I didn’t want to play Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room. I really didn’t. Why? Because I didn’t want my heart to be broken. Again.
Dontnod Entertainment’s episodic adventure game has so far been a fun and surreal high school drama. Exceptionally strong writing and characters like Chloe and Max are the sole reason that keeps me coming back, but judging from what happened at the end of episode three, I was hesitant to begin the latest chapter.
WARNING. HELLA SPOILERS FROM PREVIOUS EPISODES BELOW.
If you’re like me and have a soul, you probably died a little when you saw Chloe (my fave) in a wheelchair at the end of the third episode. What. The fuck. The story picks up immediately after and follows the two girls as they take a walk on the beach. Players aren’t immediately told what happened to Chloe or how Max’s altering of the timeline resulted in such an outcome. It was a gut-wrenching moment to see one of my favorite characters reduced to such a state but that’s exactly what games like this does.
In a way, the Square-Enix published adventure game reminds me a lot of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV show where the producers and writers set up certain characters to be extremely likable just to have them burned at the stake. With this in mind, for the first time ever in the series, I took more time in making a decision in episode four of Life is Strange. I simply didn’t want any of my favorite characters to get hurt. Sidenote: The Kate in my story jumped off a roof in episode two. Woops.
Despite the episode’s heart-aching and guilt-driven opening, the game’s typical set of problems arise once the players are put back into the shoes of series protagonist, Max Caulfield.
The first thing players are tasked to do in Dark Room is to bring Chloe a cup of water and find a DVD of Blade Runner. Sick. I spent what felt like far too long looking for the film in Chloe’s room and that immediately begged the question: Why couldn’t Max just ask Chloe where the DVD was? I know, I know, suspension of disbelief and all that.
BTW. I </3 fetch quests.
Things slowed to a complete halt during a scene where players had to piece together a bunch of clues on a board in hopes of finding the missing Rachel Amber. Maybe I’m just not into reading a bunch of random notes and trying to make sense of a paper full of coordinates, but it got especially slow when players had to hack into a certain character’s cellphone. This entire segment of the game felt tedious and I was stuck entering every four-digit number I could find. Phone-hacker simulator: Episode 4? No thanks.
I had a tough time towards the end of the game where players had to crash the VIP section of the Vortex Club’s party. I simply didn't know how to get past the guards. Maybe I just suck at the game but moments like these really slowed down the pace and took me away from the series’ incredible storytelling.
All of these complaints are minor at best. What I’m most concerned about is how the developers are going to handle the finale. There’s a ton of Blackwell drama that has to be tied up and a ton of fantastical stuff that, after four episodes, have yet to be explained. I’m worried the final episode will fall under its own weight.
Speaking of drama, the big reveal at the end of the episode didn’t have me screaming at the screen as I think the developers wanted me to. Given the fact that Max can rewind quite a bit of time (as showcased in episode three), the stakes presented in the final minutes of Dark Room had me feel kind of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
I was more surprised at what Warren did to Nathan. That. Was. Awesome. Talk about going ape.
Thanks to Max’s time-rewinding abilities, Life is Strange does something other games of the genre cannot. Players can affect what happens in the future as well as the past. Rewinding to see a different outcome, or manipulating time to essentially teleport to different areas of a level are satisfying when you figure it out and it still has not gotten old. Also, I have to give it up for writers Christian Divine and Jean-Luc Cano for going absolutely nuts with the pop culture references and making the series perhaps the most contemporary story I've ever experienced in video games.
Even though Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room has some slow spots, it’s still one of my favorite adventure games, right up there with Telltale’s The Walking Dead season one. If you haven’t already, go play episode four of Life is Strange, it’s hella good.
P.S. the song featured in the game is also great. Check it out!
Billy is the co-founder of BiyaByte and is currently looking for another small indie game to play. He doesn't want to play the Witcher 3 (his game of the year) because it scares him. Make fun of him on Twitter and follow him @Billybyte!