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Life Is Strange: Episode 2 - Out of Time

By Bobfish01-04-2015

The Defence

DONTNOD Entertainment
Square Enix
Action, Adventure
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 3.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 260
AMD Radeon HD 4890
2 GB
3 GB

The Case

Episodic games are no stranger to delays. The simple logistics of keeping to a strict schedule, often giving mere weeks from one episode to the next, is not something to scoff at. Unlike in the film industry, where a problem with a scene can be addressed by reshooting one, small, section or simply airbrushing things out. The entirety of a video-game consists of complicated calculations and coding I am, frankly, grossly underqualified to comment on. My point is, it presents itself as a massive undertaking that even the most experienced development studios (cough, Telltale, cough) cannot ever hope to fully account for. So when DONTNOD announced that Episode 2 of Life is Strange: Out of Time had been delayed, I was overwhelmed with not surprise. When it came only two weeks late, however, that caused a raised eyebrow. And left me wondering, was the extra time needed, or added by choice?

The Trial

That would be a difficult question to answer, truth be told. I’m leaning quite heavily in favour of the latter though. As the finished product is far more solid than the first part in almost every way. Having said that, there are some issues I experienced in my, uhm, experience. Minor, actually rather amusing, bugs for the most part. Which have been mentioned by others both within our Appeals, and hidden amongst the dark corners of the internet where I spend my free time. The key word being here - minor.

Aside from a few graphical issues and the odd physics, the most pervasive issue your humble reviewer came across was, in part, self-inflicted. Approximately a third of the way through the game, during the diner scene, young Max was tasked with predicting the future. Which, of course, required first witnessing it, then rewinding time to inform her companion. Something I pre-empted by hitting the rewind button just a hair too early, overlapping with a scripted, black and white freeze frame effect that ended up going with me. A quick exit and reload fixed the problem, and lead to only minor irritation at having to do over about two minutes of gameplay. Nevertheless, it is an issue which needs to be addressed, and thus worthy of mention.

When you say ‘snapshot of time’ I didn't think you were so...literal.

When you say ‘snapshot of time’ I didn't think you were so...literal.

Beyond that, Out of Time legitimately and honestly improves on the first in every possible way. Already building on decisions made in the first episode in ways that give genuine weight to your actions. Not just minor lines of dialogue changed here and there. Things like Max’s plant, which I all but ignored last time, now being on the edge of death. Something which I noticed at the very beginning of the chapter, it brought me up short and put me to reflecting on other, seemingly innocuous, choices I had made. Which was a very good thing, because many of them, and much of the decisions in episode 2, directly affected the ending. Which can, and in my case did, lead to the death of a main character.

A death that could not be rectified. Because, as we learn very early on, Max is not omnipotent. Overexerting herself, as any teenager, or anyone, able to rewind time inevitably would, has consequences on her health. Something, let’s be honest, we all knew was coming. But few expected to see so soon. It was a jarring, and quite welcome, change of pace from the usual flow of such stories. Forging a path of its own and most poignantly proving the point that player agency is real. Not just a surface veneer to get you invested, but an actual, appreciable consequence of your words and actions. Where even a minor, off-hand comment could, and probably will, come back to haunt you.

It was an incredibly ballsy move, especially the ‘optional’ (so to speak) death which caps off the episode. Something which our own BloodyFanGirl refused to accept, leading her to restart the scene. Which, of course, I would have loved to have done myself. But I couldn’t bring myself to cheat fate like that. DONTNOD had made their point, and it behoves us to respect that and, well, just frikkin’ deal with it! Those two reactions, hers and mine, are the greatest compliment one can give to a narrative game. We are invested in a way that few games have ever attained.

The illusion of choice.

The illusion of choice.

After building up the sense of freedom, driving home how useful and pervasive the ability to control time was, and would be, in the first episode. Stripping it away so suddenly, and so quickly, has profound implications for the future of the narrative. The impact, and full gravitas, of this were felt immediately. Perfectly, succinctly and powerfully reminding you that nobody is infallible. It makes the two episodes when considered as a whole serve as a stark contrast and warning. With great power, for lack of a better term, comes great responsibility.

The greatest improvement, oddly enough, is that the episode is more linear. Far from limiting player engagement, it helps keep everything more focused and reinforces the sensation of being in a fluid world that is continuing around you. Whilst the more open sensation of the first episode allowed for more exploration, it also broke the sense of immersion by reminding you that other events would sit patiently and wait for you to trigger them. Something which, being a game, was still evident in this episode, but the structure gave less reason to wander around. With most areas being smaller, it took less time to explore each one, with each being small enough that it kept the story moving at a steady pace. And still clocking in at a good three hours.

There were a few moments that were...painful. Not because of the teen angst, which isn’t really as bad as some people have been lead to believe. But there were some awkward contrivances that were telegraphed from orbit around bloody Jupiter! Why on Earth would anyone, anyone, lay down on active train tracks without first having been lobotomised with a spoon?! I mean, we know Chloe is supposed to get high about twelve times an hour, but that’s all kinds of idiotic. So much so...I actually let the train hit her a few times just because...urgh. Also, the moment when she was playing with a gun, and accidently shot herself by a ricochet elicited a guilty chuckle.

