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Life is Strange: Episode 3 - Chaos Theory

By Bobfish04-06-2015

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

When you view life through a lens, all sorts of weird and wonderful things can happen. Though, it seems, for Max Caulfield, there’s a distinct propensity of former and shocking lack of the latter. Life is Strange has already thrown some harrowing developments at us, what with rumours of systematic sexual abuse and an impending tornado set to wipe Arcadia Bay of the map. So, what does Chaos Theory bring to the table? Do we even want to know?

The Trial

Actually, episode 3 is rather more upbeat than the two preceding it. That’s not to say it’s all hearts and flowers, but in this world we take what small mercies we can get. Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The game looks and plays just like the others, with the sporadic da’Vinci pose people still popping up from time to time, but far less often now. The lip syncing remains as awkward as ever, and a previously overlooked issue has annoyingly persisted. Each time I load the game, my key bindings and graphics settings reset to defaults. Which is rather irritating, but honestly the only real complaint that can be made.

Now that all that’s out of the way, I’m just going to say it outright. This is the best episode of the series to date. Thematically the mid-point fits in as a perfect, well, mid-point. After the initial rush of excitement and drama from episode 1 and, especially, 2, everything settles down significantly. Giving us some much needed respite to gather our wits and start to really process what all is going on. The main chunk of the episode featuring Max and Chloe getting to know each other all over again and enjoying some genuinely touching moments of camaraderie.

Dark is the Night.

Dark is the Night.

More importantly than this, however, we finally have some much needed character development for several of the side characters who have, up to this point, been presented as nothing more than cardboard cut-outs. Nathan, for example, has a few moments to show that he’s not just a neurotic asshole. He still is a neurotic asshole, but there’s enough of his background revealed to show that he’s...not so much sympathetic, but at least pitiable. Someone who really is feeling the pressure of his life, as opposed to just revelling in perceived power.

He reminds me quite a lot of Andy, played by Emilio Estevez, from The Breakfast Club. Which is funny, because Frank, the creepy trucker guy, actually kinda’ reminds me of Bender. And he’s someone else who is fleshed out significantly in this episode, another large chunk being devoted to poking into his life and learning, amongst other things, that he is a keen dog lover. The crotchety mutt that guards his truck being a rescue dog that he spends a great deal of his (presumably) ill begotten gains tending for. This is something of a theme throughout most of Chaos Theory’s playtime. Building on what we know and, more importantly, what we think we know to throw everything onto a slant.

There are further developments to Max’s rewind ability as well. Where the previous episode showed her limitations, in the form of nosebleeds, this shows her range. A pivotal scene being when she learns she can step back much further via the use of a photograph. Much like the second entry in the The Butterfly Effect series (which sucks, but eh) which is something I have been saying was a major influence for DONTNOD from the beginning. The specifics of what happens next...that’s something you really should see for yourself. But suffice it to say it, quite literally, changes everything. With the ramifications even leading to Warren hooking up with Stella. Which is the smallest development, so make of that what you will.

Where's the duct tape when you need it?

Where's the duct tape when you need it?

The full gravity of events actually makes this a very difficult episode to talk about without giving away massive spoilers. But, honestly, that should be taken as a huge compliment. DONTNOD really have set themselves up to produce one of the best episodic game series’ on the market today. Perhaps not quite to the level of rivalling Telltale, not yet, but certainly standing up to compete with ease. Providing they don’t screw it all up with a shitty ending. Still a possibility I’ll grant, but one that I am increasingly in doubt of coming to fruition.

As it currently stands, Life is Strange has already served up three consistently improved episodes of clever, nuanced writing and superb pacing that promises to deliver in every way we could hope, and several more we can’t even conceive of. With Chaos Theory once again clocking in at a sold three hours, there isn’t even a complaint to be made for scale. Leaving us with a shining example of narrative gaming done right.

The Verdict

There are only so many ways one can say the same thing. So let’s just say, if you don’t have Life is Strange in your collection yet, and you are even remotely interested in story based games, you owe it to yourself to buy it. You will not be disappointed.

Case Review

  • Context: More than any other, this episode builds on the world of Arcadia Bay and adds life to its inhabitants.
  • Length: Clocking it at another three hours, the series is already longer than most episodic titles on the market.
  • Pacing: Moving far more sedately than the previous episodes, you finally have a chance to just enjoy the experience...for a little while.
  • Lip Syncing: It’s still kinda’ awkward.
  • Settings: Would be nice if they’d stop resetting every time the game is restarted.
Score: 4.5/5
In a word, superb. In 5 words - the best episode to date.


With her friend’s suicide attempt still fresh in her mind, Max decides it’s time to investigate the mystery at hand properly and her detective work begins in earnest this episode. Much of this episode’s gameplay is comprised of attempting to gain access to new areas and searching for clues within them. But beyond that, Max and Chloe find themselves looking further and further into the past, specifically the latter’s. It is amongst this looking back in anger the Max discovers her powers aren’t as limited as she’d thought, culminating in another shocking, cliff-hanger ending very reminiscent of...well, it would be spoiler-y to make comparisons.

Choice in games is meant to empower us but this episode continues its exploration of the theme of how helpless Max’s choices can make her feel. Up to this point we’ve often heard Max’s “Did I make the right choice?” monologues after deciding upon a key in-game decision but we increasingly see that it’s not quite as clear cut as a right or wrong choice, despite what is implied by the dichotomy of choices the game presents. This can make for a frustrating experience but one is left feeling that the game is attempting to build up to something bigger...and oh boy does it.

In this episode we see an unexpected side of several characters. For example, the threatening drug dealer Frank actually does have a soft side and Max herself can be downright mean at times (she’s certainly enjoying her new found ability to Houdini her way out of consequences). All of this together leads to more questions than answers and a definite sense of building, leaving us on tenterhooks for the penultimate episode...which is exactly where we should be.

Score: 5/5


Chaos Theory starts the game in a very dark, and creepy atmosphere and most of the game is that way. This games atmosphere would have more of an impact if you got the “bad” ending, where Katie ends up dead. Episode 3 took me an extra hour longer than previous episodes partly due to how dark the environment was this time around. I could've, you know, turned up the brightness but that would’ve made too much common sense.

There is a lot more hanging out with Chloe in this episode. There is even a choice where you as Max can kiss her, which made the slash fans go nuts. The most interesting part for me during the game was learning more about Rachel Amber and Frank Bowers. I don’t want to get into it too much because, even though it’s not a major revelation, it still is a revelation nonetheless.

There is an unavoidable “twist” ending that is supposed to make you think back on your actions with a “what have I done?!?” moment. I say supposed to because I felt that was the impression of how I was supposed to react, but personally, I don’t see a problem. Well, other from the next natural phenomenon that happened, which is obviously a problem, but other than that I don’t think it was that bad of an outcome or particularly shocking. Maybe it’s just because the last ending hit me much more personally and the affected character of Chaos Theory’s ending I really didn’t care so much about.

Score: 4/5
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