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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Life is Strange: Episode 1 - Chrysalis


Life is Strange: Episode 1 - Chrysalis
Developed by: DONTNOD Entertainment
Published by: SQUARE ENIX
Release Date: January 29 2015
Available on: Steam (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3
Video: http://bit.ly/1CCMhEp


Witnessing a horrific event

Life is Strange is an adventure game similar in style to Tell Tale Adventure games. You take on the role of Max Claufield a Photography student at Blackwell academy in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. Max is a fairly typical teenage girl who happens to love photography and using her (fairly dated) instant develop camera. While trying to calm down after particularly stressful class she is witness to a murder in the girls bathroom. This event triggers a power hidden deep inside Max allowing her to turn back time at will.

This episode felt similar to the first chapter of a good book, you get to meet many of the characters and get a feel for the world but it doesn't have much substance yet just over arching themes. You get a feel for many of the characters and the buildup to something big happening. You also get a feel for how the game mechanic of rewinding time works. The first episode has build a foundation for the characters and the world that has me captivated.

Shows some wonderful character diversity

One thing that I had noticed when you leave the classroom you get to see some wonderful diversity in the other students. Some are clearly overweight, some are focused on fashion, some are tall and some are short. This diversity lends itself well to making the school feel believable and lively despite there not being a large amount of NPC's filling the halls. I know it sounds strange to look at the weight and size of the NPC's but this is something that i've not seen in video games. This diversity makes the world just that much more believable with little extra effort 

Max has a mild personality that I found easy to relate with, the options given in the game really allowed me to project my own personality into her. For example during a scene where Max is reporting an issue to the principal, I chose to tell him of the event and his response was typical of what I would expect. Because of the perpetrators family connection my claim was treated as false despite her clear shaken voice and posture. This really struck a chord with me as I have been in similar situations (though not nearly as dangerous) during my school years.


The rewind mechanic feature allows you to redo any option if you don't like the outcome or just want to see what the other options bring you. This is great for those that just play through once and want to see what their options do, but for those that want to play through several times are going to be disappointed. That said, with Episode 2 and beyond if your choices actually change the game in some significant way then I can see some replay value.

Graphically Life is Strange is impressive with some detailed models and good texture work. Animations are clunky and even at times can be downright bad with that odd body wobble that was oh so prevalent in early 3D titles of the 90's and early 2000's. At first I thought that the lip syncing was done for a different language though after a few conversations it's easy to see that no attempt was made at lip syncing. I found this to be very distracting on the semi realistic models that I actually had to focus on the subtitles or look at my phone to catch the dialog.


Performance wise I played it on a somewhat old i5-2500 with a GTX-560 on high and managed to keep a solid 60FPS in most scenes with a few drops to 30FPS. As should be expected from a PC game this is littered with options for graphics, sound and key rebinding. A full complement of graphics options are available, including 2 types of AA (MSAA and FXAA) that can be enabled independently. The audio options include separate audio sliders for music, voice and sound effects with a master volume slider at the top.

Conclusion:

Pros
  • Performance
  • Voice acting
  • Graphics
  • Controls
  • Writing
  • Character Diversity
Cons
  • Animations
  • Lip syncing
  • Limited replay value
  • Lack of obese male


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