At New York Comic Con this year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Square Enix preview space, and got a chance to see a hands-off demo of the new game “Life is Strange”. The game takes place in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, where senior student Max Caulfield returns after a 5 year absence. Reunited with her former friend Chloe, the pair will attempt to uncover the uncomfortable truth behind the mysterious disappearance of fellow student Rachel Amber.
Max finds out, through the game, that she has the capability to turn back time. This game mechanism allows the players to make different decisions, and if a mistake is made (or the player simply doesn’t like the outcome of a choice they made), they have the capability to have Max turn back time to try again. Interestingly enough, while there are limits to how far Max can go back in a given point in time, there are no consequences for her, unlike in games such as Heavy Rain (when Norman Jayden’s ARI, he starts to go mad). It was interesting to see how the mechanic worked–the quick shuffling back in time, to make a different choice and to see how it panned out. That, combined with the highly immersive environments, could lead to a very long game. The developers agreed; they wanted to create something that could be gone through quickly, if that’s what a player desired, or to take hours upon hours, if a player genuinely wanted to explore the entire world around them. As someone who loves to explore within games, I found myself wanting to ask about different objects, knowing that each piece would give me more information about the central mystery, or information about the central characters.
Max herself is a compelling protagonist. A photographer, and something of an introvert, it was interesting to watch her navigate the small glimpse of the world we were shown; her interactions with Chloe and her friend’s father felt natural, and her own body language reminded me of any typical 17 year old. Chloe and Max were both designed with motion-capture (though not with facial-animations), and the attention to detail in their attitudes, mannerisms and way of speaking, reminded me of myself when I was that age. Their reactions to decisions, and their conversations felt natural, which is a credit to the writing, as well.
The look of the game itself is heavily influenced by the beauty of the Northwest, and according to developers, the game’s textures are hand-painted, giving an organic feeling to the environments. There is a muted quality about the world, reminding me a great deal of Twin Peaks and the fog world of Silent Hill. The score and (potential) songs within the game were also impressive, adding to the overall game impression.
While there is no release date yet for the game, it will be released in an episodic format much like Tell-Tale’s games and will be available on most gaming platforms (including PC).
I left the demo feeling incredibly excited for this game; I can’t wait to review the game when it comes out, sometime in 2015.