the victim of some inexplicable circumstances which put her into a few embarrassing moments caught on camera and disclosed in public afterwards.
“When a door closes a window opens… or something like that.”
Jefferson states that Max has talent and thus is forcing her to give him one of her best shots for the Everyday Hero contest, in order to get more visibility and a professional growth if she wins.
Max is not feeling particularly confident and fails to deliver her photo, not good enough for the contest according to her own judgement, and feeling a bit intimidated by Victoria’s attitude.
She immediatly runs to the bathroom after class in order to calm down and ends up tearing the selfie she intended to use for the contest.
Then, something incredible happens; a blue butterfly enters through the window and, fascinated by such a particular color, Max thinks that it would make a really good shot. After taking the picture she hears a pair of voices, one guy and a girl hiding and arguing into the bathroom, forcing Max to stay hidden and frozen in her spot. Things suddenly get extremely dangerous when the young boy extracts a gun from his clothes and shots the girl killing her instantly.
Scared and shocked, Max instinctively leaves her hideout and screams raising her right hand in the air. Everything starts going into a slow motion and then rewinds quickly to the point she finds herself back into the classroom, hearing the same lecture from Mark Jefferson.
Scared and confused she soon realizes that she can actually go back in time, fixing broken objects and being able to reply correctly to specific questions after hearing the needed answers.
Why or how she got that power is not really clear at this point, but thanks to her new ability Max can save the girl in the bathroom by activating the alarm and making the girl run before she could get shot.
Here you have to face your very first big decision. The principle will ask Max if there’s anything troubling her due to her visible concern and you can actually report the boy, Nathan Prescott, or simply keep it all secret until the right time comes.
Nathan’s father is a very important and rich man who literally owns the school, Nathan is well protected and nobody will believe what Max says at first if she decides to report him.
Soon she will also find out that the blue haired girl she saved is none other than her best friend Chloe Price, whom she has never contacted in five long years after leaving the Bay nor recognized due to her drastic change of appearance.
Chloe’s father died in a car crash and she fell apart after Max’s departure, startying to dye her hair, marking her skin with colorful tattos and smoking tons of cigarettes every day. Her mind has been pulled together thanks to another close friend named Rachel Amber, now missing for six months with no apparent reason, nor a single word spoken.
Max has to deal with a lot of crazy stuff from that day. Kate Marsh is still persecuted by Victoria and her friends, falling more and more into the abyss of depression. Meanwhile Nathan is still free and very dangerous, sending Max threatening anonymous texts whether or not she speaks the truth about him. Her life in the dorm could be moderately calm or very chaotic depending on the choices you make.
Back to the Lighthouse with Chloe, Max keeps remembering that strange dream she had in class about the storm, but after passing out and reliving that same experience again she simply understands the tornado is actually real and will soon come to destroy Arcadia Bay. She’s not having a dream at all but a clear premonition.
Max finally tells Chloe about her powers and right in that moment all the citizens of Arcadia are greeted by a drastic climatic change with a sudden snowfall.
Max and Chloe start spending a few moments together to make up for the lost time, but once again things will get heated and complicated with Chloe stealing her stepfather’s gun (David Madsen, war veteran and security guard at Blackwell Academy) and a guy named Frank making pressure on Chloe to get back the money he lent her recently. Max will need to use her rewind power over and over again, getting a nosebleed for abusing it and collapsing once more to get another, even stronger tornado vision.
After that, Max will need to save Chloe a second time from a speeding train (technically third if we cound she shot herself while playing with her gun and freaked out). Her foot gets stuck under the rails and only the rewind power will prevent her from dying.
Max and Chloe start investigating over Rachel Amber’s disappearence, since Chloe herself has been drugged by Nathan Prescott and Kate Marsh doesn’t seem to remember what happened the night her video was recorded. Nathan is clearly connected to this and all the clues prove how messed up he is and how he could seriously lead them to Rachel, alive or not.
At some point in the game, Mark Jefferson refuses to assist Kate when she asks for help and David Madsen keeps following and bothering her for some reason. The girl becomes mentally unstable and jumps off the Academy’s roof under everyone’s eyes. Max can rewind and freeze the time to reach her before she could kill herself, but her power is limited after using it in so many occasions and has no energy left as she runs to the roof. It is up to you now and your choices to determine Kate’s fate.
