By Megan Farokhmanesh and Colin Campbell on August 13, 2015 at 5:00pm
|Box Art N/A|
|Platform 360, PS3, Win, PS4, Xbox One|
|Publisher Square Enix|
|Developer Dontnod Entertainment|
|Release Date Jul 28, 2015|
In the style of most episodic games, Life is Strange relies on a choice-and-consequence narrative in which players take on the role of high school student Max Caulfield — a young woman with the power to rewind time. While the game focuses on Max's school life, it also sheds a light on her relationships and the mysterious disappearance of a local girl.
As Max, players navigate school life through a linear path, interacting with classmates, teachers and friends through choice-driven dialogue. But these decisions aren't set in stone; once a conversation is over, you can choose to "rewind" time. You can relive a scenario as often as you like with no consequence, though your powers only allow you to back up for a set amount of time.
To accommodate for the game's branching narrative, senior reporter Colin Campbell and deputy managing editor Megan Farokhmanesh are reviewing the game together as a series of discussions. Below is their take on Episode Four, "Dark Room."
For as long as we've been playing Life is Strange, I've always said that it is the first game I'm recommending to people. Even when it falls into goofy dialogue and straight-up boring gameplay, I've always appreciated what it tried to do — its presentation of young women, its delicate tackling of tough topics. That ended for me with Episode Four.
There were some outstanding moments in this episode, but "Dark Room" also showed many of the series' most worrying flaws.
Megan: Episode Three ended on a huge cliffhanger, with Max altering the world we've come to know. I never expected it to stick, but man, I did enjoy watching it play out as it did. I need to say right now that Episode Four didn't start as all doom and gloom for me. I spent a lot of time digging through texts and notebooks, examining every object with as much care as I did in the first episode. In the opening segment, I wandered through Chloe's house; I sat for a long time quietly observing her room. It's these little moments of Life is Strange that I really love.
And for the not-so-little moments of this episode, wow. I appreciated that it hit you with hard choices right away — in this case, whether to honor Chloe's wishes or not.
Colin: The opening section was handled beautifully. It was pretty much guaranteed that Max would seek a way back to the core timeline, and that she would probably use the exact same mechanism to find her way. No surprises there. But the tenderness of Max's scenes with both William and Chloe was a revelation. Wonderfully scripted and acted, I found myself in tears when it came time to confront the big moral decision.
I found myself in tears
It was the strongest part of the episode and may turn out to be the entire season's high point. It also establishes the strength of this game in that it asks players to make real choices and it demands that you care.
I have my own concerns about this game, and "Dark Room" offers more of the stumbles and missteps that we have seen previously. So I am curious about what you didn't like about this episode.
Megan: A lot of my uneasiness with this episode begins with our grand ol' villain so far — Nathan. Nathan, in the past, has been ... a cartoonish villain. His lines are almost always two notches above any kind of relatable character, even one that's painted as a snobby rich kid. And as we've watched Nathan progress through the game, we've come to realize that he's not just some brat with daddy issues. He's dangerous. In many ways, we've known this all along; Max's interventions are the only reason he isn't a murderer yet.
"Dark Room" finally has the chance to establish Nathan as something more. We get to explore his room, read some of his medical files. We even help or hinder violence against him, but Dontnod takes the easy route here. Nathan is cemented as a straight-up psychopath; a dangerous, mentally unstable person.
the game falls back on the trope that mentally ill people are just "crazy"
Here's where we start to see Dontnod stumble where it's previously shown grace and expertise in handling tough topics. I was disappointed to see the game fall back on the trope that mentally ill people are just "crazy" or — worse — violent to those around them. Remember, this is the developer that handled public shaming and teen suicide incredibly well. I wish they would have done more to work against this continually perpetuated stereotype and mental health stigmas.
Colin: The nature of his mental health is still unclear. Yes, his behavior is disgraceful and he's obviously a prize shitheel, but we got some more insights into his background. He comes from a toxic family environment where his vicious whims are indulged. His father is overbearing and sociopathic. He seems to be on some sort of inappropriate medication, and his psychiatrist is making little progress due to family interference in his treatment. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode also shows another element at play, which will no doubt be explored next episode.
