Nine months and 5 chapters later its’s time for DONTNODS time-traveling adventure Life is Strange to come to a close. After a bit of a shaky start the developers really got into the swing of things after the third episode giving the series a darker edge, presenting two jaw dropping cliff-hangers and really nailing their story-telling ability. So after all of this can Episode 5 Polarized give us the great satisfying ending we’re all hoping for?
Continuing from the shocking conclusion of the fourth episode, we find Max once again in the dark room and at the mercy of the surprising antagonist the amateur junior detective duo have been searching for from the start. The main crux of this episode revolves around a rather large event that first appeared in the first chapter; namely a giant tornado spiralling out of control and ready to destroy all of Arcadia Bay. Like the previous instalment this one continues the darker narrative, which is saying something when they’ve already covered some delicate subject matter like drug use and suicide. If anything it takes it a bit further as the tension grows continuously and you can’t shake that feeling of impending doom. It’s particularly impressive as this is easily the longest chapter in the series and its written so well that it’ll keep you on edge from start to finish.
A little while back Max discovered a new element of her time reversing ability meaning that she can travel back a lot further in time than a couple of seconds with the use of photographs along her personal timeline. It’s this power that plays heavily in this episode as you’re constantly switching timelines trying to find the right path out of the bleak situation you’ve found yourself in. You spend a lot of time doing this through Polarized and after a while it can become tedious as you’re essentially jumping to one timeline and then jumping back as things don’t pan out the way you want. This process goes on for some time but eventually it does pay off and you’re sent spiralling into a tangent that you in no way would have expected.
Now onto the biggest question is the ending everything we were all hoping for? Many of the minor decisions you make along the way all conclude within the fourth and fifth episodes, as for the conclusion it boils down to just one choice giving two very different outcomes. During the course of the game the character development has been top notch and when it comes down to the final choice it’s a very tough call to make as it really does hold a lot of weight. Both are a satisfying enough conclusion to Max’s story in their own way but one can clearly been seen as the better or ‘true’ ending as the other unfortunately just feels a bit rushed. It’s particularly frustrating if you’re like me and it’s the ending you would have preferred to have seen more of.
The mix of water colour visuals and comic book stylings as usual have been sublime but in this we get a nice blend between light, calm surroundings to some dark, apocalyptic scenery. The music to has been on top form throughout each episode but it seems to step it up Polarized to give yet another fantastic mood setter the ending pieces in particular are very memorable. Before ending this review of the final episode I need to mention the neat little addition added into this final chapter. Life is Strange is of course overflowing with choices and each decision rewards players with a polaroid photograph depicting a particular scene, a new mode added in allows players to go back and finish their collection a lot faster than if you were to start over. In this mode decisions have no effect on your overall save data and you can quickly skip over conversations.
Polarized ending may split some players with some saying the endings offer a satisfying conclusion to this teen sci-fi drama while others may find it a somewhat underwhelming climax to what has been a great series. The ending aside, this has been another very well written chapter, as the tension continued to rise throughout and as for the character development it was again on top form rewarding players with some very moving moments. Life is indeed strange, despite a slow start Life of Strange eventually got into the swing of things presenting a compelling and emotional tale in which there is significant weight behind every decision. It’s clear to see DONTNODS writing prowess improve with each chapter so it’ll be interesting to see were exactly the company will go next. Sure I’s a little rough around the edges but Life is Strange is definitely a game that’s worth checking out.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down.