Monday, October 31, 2016

Life Is Strange: A Choice Game With No Choice (Spoilers)

I know I don't normally make gaming posts, and that's because I'm not a big gamer. But sometimes, I like to immerse myself in a good game... or at least, watch someone else play it on Youtube. This is how I got to Life Is Strange - a choice game where your decisions effect the outcome of the story, butterfly effect style. Or do they?

Choice games are still a fairly undeveloped area of gaming, because despite the premise of having choice... most of them end up leading to the same place, with just slight branching changes based on dialogues you picked and choices you made. So you might determine how many people will survive the game (i.e Until Dawn), but it won't change the development of the narrative and its progression.
So this brings us back to Life is Strange, a game in which you play as Max - a girl who is obsessed with photography and attends a prestigious photography program in her home town after moving away years ago.

Max is your normal shy, geeky girl (who's also quite judgmental and prone to just staring at people really close to their faces as she inter monologues about them) who feels out of her element and has a hard time making friends.

One day, after witnessing a murder, she discovers she can control time (because plot) and here the game really starts, as you manipulate time to save people, make yourself look better in front of others, and possibly uncover something sinister going on in town, alongside with your childhood best friend Chloe.
The game is fairly interesting and has it's gut wrenching moments, and the story is quite good. At any given time you have a bunch of decisions you can make, and while they don't really affect the general narrative, they do affect your reception by other people, more than anything. However, there are some BIG decisions that can affect characters in the story. Or at least, the game wants to make you think so.

The entire game is based on you choosing what to do... but at the end of the day, none of it matters.

Your actions throughout the game - the multiple rewinds to change the outcome of certain decisions and the way you keep saving your best friend from death - lead to the town being wrecked by a huge tornado, as you've offset the balance of the world. Bringing us to the final decision Max is faced with... go back to the very first decision you made and let your best friend die, or say screw-it and let the whole town die.

Either option you pick, you're negating every other choice you've made in the game.

In one option you literally undo every decision as you go back to the start point, and in another you kill every person you've saved, befriended, or made enemies with throughout the game, making everything mute
You comforted Vicotia after she got paint splash all over her? Woopse, she's dead now so that don't matter! Maybe you should've taken that humiliating photo of her after all. You've prevented Kate from committing suicide? Joke's on her, she's dead anyways! You saved Alyssa from TP attacks, soccer balls to the head and falling into a burning building? You really shouldn't have wasted the energy. And Warren. Dear, sweet Warren... dead by the side of the road somewhere.

The final choice in the game leaves you with absolutely no choice but to erase everything you've spent an entire game to build.

This is a "choice" game where the player doesn't really have any choice at all. He can either choose to submit to "fate" and let it have its way, or measure the life of one girl to be worth that of an entire town and iron things out that way. That is the only choice the player can really make in this ten hours long game that pretends to be based on making choices.

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