Despite these threads, I hadn't really thought about Nathan as anything other than a thoroughly nasty piece of work. I don't disagree with your point that hanging his defects on a vague mental illness is lazy, but I want to see how this plays out.
Megan: Overall, I'm very unimpressed with Nathan's arc as a character. He is every teen villain we've seen in every teen movie with rich kids — daddy issues, being above the rules and so on — but taken about three steps further. The tricky thing with episodic games is that we don't have the full picture yet. And, as you mentioned, there's obviously more at work here. In examining "Dark Room" as a stand-alone experience, I'd reiterate what I said previously. But I'm also willing to see how this plays out, and if Dontnod can do a better job at redeeming the gross stereotypes it's given us to work with.
Nathan is, unfortunately, just the beginning. Part of this episode involves searching for and investigating the room where Kate and countless other women were taken after being drugged at Vortex parties. This is the most upsetting thing I've ever played in a video game, and I mean that without a hint of exaggeration.
This is the most upsetting thing I've ever played in a video game
I want to talk about the way this scenario is set up, first. From the moment you start your search, the game very much shifts into this spooky, almost horror film-like quality that it never really shakes. You're looking around a creepy barn for clues. You find a hidden door that — shock! — leads to a creepy underground bunker. Nathan's psychiatric reports are strewn about for extra chilling effect.
This would be sort of goofy if it weren't so video game-y already, and then you find literal binders featuring photos of women tied up, drugged, abused. Photos that include your friends. Photos that you can revisit in full detail again and again, poring over them until your voyeurism of their abuse is fully satisfied. It is maddeningly exploitative, unnecessary and upsetting.
Colin: I've mentioned before that this story was created by men and often drifts into a sense of titillation. We saw that last episode when Max and Chloe's relationship was explored in predictably salacious tones. It's interesting that this is a game about strong women protagonists and yet the central mystery is also about women as silent and immobile victims of severe abuse and violence.
this story was created by men and often drifts into a sense of titillation
Megan: I've always said that I relate heavily to the young women in Life is Strange, and you have to understand that that doesn't change in "Dark Room." I've seen myself as a young teen in Max and her friends, and it is horrifying to now see myself as a victim. After finishing this segment, I put the controller down and took some time to think. Perhaps that sounds like good storytelling — a game with the ability to affect me so much that I have to walk away from it, even for a minute — but I can tell you that it's not.
Women being drugged and abused is not part of a "horror scenario" for me. It is life. It is something I hear about in the news, online, from close friends. There is a right way to handle the problem of women being assaulted, but I didn't find it in Dontnod's dark, laughably sterile basement bunker.
Colin: There's a bad moment at the end of the episode that illuminates lots of problems with Life is Strange. At the very moment Max needs her power the most, and needs to rewind time, we get an on-screen icon stating that 'you can't do that,' with no further context. Life is Strange leads us down some narrow paths, some of which work well, and others offer frustration.
This episode didn't really explore the whole time-shift thing very much. Mainly it was about moving objects in order to solve very simple puzzles. I found this lack of video game-y quests and conventions quite a relief. Generally, I'm happy to just work through dialog trees and action choices. The game works best when you have to choose between one difficult option and another, in order to get what you want.
But the conversations range from compelling to downright annoying. How many times do we need to hear that Max is a wonderful human being? How many times is Max going to connect with someone else and tell them how marvelous they really are, deep down?
Max's idealization is taken to extremes as she works her way through the cast of characters and collects plaudits for saving Kate, an event that took place two episodes ago. Hell, there's even a chummy moment with Victoria, who remains one of the most enigmatic and woefully unrealized people in the game.
The points you make about women being drugged and abused are important. I hadn't fully considered them before. I hope that the ending offers some positives in this regard, and in the portrayals of Nathan and Victoria.
