First Impressions – Life is Strange from DONTNOD Entertainment

Here's my first impression of the upcoming release Life is Strange by DONTNOD Entertainment with Square Enix.

Spending time at New York Comic Con isn’t all about comics. There are so many games to see as well. Some of the perks about being press, is the ablility to sit down and speak with developers about their games. Thanks to the folks at Square Enix, I was able to get a behind the scenes look at Life is Strange.

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Life is Strange is the upcoming release by DONTNOD Entertainment, known for Remember Me. Life is Strange is a story about Max, a photography student who suddenly discovers she has the power to go back in time. It’s through this supernatural talent that she manages to save her childhood friend Chloe, from death. When they meet again after a five year separation, Max realizes that Chloe has changed quite a bit. Since the death of Chloe’s father, her life hasn’t been easy.

Strange events descend on the small town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. Both girls become mixed within an investigation into the disappearance of student and friend Rachel Amber. The reunion will certainly disrupt their lives.

The demo begins in Chloe’s room with Michel Koch at the helm (I’m merely a tourist). At this point in the game, Max already knows she has the ability to control time. She can reverse time at will, so players can redo any action in the game but not past a checkpoint. This can be useful in various scenarios, but it’s used in the demo to alter the narrative, so Chloe doesn’t get mad or to pick up a box that gets knocked over.

Max hesitantly pokes around, finds missing person flyers stacked around the room and a box holding a picture of Chloe and the missing girl, Rachel Amber. Rachel was there for Chloe when her father died and they dreamt of moving to Los Angeles together. Chloe calls Rachel her angel. Chloe feels certain that Rachel left town under suspicious circumstances, soon after meeting someone who “changed her life.” She also hints at something more between them but that’s about it.

Max can interact with these things, which affect the story or create tiny puzzles for players to solve.

In the demo we see more insight into the falling out the girls had and Chloe’s volatile relationship with her step-father who happens to be the security guard at the school. When Max moves around, certain objects are overlaid with white sketch lines with a description and arrow. When Max finally leaves Chloe’s room to search for tools to fix her camera, the music she turned on follows her downstairs, in the backyard, and in the garage. The music is really unique and I enjoyed it.

Inside “secret location” for Life is Strange

The graphics are absolutely stunning and are all hand-painted–I was blown away.

At the Square Enix “secret location,” I was drawn to the right corner of the loft where I noticed DONTNOD Entertainment’s demo area. It was creatively decorated in what I’d compare to a typical teenage girl’s room. Magazines, posters, polaroid photos scattered on the wall and floor, shaggy carpet, flowers, and beanbag chairs. There fellow journalist Stephanie Tang and I were greeted by Creative Director Jean-Maxime Moris and Artistic Director Michel Koch.

(left to right) Michel Koch and Jean-Maxime Moris

Jean-Maxime explained the story to us. Introducing Max as the protagonist in the game (another female just like Remember Me), she’s a high school senior, who also happens to be a photographer and discovers her ability to rewind time. She’s returned to her hometown after being away for five years and discovers her former best friend Chloe has had a tough time. Chloe’s father died the same year Max moved away and ever since then, her life hasn’t been the same.

Chloe is a rebel, in and out of trouble, who fights with her step-father, and smokes pot.

Chloe’s father died the same year…..her life hasn’t been the same.

That’s when we’re shown–in demo–Chloe’s room: which the area we’re sitting in is mimicking.

Features:
  • Modern adventure, narrative-driven, point-and-click game taking place over five episodes released weeks apart digitally
  • Each episode tells a complete story
  • Player’s decisions and consequences of those actions play a key role in the unfolding scenario
  • Power to go back in time; to return back any time: bring light puzzles, change the reactions of the characters, or vary your choice
  • Unique soundtrack of indie-folk influences
  • Every texture is hand-painted

The game’s Telltale aspects will give players each a unique experience. The game’s soundtrack is relaxing and enjoyable. The graphics are absolutely stunning and are all hand-painted–I was blown away. As for the female protagonist, Jean-Maxime explained that there is no agenda, just a girl and who knows, in their next game it could be a boy.

Life is Strange is due out early 2015 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, and PS3.


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Author
Venisia Gonzalez
Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.