And then another inexplicable atmospheric change happens; an eclipse at sunset.
If until now Max could only change events happened a few minutes earlier, now she can actually jump into photos taken years before and alter the course of events.
Thanks to a picture received from Joyce Price, Chloe’s mother, Max can rewind until the day the girl’s father died in that car crash. She decides to hide his keys and convince him to take the bus instead avoiding the accident and let him survive.
This little, yet huge detail will actually change everything and create an alternative universe where Victoria and Nathan are Max’s best friends in school and Chloe ends up completely paralyzed on a wheelchair after an accident she had with the car her dad gave her.
Chloe now has so many breathing issues caused by her spine injury that she literally asks Max to help her and put an end to her suffering. William and Joyce Price are doing all they can to take care of her conditions, ignoring their debts and general financial struggles. Chloe doesn’t want to continue this way anymore and Max can only use the photo again to fix her mistake and bring Chloe’s back sacrificing William a second time.
More weird things keep happening, starting from a bunch of dead birds all around in the Bay and a few beached whales. Max and Chloe believe everything is connected to the tornado vision, which may actually happen soon at the end of the week.
The two parters in crime (or “in time”) continue with their research discovering Frank and Rachel had a relationship and face him directly to gain more informations about the girl and possibly get his list of drug buyers. Frank may or may not trust you and side with the girls depending on your choices, he’s a very aggressive and violent guy but could also show his gentle side speaking about his beloved Rachel and the dogs he rescued from dogfights.
If you manage to get his list you will definitely find Nathan Prescott in there. Clearly he’s using these drugs to knock out his victims and drag them into a sort of ‘Dark Room’. What exactly happens to them is still very unclear, but both Kate and Chloe assure Max that nothing physical ever took place.
The more informations they collect, the closest they get to the truth and tragically discover Rachel Amber’s corpse after investigatigating in a bunker set up like an underground photo shoot, right where different pictures have been taken not just with Rachel, but also Kate Marsh after her kidnapping. Both appeared semi unconscious and with their hands tied.
Nathan Prescott seems to be the number one suspect without a doubt and thus Chloe is determined to end his life herself and revenge her friend. Unfortunately, Nathan is nowhere to be found and someone else takes the stage attacking Max from behind with a needle and shooting Chloe in the head. Max is slowly losing consciousness, but can still see the person who towers over her with a cold, psychotic expression; Mark Jefferson, her well respected photography teacher.
Surprise surprise, looks like Jefferson has a horrible obsession. He wants to capture “that moment innocence evolves into corruption” and directly or indirectly kills his victims (Kate Marsh was losing herself because of the bad reputation she got and all the bullying she had to deal with). Rachel Amber has been killed by Nathan for an accidental overdose in order to impress Mark, considered like a father figure and example to follow by the young Prescott.
Jefferson started to use Nathan as his scapegoat until he decided to end his life as well once and for all. Max, captured and tied to a chair, manages to jump through time using certain photos as gates, but the more she tries to bring everything back to normal the more damage she might cause.
Thanks to David Madsen who finds the white room and kills Jefferson in anger for Chloe’s death, Max is free to go and find her close friend (and possible love interest) Warren, so that she can put her hands on a photo he took that night before she and Chloe ended up in trouble with the crazy professor.
And here we go again, saving Chloe’s life. Jefferson has been arrested, Rachel Amber found, all is well what ends well… if it weren’t for the upcoming tornado which is now hitting Arcadia Bay killing everyone.
At last, both Max and Chloe figure out whas is going on with the storm. Max has changed the events so many times that she created different destinies and timilines, breaking the natural balance of things in order to save her best friend over and over again. The only way to restore the present and save everyone’s life is to rewind one last time using the butterfly photo Max took in the bathroom before saving her friend from Nathan’s gun, which Chloe’s kept as a memento after their reunion.
Now you have to choose between two important decisions; Sacrifice Chloe or Sacrifice Arcadia Bay.
If you sacrife the Bay everyone technically dies killed by the tornado. Nothing has been confirmed, but considering the two survivors leave the Bay right after I suppose they didn’t even bother to check if anybody was still alive because, well, nobody was there to be checked anymore.
If you sacrifice Chloe, the girl dies killed by Nathan Prescott. David Madsen arrests him and Jefferson bringing everything to the surface included Rachel Amber’s body and no storm shows up in the end. So technically, the correct and best choice to pick is supposedly this one, unless you truly don’t care about everybody dying because of Max’s rewinds.