Overall, I'm finding Life is Strange a positive experience. It's trying to do things that many of us wish to see in games. It is making changes to the idea of video game-y stories and characters. It offers a fictional world that feels vibrant and real.
And yet, as you say, Dontnod still falls into errors that we associate with video game design today, and it struggles in its portrayal of women. I think I liked this episode more than you did, with the caveat that this is still a game that makes you want to slap your forehead repeatedly.
'Dark Room' exhibits the best and worst of what Life is Strange has to offer
Megan: There are moments I truly enjoyed, like piecing together clues you've gathered to find the creepy bunker, or having that incredibly emotional moment with Chloe early in the game. "Dark Room" is probably the most "exciting" episode we've had yet, between the sense of urgency, the altercations we saw and the final twist. But I'm genuinely disappointed and disheartened by Dontnod's stumbles. It's with a general sense of fatigue that I'm carrying on to the final episode, hoping to find answers to all my remaining questions.
Life is Strange: Episode Four - "Dark Room" was reviewed using downloadable PS3 copies purchased by Polygon. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews
What is the code for Dark Room Episode 4 Life is Strange? ›
Head down there and you will find a locked door. Three numbers are worn out on the pad, so you need to guess the passcode based on those three numbers. Thankfully we know it, 542.Should I warn Victoria or not? ›
Should You Warn Victoria in Life is Strange? Without spoiling anything major, no, players should not warn Victoria about the Dark Room. Doing so will actually put her in danger, so it's best to avoid telling her in order to see the best for the character.How to stop Jefferson from killing Max? ›
Look to your left and you will see Max's journal. Once you see it, rewind time as far as you can, then when Jefferson goes to walk away there will be a speak option for him.Can you save Chloe in Life is Strange Episode 4? ›
times and regardless of your choices Chloe just dies at the end of episode 4 and there is nothing you can do about it.Is Rachel the deer in Life is Strange? ›
The Doe appears during Max Caulfield's vision of the Storm of October 11, 2013 in the first episode of Life Is Strange, "Chrysalis". The doe is believed to be a personification of Rachel Amber's soul.Can you stop Mr Jefferson from shooting Chloe? ›
Originally posted by Jdwarfer: You can't prevent her death. It's the same for everyone, whatever choices you make.Does Victoria survive the storm? ›
Max chooses to sacrifice Arcadia Bay and save Chloe : Victoria won't be seen as she presumably dies during the storm.How do I stop my diner from blowing up? ›
I just had this problem, you need to let the diner explode and wait for the game to go grey (telling you to rewind) then you can interact with it. Hope this helps.Does Mr Jefferson like Max? ›
Jefferson has confirmedly no outright sexual interest in Max or his victims in general, and by saying that he would have considered her like that "back in his day", he's saying he does not consider it now.What happens to Max if you sacrifice Chloe? ›
If Chloe is sacrificed to save Arcadia Bay from the oncoming tornado, Max will use the butterfly photo to travel back to the moment Nathan shot Chloe in Episode 1 of Life is Strange.
Who dies if you sacrifice Arcadia Bay? ›
Consequence Of Sacrificing Arcadia Bay
The storm destroys Arcadia Bay, turning most of the buildings into rubble. And in Life Is Strange 2, David Madsen reveals that nearly all of the residents die. However, Max and Chloe survive, and the next day they drive through the ruins and into the sunset together.
