“Partners In Time.”
It all started with checking Max’s texts. As I read, the messages pilled up with sympathy and concern from both friends and family offering a shoulder to lean on; all this following the tragic events where we last left off. The hurt didn’t stop there. Stepping out of her room, Max makes her way through the girl’s dorm, lighting the way with her phone, finding a restless school retracted into its shell. What emotional tug missed me last episode, clamped down full force here. What’s made up the series’ stronger moments leading up to Chaos Theory, bursts to the forefront, delivering the strongest, most compelling episode yet.
It’s been somewhat of an unpredictable fate for Life is Strange in its first season. The constant battle of tackling glaring performance issues, while giving vital spotlight to some really clever ideas and characters has been a tedious balance, one Dontnod has struggled capturing, until now. Life is Strange: Episode 3 – Chaos Theory is a huge step in the right direction, for not only dose Chaos Theory excels by its own established standards, but by competing episodic titles with promised branching narratives, alike.A specific, infectious tone hangs over Blackwell’s campus, where either a traumatic environment filled with shocked students, prevails, or an encouraging one, full of relief where Max is treated like a town hero, dominates. Depending on how Life is Strange’s previous episode, Out of Time, wrapped up for you, one of the two aforementioned tones, swoops up Chaos Theory and runs with it. It’s in this episode Life is Strange is finally ready to bring to light how impactful and long-lasting the choices you’ve been making really are. Knowing player choices pack meaning, is a proud moment for any choice-dependent game, but Life is Strange thus far has presented many decisions with subtlety, heightening their emotional payoff.
Those having guided Max throughout all three episodes have seen the highs and lows the series has thus far hit. But as it just so happens, Chaos Theory strips away much of what brought down its previous episode. In episode three, everything finds itself finally coming into its own. The imperfect performances and awkward dialogue still manage to eke into Chaos Theory, but I found these distracting annoyances much easier to overlook than before, thanks to episode three’s more singular and focused approach.I applauded Life is Strange’s moments with Max and Chloe in previous episodes, as I felt it best captured the attitude and motivation of the unfolding story. Once again, Max and Chloe are the strongest part of the episode. They find themselves back on the trail of Chloe’s missing friend, Rachel Amber, while also jumping on the case to expose a bubbling conspiracy involving Arcadia Bay. In terms of progressing the story, Chaos Theory is firing on all cylinders. Where previous episodes dillydallied, this one speeds things up. That’s not to say it doesn’t take its time. In fact, Chaos Theory spends quality time with it’s cast of increasingly relatable and interesting characters, while simultaneously elaborating on its strongest suit; friendship.
Max and Chloe are at the heart and soul of Life is Strange, and Chaos Theory goes to prove it. I’m fascinated by these girls and their past together, even if they overuse word “hella.” After the initial awkwardness wears off from having been separated for so long, the two are finally confident and real with each other, again. Their conversations about the past, and smallest of subtle interactions, are believable. Chaos Theory also brilliantly portrays how best friends become, and stay, best friends. Over the last few episodes, I’ve watched Chloe warm up to Max, accepting the past as the past, moving forward and ready to take on the next challenge. Max, also welcomes the troublemaker that Chloe is, back into her own heart. It’s raw, relatable and above all else, emotional.Deep and engaging puzzles fill the void between scripted interaction and cutscenes, building upon both Max’s abilities and Arcadia Bay’s story. Despite some fetch-quest heavy puzzles, exploring the dark halls of Blackwell Academy and various other locations, is a joy. Much of Max’s powers shine when simply just engaging in conversation, and knowing what somebody is going to say before they say it, makes Max feel powerful. It’s in Max’s newest power–which I won’t spoil–that outshines all the others in terms of power and possible repercussions. It’s thanks to this that Chaos Theory wraps up with an impeccable finale that broke my heart. The entire direction of the story is turned upside down, so much so, that what lies ahead for Life is Strange may feel like a completely different game.
Summary: Dontnod has finally got Life is Strange under control, and set it in the right, unpredictable direction. The cast of characters at the center of the story grew much more interesting and easier to sympathize with, while Max and Chloe’s relationship blossomed and reflected upon something truly relatable and heartwarming. The script still trips up with it’s laughable attempts to capture silly teenager banter, though the more dramatic, touching scenes more than overshadow the performances still rough around the edges. I can’t wait to see where Max Caulfield’s journey leads to next. Chaos Theory is pretty hella great.
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