Life is Strange Chaos Theory left gamers in a state of shock as they were left with a game changing cliff-hanger. The chapter also gave us some great story progression, it saw the relationship between Max and Chloe grow deeper and provided an interesting new addition to Max’s time travel abilities. In the fourth instalment, Dark Room, French developer DONTNOD have successfully managed to surpass the drama of the third creating the darkest and grittiest episode and the best in the series so far.
During the last episode a neat new addition was added to Max’s time traveling abilities which meant that she could actually travel back further in time then she previously has. The result of messing with her new ability essentially led to a huge plot twist in which she switched to an alternative timeline. Has she never heard of the Butterfly effect? Without spoiling too much, Dark Room picks up immediately after the events of the third chapter leading us on what is a very dark scenario. The plot as usual is very well written and this time around DONTNOD have really nailed the pacing. Previous chapters had several interruptions interspersed every so often which would bring the story to a standstill. There’s still the occasional diversions here as well as dialog choices that really seem to go nowhere but they’re significantly reduced and more spaced apart so they’re not so noticeable. Despite these lulls the tension and sense of dread constantly builds up over the course of this three hour episode.
One of the main corner stones of the series revolves around the disappearance of one Rachel Amber, outstanding Blackwell student and Chloe’s best friend. It was something that was present in previous chapters and was the reason behind the girl’s super sleuthing but along the way it gets pushed out of the way a little. In Dark Room though it’s featured much more predominantly as Max and Chloe’s investigation begins to come to a close. Their investigation in this episode eventually leads them in the direction of an abandoned barn, revealing more information on the Prescott family, and results in the pair gate crashing the End of the World party at Blackwell Academy. The bulk of the game unfolds nicely but the opening 20 minutes and concluding 30 minutes is where the tension is most predominant and the story flows at a quick pace. As for the conclusion of this episode we’re left with a cliff-hanger that is even greater than the previous which is an impressive feat to say the least.
One thing Life is Strange has done very well up to now is gradually developing its strong cast of characters and this chapter really goes a step further. Given the darker and grittier subject matter presented within this chapter you gain a much more emotional attachment to all of the cast members particularly the two leading ladies. Dark room is also where you see two key decisions in the past come to a conclusion. Did you save the troubled teenager and did you try to shoot the moody drug dealer? The first of these choices, if played out correctly, rewards you with some useful information and presents some very moving scenes. The latter opens up a whole heap of quick decisions which will determine the fate of one of the games antagonists. Will he meet his end or become a new ally in your investigation?
Along with the story Max’s time travel gameplay has also progressed as puzzles have now been extended requiring multiple steps to complete them. There’s more depth and it adds a bit of extra challenge something that we haven’t really seen up to now but it’s still all handled very neatly as to not mess with the overall flow of the story. While it’s not particularly stand out scene, there is a nice touch during one of the games quieter moments. Throughout Life is Strange Max has been using her powers to play a junior detective role and in one scene she’s left in Chloe’s bedroom trying to piece together all of the vague scraps of evidence you’ve acquired. It’s only a small element of the chapter but it flows surprisingly well and it’s more open unlike other detective games where you’re locked into some small puzzle solving gimmick.
After the shocking conclusion of Chaos Theory, Life is Strange Dark Room ups the ante once more and continues on it path of out of the blue surprises. Taking a darker and at times almost gruesome turn, episode 4 offers not only the longest story of the four but the best in the series so far. Character development reaches a new emotional level of depth and the gameplay has developed further again to gain a sense of challenge. We’re nearing the end of this sci-fi school life drama, with such a jaw-dropping plot twist it’ll be interesting to see just where the game goes from that and whether the conclusion can give the fans the satisfying end we all want.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down.