What the Next Life is Strange Should Entail
Yesterday (March 5 or March 6, depending on your time zone) saw the release of “Farewell,” the bonus episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. While Before the Storm was a prequel to the first Life is Strange, the “Farewell” episode acted as an epilogue to the entire Max and Chloe saga of the series, as it has been confirmed that original Life is Strange developer DONTNOD is currently working on a new game in the series and that it will be set in a different location with completely new characters. Since the next game will basically be a fresh start with no ties to the events that took place in Arcadia Bay, I thought I’d make a list of some things that I hope DONTNOD includes in the new game.
Return of Rewind
While I enjoyed delving into Chloe’s backstory in Before the Storm and exploring Max and Chloe’s childhood a little bit in “Farewell,” one of the things that I think pushed the original Life is Strange over the line from being just a good game to a great game was the inclusion of the Rewind mechanic. Max’s story about returning to her hometown, reuniting with her childhood friend and solving a murder mystery very likely would have worked as game on its own, but it was the Rewind mechanic that really made the game stand out among other narrative adventure games.
In effect, the Rewind ability took the standard choice-based, narrative game structure and flipped it on its head. Other narrative adventure games like Heavy Rain or (one of my all-time favorite games) The Walking Dead have players making choices that they are unable to go back on and that affect the rest of the game. Life is Strange does this too, but with an extra twist. If you don’t like the results of a decision, you can go back and try something else. However, each decision has both short-term and long-term consequences, so even if you make your decision based on the events that immediately follow your actions, that decision might come back to bite you later on. It requires more thinking than the snap decisions usually required when making choices in narrative games like these. One style isn’t necessarily better than the other (as I said, The Walking Dead is one of my favorite games of all time), but this style was something that made playing Life is Strange really different from other narrative games, which was pretty cool.
It also just makes sense for the Rewind ability to return in the next game. With a new location and characters, there has to be something that connects the new game to the original Life is Strange, or else it might as well be just an entirely new IP. DONTNOD is actually working on a new original IP as well, but it wouldn’t make much sense to make another game in the Life is Strange series that had literally no connections to the other two games in the series at all. I suppose a protagonist with any kind of super power could be a connection, since it’s been established that the world of Life is Strange is a magical one (even if the magic is uncommon), but as previously discussed, I think the Rewind ability in particular is great for narrative adventure games. If DONTNOD can come up with another power that is also interesting for narrative games however, then I’d be all for that too.
Less Teenage Angst
I’m probably going to get some pushback for this one, but I could do with less teenage angst in the next game. We got enough unnecessary teenage rebellion with Chloe’s mere presence in the first Life is Strange and then had it cranked up to eleven when Chloe took center stage in Before the Storm. If we’re going to be shifting setting and characters in the new game, maybe this could be an opportunity to discuss some other themes and topics that aren’t quite so angsty. The argument, of course, is that between the first game and Before the Storm, teenage angst has kind of become a hallmark of the Life is Strange series, so even if the characters are different, more teenage angst could work as a common theme amongst all Life is Strange games.
Personally, I’d like to see how DONTNOD could take on issues prevalent in other, non-teenage eras of life, such as being a young adult looking for a job, or maybe even a middle-aged adult raising a family, and seeing how the Rewind mechanic could be used in these situations. I’m just also not a fan of teenage angst; I was never particularly angsty myself, even as a teenager, and angsty teenagers always annoy me. I thought Life is Strange pulled it off well, but I wouldn’t mind a change in this department in the next installment, just as long as they also follow my next two suggestions…
Another Murder Mystery
Okay, maybe it doesn’t have to be a murder mystery specifically, but some kind of mystery. This is pretty much a given since both the first Life is Strange and Before the Storm contained some sort of amateur investigating, the former in the form of Rachel’s disappearance and the latter in the form of Rachel’s mom. I don’t think I really need to convince anyone that this is a good idea, so I’ll just say that it’s great to have multiple levels of a story and having one of those levels be some sort of mystery you have to solve worked well in both games. And, of course, another level of the story has to be…
So I saved the most obvious one for last. The thing the Life is Strange series is known for probably the most, more than the Rewind ability, more than the teenage angst and more than the mysteries, is the storm of emotions these games bring. Chloe was a character I had a real rough time dealing with throughout the first game, and even I was devastated when posed with the final decision of the game. This is the reason why this game sticks with people. It gets you attached to its lovably flawed and expertly written characters and puts you in charge of their fates. No matter which path you took or which ending you got, you were likely devastated in the best way possible, and I look forward to participating in more emotional masochism in the next game.
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