One thing I respect about ABC Family’s hit show Pretty Little Liars, is that the show focuses on the main protagonists, their decisions, and the heavy consequences that come with them. PLL’s ever-changing story is another thing in itself: While you may think A is one person, with all evidence pointing towards that person, the show whips you around and brings forth a completely different A. And, if you’re caught up, (spoiler) you know that A is now two people. Whether or not those two people are connected, we have yet to find out.
The Pretty Little Liars Formula, we’ll call it, is very prominent in Life is Strange. You think certain consequences will play out one way, certain people might be connected, or you may not get caught in a lie—but they snap your neck and take you to a whole different timeline you never expected, exposing answers and possibilities never thought about. This is what keeps “choose your own adventure” type games interesting, and what makes Life is Strange’s story so damn good.
[alert type=”green”]MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.[/alert]
The end of episode three left players with a lot of mixed emotions. Seeing Chloe paralyzed from the neck down, with no blue hair, and a smile expressing she hadn’t seen you in quite some time was shocking, sad, dark, and depressing. By saving William (Chloe’s father) in hope for a better life, you pretty much killed your best friend. Hanging out with her, you find out she too, was in a car accident much like her father’s in this other timeline.
An SUV cut her off, sending her flying into a ditch, snapping her spine and destroying all feeling she had left in her body. The garage in Chloe’s home was now her high-tech medical ward, equipped with a morphine drip, mouth-controlled computer, and other equipment totaling about $9,000 (looking around the house, you find the bill for her equipment).
Exploring the bedroom, Max finds a letter from a former friend of Chloe’s, Megan, who you find out was “too cool for school” after Chloe’s accident, and never kept in touch. You also find out Max wasn’t much better. Max sent road trip selfies, and a letter that did nothing close to sugar coat the situation at hand. To cheer up Chloe, Max decides the two should watch a movie like old times, and pops Blade Runner into the DVD player.
Max falls asleep at Chloe’s side, waking up the next morning mixed with nostalgia, and sadness. Chloe tells you her head hurts, and to go to the upstairs bathroom to get her a morphine injection. This gives you the opportunity to look throughout the house, including Chloe’s old room, and talk to her parents. I recommend you interact with everything and have every possible conversation you can with William and Joyce. It adds a lot to the environment and feeling.
If you’ve played Episode 4 already, and didn’t go through the journal, photos, and dossiers, I recommend you go back and do so. Max’s journal starts out with page one, and your dossiers are all wiped, leading you to believe everyone is a different person, and you have to re-meet them. The way Max writes in her journal, and the frequency of which she does so, gives you a big insight in how much has changed by just saving one life. Chloe even hates the word “hella.”
At the end of Episode 3, Max tells Chloe [before she drops her off at school at the end of the episode], “at least you’re here alive with me,” to which Chloe doesn’t say anything to. In Episode 4, on your beach stroll together, Chloe tells you, from the bottom of her heart, the exact same thing.
The emotions in this episode continued to help me through my grieving process, as well. If I had the ability to go back in time to save my grandfather’s life, I may have sacrificed someone else in the process, and been unable to live with myself. It was this first part of the fourth episode that truly made me come to terms with the death of both of my grandparents; I hope it helps others dealing with grief, too. Hats off to DONTNOD for that—I’d still be in a very dark place if it weren’t for this game helping me through it.
I’m not going to go through the [obviously eventually] way you go back to the original timeline, as the decision made prior to doing so is very emotional. I had to sit back for a minute and stare at my screen, really thinking about what the game was asking me to do. And if you, like myself, have had someone close to you become sick, and suffer, this may require you to grab a box of tissues. I will not deny it: I cried three times throughout the entire episode. Yes, the fact we go back to the original timeline may have been predictable, but DONTNOD makes sure to play with your emotions before you do, keeping it interesting.
Dark Room was a lot longer than the other episodes, averaging at about four hours and fifteen minutes.* The only downside I found to this episode was the pacing. This episode gave you the investigating, the story, the action, and good conversations, but it all seemed unevenly paced. A lot of the game, towards the middle of the episode, was a lot of walking around and minor interactions.
This became quite frustrating, as I started playing the episode around 7:00PM, and ended around 11:30PM and frequently asked myself, “are we to the exciting part yet?” Luckily, the last hour or so of gameplay is where all the dark twists and turns show up. If you thought you didn’t have to pay attention to the minor details, you’re mistaken. A step before the last part of the episode will require you to dissect the littlest of details, and can be quite frustrating if you passed them up before.
This episode did answer a lot of questions, and proposed a lot of new ones. Episode Two may have made you feel bad for David (and possibly due to your decision of who to side with at the end of Episode 3), but Episode 4 may cause you to question David in a totally different manner. If you tried to shoot Frank in Episode 3, you’ll face the consequence of that in this episode; You can only get the “perfect” outcome if you didn’t try to shoot him. But who knows what consequence would have occurred if he had the gun?
The love triangle of Max, Warren, and Brooke also shows up a bit more, and may have you questioning all three people, and where their hearts truly lie. More secondary characters get to show some light, which hit home again for me. These secondary characters in the small-town world become even more relateable, and the true beauty of Life is Strange’s story and environment stand out.
With an episode with yet another flawless soundtrack, the beautiful sights of Arcadia, and twists so shocking and morbid, you will have absolutely no idea of even where to start with Episode Five theories. The first two episodes left you with a canvas filled-in enough for you to be able to paint the picture for the next; but Episode Four spins you around so much, you won’t know where to start. You will feel happiness, sadness, shock, anger and then some going through this episode. If you look past the fact Life is Strange is just a video game, you’ll see the life lessons it tries to implement: Everything you do and say matters, and even though life is quite peculiar and morbid at times, there is a beauty to being alive here, with the ones we love.
Do you have any theories you’d like to discuss? Were your theories right, wrong, completely off? Sound off in the comments below, but keep in mind everyone in the comments may not be caught up on Life is Strange, so I’d love to hear your other thoughts on Twitter, and of course, the Life is Strange subreddit is an excellent place with a growing community.
* – Information gathered by looking at YouTube walkthrough times.
This review of Life is Strange – Episode Four: Dark Room is based on a digital review copy for the PC which was paid for out of pocket.