There’s a lot of controversy floating around with these “episodic choose-your-own-adventure” type games. Some people feel they don’t carry enough weight, while others feel their choices and major decisions don’t matter. Executive Editor Tony Polanco and myself recently got into an argument about this last week. He believed the choices in Episode One: Chrysalis wouldn’t make any differences in Episode Two. Within minutes of playing Out of Time, and comparing what I saw at my viewing of this episode at PAX East, not only did Dontnod prove Tony wrong, they blew my expectations out of the water.
I cannot being to thank Dontnod enough for keeping up with the NorCal culture, down to the small downtown strip by the bay, indie rock soundtrack, and scrapyard full of random shit. There was an old plethora of abandoned warehouses my friends and I would break into from time to time that I was taken back to when we arrived to Chloe’s secret lair (I won’t tell you much more than that). Also glad to hear Chloe saying “amazeballs.” Reassures me I’m not the only one who still says it. Seeing all the restaurants, fishing boats, and random people with strong opinions on the small town they lived in—that took me to First Street in Benicia. Shit, First Street is still that way.
Out of Time starts a lot differently than Chrysalis. Your cell phone alarm is buzzing, and your eyes are still closed. Opening your eyes and realizing, yes, you made it through yesterday and you do have time manipulation abilities, and yes, you still have to shower and get ready for the next day ahead of you. You grab your shower supplies, and you make way for the showers. The girl’s dorms are chaotic. Trevor rushes out of Dana’s room, you yet again have to save Alyssa from getting hit in the head, and others are going about their morning routine.
When you walk into the showers, Kate Marsh is standing by the sink getting ready. You have the option to speak with her. Depending on what you did when she was getting harassed by David in episode one, this conversation can go one of two ways. In this specific playthrough, I decided to take the photograph [in the first episode]. This resulted in Kate showing some frustration towards Max, and asking for her copy of The October Country back by the end of the morning. I cannot say for certain how much different the conversation would go if you had stood up for her, but I do have other examples.
At PAX East, the gameplay demo we watched showed the scene in the diner, and the smallest bit of Chloe’s secret lair (which can both be seen in the trailer). When you get to the diner, while waiting for Chloe, you have a conversation with her mother, Joyce. In the conversation in the PAX demo, the joint and Max’s bad habits did not come up in conversation at all. However, in my playthrough, because I decided to stand up for Chloe and say it’s my weed, Joyce gave me a mini-lecture. Two completely different conversations! When Chloe finally showed up, Joyce makes a remark of how Chloe’s “entire damn college fund is on this tab.” Max interjects, regardless of how the previous conversation went, saying, “it’s okay Joyce. I’m treating Chloe to breakfast today.” In the PAX demo, Joyce tells Max how sweet it is for her to offer, but it is her treat today. In my playthrough, Joyce scuffs and says, “is this to atone for yesterday?”
The situation in the diner is only a fraction of how many conversations have the ability to be different depending on your dialog choices and decisions. How you talk to Warren in the parking lot before Nathan confronts you, how you talk to David in Chloe’s room, how you handle Principal Wells, and even Alyssa—all these things matter. Everything matters. Every sentence you construct and deliver to another human being carries some sort of consequence. A theory on why it’s a butterfly that pops up in the upper left corner when choices you make/actions you do have consequence? Simple: The butterfly effect itself. Otherwise known as the chaos theory (and the title of episode three).
The next paragraph is going to discuss heavy spoilers from episode one. If you have yet to play episode one, please read further with caution.
Do you remember looking at the stats after the credits and wondering what bird you were supposed to save? Fear not, you’re not the only one. When you leave Chloe’s room to go find some tools, you have the option of going into the room next door—her mom and step-dad’s room. Quickly upon entering, a bird flies right into the window, and dies. You interact with the bird, claiming you can save it, rewind time, and the bird flies right in. When the bird flies in, and you’ve saved its life, the informative little butterfly tells you yet again, “this action will have consequences.”
Will it? WILL IT REALLY, BUTTERFLY?
So, continuing your day, you go downstairs, and snoop around the garage, naturally. But did you open the cupboard, and turn on the television screen after looking at the map of Blackwell attached to the door? (My first playthrough I didn’t. Oddly enough, the one I saved the bird I did.) If you didn’t, you’re in for a treat! It reveals a surveillance system installed throughout the house. Everywhere in the house except for Chloe’s room. Yup, that’s right: there’s one inside the closet in her parents’ room. Moral of the story? By saving the bird, David knows you were snooping around in their bedroom, making him even more paranoid. Curious to see how that plays out.
Out of Time is a bit slow, much like Chrysalis, but it all comes down to the last ten to fifteen minutes of the game. To keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, I’m going to explain why everything you do and say matters with variables.
At the tail end of the episode, there is an event that occurs. We are going to call it event X. Event X will happen regardless of what you do and say—however, it’s how you handle event X that can change everything. We are going to call the outcomes of event X, X1 and X2. By the dialog choices I made, I was unable to achieve X1, therefore making the variables of the aftermath of that outcome completely unknown. Going into outcome X2, there was another event which occurred immediately after, which we’ll identify as event Y.
Event Y was intense. Y threw down everything I did and said in the first episode like the hammer of Thor. Y then presents you with three options, Y1, Y2, and Y3. In my playthrough, because of how I handled a conversation in the previous episode, Y1 would carry no weight, and do Max no good. Y3 could potentially do something, but it really had no evidence and weight in its current standing. But, because of how I handled another conversation in the first episode, Y2 held weight, and an affirmative action was put in place, ending my episode. I was not happy with the way things ended. In fact, I was ugly crying. I was shaking, moved to tears—this was not what I wanted, but my actions had consequences, and I had to live with that.
So, to do the math, based on what I know, cancelling out the unknowns, there are six possible outcomes, assuming each option in the Y category had only two branches further. But I could be wrong—there could be more ending possibilities than that. There could be more than six just based on the one side of the X event. Who knows?
Now I know what I just said didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I will say this: you have to play this episode for yourself. This is not an episode I want to go spoiling for the rest of the world. Do you remember Heavy Rain? It had over 500 ending combinations! Imagine the weird variable algorithm for that!
For the first time since Heavy Rain, I’ve been actively talking to other people playing Life is Strange, going on the subreddit, tweeting amongst my peers—so far, it is living up to the promise. This episode reinforces the relationships, and continues to dig into your heart and remind you the characters are real, relatable figures. The story keeps sucking you in, making you want to know what’s around the corner. The decisions you make, the things you touch, the people you meet—Everything really does matter.
And yes, gas prices in California really were hella bad in October of 2013.
This review of Life is Strange Episode Two: Out of Time is based on a digital copy for the PC which was paid for out-of-pocket.