29th Jul2015

‘Life is Strange – Episode 4: Dark Room’ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf

life-is-strange-episode-4

When Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room was downloading I knew that it would be a tough one to get through. I made certain choices that pushed my game a certain way, and now I had to face them. Without giving away spoilers, I’d saw we were taught that messing with time has consequences, and this  was going to be the episode where we were going to have to face them.

Upon starting the game, dealing with the emotions is the first thing that you and Max, the main character, have to face. Surprisingly (or not) we have to deal with an even more impactful kick to the gut with a choice that is one of the most poignant you’ll ever face in a game. DONTNOD Entertainment, the developers of the game, have to be applauded for the fact that they’ve managed to get you so emotionally connected with the characters in the game that this episode really does rip your emotions to shreds and leaves you a mess.

This does lead into a problem with this episode, and one that could even leak into the conclusion of the story…could it have used its most emotional moment too soon, with the rest of the story not being able to reach that level of impact? We’ll have to see what episode 5 has to offer, but at an emotional level Dark Room definitely peeks a little too soon.

After this “moment” the episode gets back to being an investigation into what happened to Rachel, and as we reach the end of the game we do find answers to this and a lot more of the mysteries surround Arcadia Bay. There are moments of real investigation in the game which is very impressive, though I did find it a little too heavy at times. Life is Strange is about emotional impact and a Twin Peaks like weird mystery. Taking a pause to track people’s movements, hack phones, and putting clues together does seem a surprising change in tone. It is impressive all the same though as it is a useful tool to wrap a few plotlines up.

What these scenes do is to take everything we’ve learnt and to put them into context, and finally present us with answers. We are given a lot of detail in this episode leaving the final episode to answer the biggest mystery of them all, and deal with the dangers awaiting us in the conclusion of the story.

One thing I do have to praise in this episode is the “real world issues” that it tackles. When Max is in a party environment where teenagers are drinking and people are vulnerable, we are made aware of the dangers these people are in, and in some cases are given the choice to warn people of the dangers to come. These types of interactions do make the player think about all too real dangers, and does this in an effective way that does not hinder the games progress. This should be applauded as while the message is prominent it never gets in the way of the fun we are having in solving the mystery.

Looking at the game as a whole Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room is an important episode that really blows everything wide open. A perfect start to the big finale it does everything that it needs to. It may use its big emotional scenes a little too early, robbing what comes after of as much impact but this is an episode and a game that you won’t be forgetting for a long time. Telltale Games may have set the bar for this type of game with The Walking Dead, but DONTNOD were brave enough to raise it even higher. Is the reign of episodic point and click adventures over? Based on what Life is Strange is doing…hell no, not yet at least.

****½  4.5/5

Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room is out now on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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