Life is Strange returns with it’s third and strongest episode yet, as the life of Max Caulfield and the town of Arcadia Bay continue to get more…well…strange. Episode three fixes the meandering pace of episode 2, with puzzles that aren’t annoying, and by providing some really cool development of the characters and world. While the finale of Chaos Theory is very much different than Out of Time’s, it is just as shocking and emotionally twisting, and shows that DONTNOD has a great story on their hands.
After the ending of the previous episode, the mood of Blackwell Academy and Arcadia Bay is vastly different depending on the player’s actions. Characters and environmental object do a good job to convey the mood, and make the decision seem important and world impacting without vastly changing the game itself. Arcadia Bay itself continues to go through bizarre changes, first with the blizzard in episode one, the eclipse in episode two, and now mysteriously dead wildlife in this episode. There is absolutely something off about Arcadia Bay, and the game continues to do a great job of giving a Twin Peaks vibe of a seemingly ordinary town being much more beneath the surface.
The main focus of episode three is of Max and Chloe trying to find answers about what’s going on around them, and to try to find answers on who Rachel Amber really was. While some questions are answered, more are brought up, and Rachel seems to be the piece to connect everything together. There are some simple puzzles, but they are pretty logical and aren’t frustratingly obtuse (I’m looking at you, junkyard can hunt). Max’s time powers also get some interesting play in the episode, from gathering information and rewinding to use it to Max’s advantage, to her being in a location before she was supposed to. Max and Chloe’s relationship continues to develop, and the player learns more about their friendship before Max left for Seattle, and also finally learn about the fateful day Chloe’s father was killed. Their friendship (and possibly more?) is one of the best parts of the series, and it really shows in this episode. While some dialogue is awkward, and some character animations, such as lip synching, are a little jarring, the interactions between the two feel very genuine, whether they are joking around or even fighting each other. Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch continue to knock it out of the park as Max and Chloe respectively, and their acting does a fantastic job of helping to sell the emotion in the story.
The finale of Chaos Theory seemingly changes the complete landscape of the game, and raises a ton of questions on what direction the game is going next. There are many possibilities, and it will be exciting to see what direction the game is going. With only two episodes left, there are still a ton of questions that need to be answered, but DONTNOD looks to be on track on making one of the most engrossing games of the year.