Naturally, if you found yourself in a similar situation how could you sacrifice your best friend so easily? I wouldn’t be able to do that, but I also understand how many other lives would be taken by the tornado and I surely would spend the rest of my life feeling extremely guilty and in pain, especially considering Max would lose a lot of other friends and even the guy she loves (if you decide to pick Warren as a love interest that is).
I’d like to believe that, if you save Chloe, someone will actually manage to survive… but let’s face it, that is absolutely impossible. Max and Chloe decide to move on together after such a tragedy and leave the Bay with Chloe’s pickup to start over somewhere else, they don’t care to check who might still be there, breathing. Obviously there’s nobody else there to save.
Even if all those deaths were not exactly confirmed, I’m pretty sure they all die and that’s probably what Dontnod wanted us to do; either save Arcadia or Chloe according to the choices we made in the game until that moment.
I used to watch a lot of anime and read different manga series. There is one called Fullmetal Alchemist which is based on this saying: “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.”
That is pretty much the philosophy you encounter in Life Is Strange; it’s either William or Chloe and Chloe or Arcadia Bay.
Though I wonder if the storm is actually caused by Chloe’s avoided destiny or the rewind power itself. So far, this is the number of times Chloe was supposed to die, or risked her life one way or another:
- Killed by Nathan Prescott in the girls bathroom
- Killed accidentally while playing with her stepdad’s gun and shooting herself
- Killed by the train
- Killed by her bad breathing condition in the alternative universe due to her broken spine
- Killed by Mark Jefferson
As you can see, we have saved her life at least five times using Max’s rewind power. But what would happen if Max didn’t use her gift at all to save Chloe?
In the first episode we see how she goes back and activates the alarm to interrupt Nathan and let Chloe escape without a scratch, but she also used this power for many other things she wasn’t aware of. If she actually saved Chloe once more, reported Nathan and Jefferson to Medson and did all the rest without rewinding knowing the truth already, would it be different or not at all? Would the storm still happen? Probably not since apparently it is caused by the power she used over and over again messing up with time, unless it was indeed generated by the universe tearing up for saving a life meant to be taken.
Max has been guided by a ghostly doe more than once in Life Is Strange. She saw the animal while walking with Chloe to the Lighthouse and then it appeared right after in her vision as a spirit.
The same ghost showed up while Max was collecting five bottles for Chloe’s gun game and then again a doe drawing can be found in the bathroom of Joyce’s diner, next to Rachel’s poster.
It’s pretty clear to me, (but I could be wrong), that this doe is actually Rachel’s spirit animal. It seems to be there whenever something is about to happen, especially involving Chloe. When the girls find her body and Max has to comfort her desperate friend, the ghostly doe is there watching them from afar.
And then we also have the blue butterfly. If we decide to save Chloe it only shows up in the bathroom when Max unlocks her powers, but if we sacrifice her not only we see it in that same bathroom again but also on Chloe’s coffin during her funeral. Max stares at that beautiful, colorful butterfly and smiles piecefully, which makes me believe that it may be Chloe’s spirit animal. If you think about it, her hair in Life Is Strange is also blue.
Where do the powers come from? Did the blue butterfly give them to Max? Was it just destiny? Did she have those powers already without knowing?
The game also reminds me of the movie The Butterfly Effect, where the main character tried to save his childhood friend and only love going back in time through some old written memories altering his present in any possible way.
It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. – Chaos Theory
Note: Chloe can also be a potential love interest for Max if you don’t select specific interactions with Warren and accept to kiss her when she dares you to do so the first time in her room.
Fun fact: This game is so mysterious that literally gave birth to many different theories. Some things remained completely unsolved while others are simply too crazy to be just how they seem. Do you have any interesting theory about Life Is Strange? If so please feel free to leave a comment here, I’d be really curious to read them! 🙂
CPU: Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent
RAM: 2 GBOS: Windows Vista
Video card: Video card: ATI or Nvidia w/512 MB (not recommended for Intel HD Graphics)
CPU: Dual Core 3.0GHz or equivalent
RAM: 2 GB
OS: Windows 7
Video Card: ATI or Nvidia w/1024 MB (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 or ATI HD 4890)
Required free disk space: 3 GB