If players take the money, Chloe will be more relaxed and happy. If they choose to leave it, however, she becomes aggressive. The worst thing that happens to those who do steal is a guilty conscience, as evidenced by one of Max's dreams.What is Max Caulfield spirit animal? ›
Samuel Taylor says that the doe is Max's spirit animal and that it could be a sign of her destiny when she tells him that a doe was looking right at her like it was trying to communicate.Is it possible to save Rachel Life is Strange? ›
When popular girl Rachel Amber goes missing, her absence sets the story — about a teenage girl named Max who can rewind time and her best friend Chloe, who is in love with Rachel — in motion. In the end, you learn that Rachel can't be saved, and Chloe may be doomed as well, depending on how you play.Is did Rachel have powers? ›
Rachel didn't have powers until she met Chloe, that we know of. And Max didn't have powers until Chloe was shot in front of her.How do you get Chloe to shoot herself? ›
After bringing the bottles back to Chloe, Max assists her with aiming at the bottles using her rewind power. The two girls destroy the range and an old car. It is possible here for Chloe to accidentally shoot herself after shooting the car bumper, as the bullet will bounce back and hit her.What happens if Connor spares Chloe? ›
Assuming players choose to spare Chloe, Hank and Connor will leave together and this ending will unlock, but Connor won't get to ask Kamski any questions regarding rA9, deviancy, or Jericho.Is it possible to save Chloe's dad? ›
It might not seem obvious at first, but the best place to hide the keys in order to save William in Episode 3 of Life is Strange is the sink full of water in the kitchen. Chloe's father can no longer hear the locator beeper going off, so he won't take the fatal car journey in this reality.What happens if you stop Warren from beating up Nathan? ›
If Max decides not to do anything, Warren beats him up until Nathan lies on the floor, hurt drastically. If this happens, Chloe will take the gun off Nathan but if you decide to stop Warren from beating up Nathan, Nathan will run away with the gun, threatening to tell his father.Who kills Victoria? ›
Is there anything in Victoria's room? ›
Two optional photos are hidden in Victoria's room. In Episode 1, Max has the opportunity to mess up Victoria's wall of pictures and shoot a photo of it. There is another opportunity for an optional photo; a geeky, glow in the dark figurine at the very beginning of Episode 3.Which door to go through life is strange? ›
Go through door '218', then go through door '224', then '221', and finally '219' to escape the dormitory.When did Life is Strange Episode 5 come out? ›
Episode 5: Wolves was released on 3 December 2019.What is the last episode of Life is Strange? ›
"Polarized" is the fifth and final episode of Life is Strange.Does Max marry Penelope? ›
Penelope then explains she and Max love each other very much and they are deeply committed to each other but they're never getting married.Is Max a bunny or rabbit? ›
Max is an anthropomorphic "hyperkinetic, three-foot rabbity thing" with white fur, but prefers being called a lagomorph.Why can Max rewind time? ›
Max Caulfield got the rewind ability in order save Chloe Price. For some odd reason Chloe Price is cursed and doomed. So In order to spare her, Max Caulfield is gifted with a rewind ability . The price is heavy toll late in the game when you have to sacrifice whole Arcadia Bay in order to save Chloe Price.Does the dark room return negatives? ›
Yes, always! Yes, of course, you always get your original film back with your order. Negatives are returned cut and sleeved.What happens if you don't save Arcadia Bay? ›
If Arcadia Bay was sacrificed, the town will appear abandoned, and the lighthouse will be half destroyed from the storm (as we see happen to it in Max's visions).Should I step in for Chloe or stay hidden? ›
Choices and Consequences
Taking the blame in both cases results in largely the same consequences; Chloe will stay in a good mood and will show Max the stolen gun, but Max may be left with a permanent stain on her Blackwell record. Staying hidden will make Chloe a little upset, and she won't show Max her new toy.
Should Chloe leave the money or take it? ›
It's recommended to let Chloe take the money, as a future encounter with Frank is made a lot easier to navigate, and Max and Chloe's friendship is made stronger. Life is Strange: Remastered Collection is out now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia, with a Switch version releasing later in 2022.Who killed Chloe Price? ›
When Max returns to Arcadia Bay, Chloe is shot and killed by Nathan Prescott, a member of the Prescott Family. Her death triggers Max's ability to time travel and rekindles their friendship.How many endings does Life is Strange have? ›
While the two endings of Life is Strange may not have been a difficult decision for many players, players were upset that this decision was not made for them. They had spent the entirety of Life is Strange's five episodes making both small, minute, and big, impactful decisions—or so they were told.Does Warren stalk Max? ›
9 Warren Spying On Max
While he usually comes off as harmless and even helps Max during the game, this hidden detail shows that he's more creepy than he initially seems. After you get out of bed at the start of "Out Of Time," go over to the window, and for just a second you'll see Warren spying on Max.
