A new year means a whole new bunch of games to either look forward to or slowly shake my head over. Given last year’s slow move toward progress in terms of representation and AAA companies maybe starting to listen to their fans just a tiny bit more, I’m excited to see what lessons have been learned from the fiascoes of the past and what this means for the future of games. Already, I have a modicum of hope thanks to this game.
After their breakout game Remember Me, Dontnod Entertainment is looking to stake their claim into one of the most well-received narrative techniques in gaming in this new era: episodic games. From their site:
Life is Strange is an episodic, narrative driven adventure game which tells the compelling story of Max; a Senior photography student who suddenly discovers she is able to rewind time. She uses her power to save the life of Chloe, her childhood friend, whom she has not seen in five years. For Chloe it’s been a turbulent time and she’s been drifting off course since her father’s tragic death.
The reunion will turn their lives upside down, as increasingly strange events plague the small town of Arcadia Bay both teenagers find themselves involved in a grim investigation into the mysterious disappearance of a high school student.
Is this platform a good choice for them? Yes, I believe so. Completely disregarding that Telltale Games have all but made episodic narrative a staple of video games, many complaints about Remember Me stemmed not from its story, but from its gameplay. In removing many technical aspects of said gameplay (see: platforming), Dontnod have given themselves the chance to focus more on the things they do really well: create interesting worlds and compelling stories. Which, according to first-glance reviews, they’ve done. And in choosing this style of gameplay, I believe their audience will only expand, as episodic games seem to be able to bridge the gap between so-called “hardcore gamers” and those that might want a less intensive gaming experience.
Something else I really have to applaud Dontnod for is going with SquareEnix as their publisher. Truthfully, I haven’t been a fan of SquareEnix for a while—reasons not limited to me being butthurt about their not allowing Geno in Smash—but with some of their recent moves, such as making their male lead of an upcoming mobile game Mevius Final Fantasy dress in ways that typical female characters in RPGs are forced to dress, maybe I should give the company another chance. Especially after they’ve been essentially the only publisher that wasn’t trying to force Dontnod into making both of Life Is Strange‘s leading ladies into men. It’s 2015, people; I think we can handle having a game with two leading ladies and not expect it to automatically sell poorly because of it.
If you’re someone who’s already finished both seasons of The Walking Dead game in addition to Tales From the Borderlands or Wolf Among Us, or like the idea of games like Gone Home, then you should be looking forward to this game. Alternately, if you enjoy a good story that’s been compared to a Sundance indie flick, or a branching narrative that relies on your decisions—or time control mechanics—I would also look forward to this game. Life Is Strange‘s first episode drops on January 30th and will be available on most major platforms (Xbox 360/One, PS3/4, PC).