• Note: This review has been kept as spoiler free as possible. The trailer above has not.

Life is Strange has proven to be one of the surprise hits of the year. Nobody would’ve expected the team behind the fun, but flawed, Remember Me, to deliver such an impactful game, but DONTNOD have done just that. Each episode has grown in quality, with the developers listening to fan feedback whilst staying true to their initial vision.

Their vision has so far seen Life is Strange address fairly important issues whilst weaving an intriguing mystery story with added time travel and school politics. With its penultimate episode, Dark Room, the game needed to step it up a notch. It needed to leave players salivating for the final installment. It does not disappoint.

The long game that Life is Strange has played with some of its story arcs and character building allows this episode to really come in to its own. We’ve seen conflicts, developed relationships and, most importantly, made choices along the way and in Dark Room we finally begin to see the fruits of our labour. It’s important for games with moral choices to make it feel like your choices matter and in this episode you’ll see decisions made back all the way in the episode one assist or haunt you.

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With that in mind it makes some of the choices you can make in this episode even more poignant, and makes you realise that some of the things you say and do may really do more than just create a small rush of panic or satisfaction. By now you should’ve mastered the conversation rewind. We all say the wrong thing, especially teenagers, and in Dark Room the conversation trees will have you pondering and rewinding on several occasions.

The rewind puzzles, by now, should be something you’ve grown accustomed to, but I found the way that they are implemented in Dark Room far more interesting than in other episodes. Yet again it takes your previous knowledge and builds on it. Some moments will leave you scratching your head for a while as you try to piece together what it is you need to do, whereas others will leave you trying to figure out what is the best outcome to a certain situation. It is yet again refinement of what they have already built and it is extremely effective.

It would be easy to just keep recycling puzzle styles throughout the game but Life Is Strange has introduced something new for each episode. Dark Room is no different and has a new type of puzzle that really helps in making it feel like you’re the one solving the mystery, and not just having your hand held throughout the entire game. It requires a bit of thought and is a refreshing change of pace to what the series has delivered so far. Not everything about the game is to be praised though. It still falls short with its lip sync, which can ruin some of the more heartfelt moments. DONTNOD have realised these issues since the first episode it seems and some clever camera direction helps make it less noticeable. During close up shots though it does unfortunately ruin the delivery of lines a tiny bit.

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It’s a shame because the actors perform their dialogue brilliantly for the most part. It’s a small gripe, and one you should be used to by now, but it is something that is unfortunately difficult to ignore. With the game starting to ramp up the drama in this episode as the mystery begins to unwind a strong delivery is more vital than ever. It’s unlikely this is a problem that will ever be fixed, but at least it’s something that you can get used to. I personally found having subtitles on helped divert my attention enough to hardly notice it.

The strong narrative is another reason it’s possible to gloss over this flaw. As the episode name suggests the dark undercurrent that has been bubbling throughout the story so far comes to the surface. Due to the natural build the story has gone for it makes the reactions of characters feel all the more real. Combine this with the puzzles and a very interesting opening act to the episode you have something that is truly tantalising to play.

If you are the kind of person that likes to wait for episodic games to have every episode out before purchasing them, I would recommend rethinking that strategy with Life is Strange. The conversations that are already happening about the game are the type of water cooler moments episodic gaming needs and that you’ll want to get involved in. Not only that but Dark Room is the strongest episode of Life is Strange so far. It leaves you wanting to see what happens to Max Caulfield and the rest of Arcadia Bay whilst also delivering a truly entertaining slice of gaming.



Author

Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2