4 Kiss Chloe Yes or No
Max has the option to kiss Chloe, if she does this then the two of them will begin to develop a more romantic relationship and if not then it will continue as a platonic friendship. This may not be the most dramatic option be it had a huge impact on the audience.
Jefferson won't believe Max's accusation no matter what option is picked, but it is easier to get Nathan suspended if players decide to report him. Additionally, more plot clues are provided when Nathan is reported.Do Max and Chloe date? ›
Max and Chloe are childhood best friends who fell out of touch after Max moved with her parents to Seattle and rekindle their friendship during the events of the original game. They are long-time friends, regardless of Max's choices.What is the padlock code in lis episode 4? ›
Episode Four - "Dark Room"
Max needs to open David's locker, which contains information about his investigation on Rachel Amber. She can do so by either inputting the correct combination for the padlock (7171) or using a crowbar.
The actual code for the door is 542. So, you can simply input that combination if you don't feel like remembering bits of paper or trying a bunch of possible combinations. Once you do, you're able to experience the horrors of the Dark Room.What is the code in life is strange? ›
There are lots of four-digit numbers on this page alone, but the only important one to remember is the date of birth. This is the code to unlock Nathan's phone. As long as it hasn't been blocked by three wrong PIN attempts, players can unlock Nathan's phone by entering the code: 0829.
What do you say to Frank in Episode 4? ›
Tell Frank that he knows Rachel. Chloe does not need to throw out the gun.Can you save Kate in Lis? ›
The good news is that Kate can likely be saved, even with less than optimal choices up to this point. For clarity, this guide has been updated with tables that detail the outcomes of each dialogue choice, regardless of the actions taken up to this moment.How many endings does Lis 1 have? ›
While the two endings of Life is Strange may not have been a difficult decision for many players, players were upset that this decision was not made for them.Should I lie for Chloe Life is Strange? ›
If players only want to guarantee that Max doesn't get in trouble later in the story, then they should choose to blame Chloe instead. Theirs is a relationship that actually matters in a video game, so it's definitely worth considering the consequences of this decision.How do you prove Chloe in Life is Strange? ›
If you talk to her about the Vortex Club and the dress code, you can learn some information and then go back in time to bring it up to her. This will impress her and you can get put on the list to the party. Chloe's father is here, and you can talk to a few other people too.Can you hide in Chloe's room Life is Strange? ›
The player will have two options: hide under the bed or in the closet. Since Max can't fit under the bed, the closet along the wall opposite the window is her only remaining option; however, opening the closet causes a lamp to tumble over and block your path in.Is Life is Strange a horror? ›
Life is Strange isn't necessarily a scary game, but it's worth including for its mystery and suspense. The game tells the story of a girl named Max who starts having visions of an impending disaster. Soon she learns she can bend time and might be able to use her powers to save her best friend Chloe.Is Life is Strange a girl game? ›
Yes, the main characters are girls and it starts in high school, but the game it's pretty good. "Yes, the main characters are girls and it starts in high school, but the game it's pretty good."Can you save Arcadia Bay and Chloe? ›
This is the most important choice in Life is Strange, but the only correct option is to pick whichever ending players feel is right. Although sacrificing the whole of Arcadia Bay just for Chloe might seem like the "bad" ending, Episode 5 makes a compelling case for why both options are viable.Who did Frank slept with? ›
That terrible thing: Lip's deadbeat dad, Frank (William H. Macy), had sex with his son's girlfriend, Karen (Laura Wiggins), who just happens to be the daughter of Frank's live-in girlfriend, Sheila (Joan Cusack).
How do you make Chloe and Max fall in love? ›
- Take the blame for the pot in episode 1.
- Do not answer Kate's phone call in episode 2.
- Choose to try and shoot Frank in episode 2. ...
- Side with Chloe over David in episode 3.
Season 1: Frank Sleeps With Karen.