So Chloe is a Pastafarian now?

So Chloe is a Pastafarian now?

Aaaanyway. Sadistic tendencies (and personal distaste for the character aside) this is something that further highlights the degree of engagement. Actions and reactions of the game’s NPCs lead to genuine emotional responses. Not all being of the homicidal variety, honest. Though Warren is rather, well, not creepy, but certainly smothering. An all too uncomfortable exploration of precisely how difficult it can be when you’re on the receiving end of a clumsy, socially awkward teenaged boy’s affections. An eye opening experience indeed.

What really sells the characters, of course, is the performances behind them. Which are as deliciously understated as in Chrysalis. Whilst lacking the glitz and glam of some larger budget titles, they add a much greater degree of authenticity, whilst the slightly clumsy dialogue, from none native English speakers remember, actually sells the sense of being young and naïve far better than a masterpiece of dramatic literature. Whilst the somewhat clunky, almost lack, of speaking animations actually lead to a curious, but effective, disconnect which helps everything feel that little bit more surreal. And thus more realistic for it. Like you are only getting a glimpse at something far larger.

The Verdict

What I’m saying, in no uncertain terms, is that the crown for masters of the episodic gaming world is no longer secure where it sits. DONTNOD are here, and they are here to stay. The only thing that stands in their way is time. The events of episode 1 and 2 have set, and continued to improve on, a superbly solid world for episodes 3-5 to knock it out of the park. All they have to do is hold the course, maintain the quality and Life is Strange is well on course for setting some new standards for interactive storytelling as an entire medium, not just episodic games as a niche.

Case Review

  • Consequence: So you thought you could fix everything? Think again.
  • Emotional Investment: You will love some characters, you will hate others, but almost all will make you feel something.
  • Pacing: At no point did the episode feel like it was moving too quickly, or dragging on too long.
  • Player Agency: Player decisions that amount to far more than just “will this person call me asshole or friend”.
  • Animations: They’re far from terrible, just lacklustre in places. Especially facial animations.
  • Length: You would have to be an extremely whiny individual to complain at three hours per episode...but I’m sure some people will do it anyway.
  • Bugs: Mostly minor graphics glitches which are not game breaking, but still irritating.
Score: 4.5/5
Improving on everything the first ep did right and pushing forward to promise even greater things to come.


Yes it’s still beautiful, yes the dialogue is still wince-worthy but yes this episode is one you have to play in one sitting. GO PLAY IT NOW...BEFORE I SPOIL SOMETHING.

For those of you still here, this episode builds on the foundations of episode one. Some characters get a lot more attention and are starting to break the stereotypical mould carved out for them in Chrysalis. In particular, one character set up as a villain last episode becomes slightly more nuanced here and we see the possibility that perhaps his intentions are actually good even if he’s not going about them the best way. That said the majority of the secondary characters have yet to get this same amount of attention. This is something we can probably look forward to in the next three episodes, especially in light of THAT ending...

Speaking of, the choices mechanic really comes into its own here. And it’s not just the big, binary choices like whether deciding to tell the principal about Nathan Prescott or not. It’s the smaller gameplay choices too, like whether you decide to look at one student’s bible early on as it may or may not become extremely important later depending on how you play. Furthermore, choices you made in Chrysalis are still frequently mentioned in Out of Time, aiding the series’ sense of continuity and adding to the feeling that what you do actually matters. This is in spite of the fact you can rewind time, allowing you to potentially do things over as much as you need, and this is something that I feel the series so far deserves praise for.

There are some very tense, well executed moments in this episode. There are also some exceptionally contrived ones too. (I’m specifically talking about the scene on the rail tracks. Why on Earth did the characters think it was a good idea to sit anywhere near still in use train tracks?) In addition to this, Out of Time seems to be slightly more technically unstable and I experienced a few crashes and the odd graphical error. With all of that in mind, I would still say that this is a strong second episode with an especially hard hitting ending. ‘Next time’ can’t come soon enough.

Score: 4.5/5


The title says it all, Life is Strange - Out of Time. What would you do if you realized that you actually don’t have all the time in the world? We’ve all been there, perhaps when we realized there was a paper due tomorrow. During this time anxiety builds and you would give anything to be able to slow time down. But what happens when our actions mean life and death, and time is your only resource?  

What began quite slowly and calmly ended with very heavy consequences, as Life is Strange brought about very clever and sensible limitations, giving you a sense of helplessness even with your supernatural powers. A very personal and sensitive topic was brought up at the end of the game, which I was able to end with a mostly satisfying conclusion. The only problem is that animation flaws from the first episode still exist in Out of Time, but you get used to the beautifully stiff mannequin-people after a while.

Chloe is a popular character but I don’t think someone who blames their problems on everyone else would be my ideal best friend. Actually this attitude of externalising her problems towards others is a big problem and I don’t think Max should tolerate it. These personality flaws can be forgiven as long as they aren’t glorified.

Score: 4.5/5
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Posts: 3290

Look like the jury is in for this one. And unanimous