Life is Strange Episode 4 – Darkroom Review

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Darkroom Review

Coming in late? Be sure to check out my spoiler-free reviews of Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3.

Life is Strange is becoming known for killer WTF endings to each episodes, making that damn six week gap between episodes absolutely excruciating. Don’t worry I’m keeping up the habit of not giving away any past plot events for those of you waiting for the season to wrap up before diving in, Netflix-style.

The opening section of Episode 4 is a radical departure for the story given the ending of the last entry. Max’s whole reality is seen from a new point of view. There are new entries in her SMS log, a new group of friends and her relationship with Chloe has transformed.

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Darkroom Review

Expect to sit back and listen to a lot of dialogue for the first hour in a scene that goes on a bit too long without much meaningful player interaction. Don’t worry though, the narrative sucker punches you without warning before you get too impatient.

Dontnod have done a great job of showing the butterfly effects of changing the past via apparently small decisions and how the best intentions can produce horrifying results, leaving the player questioning which is the better of two heartbreaking predicaments. You don’t have complete control over some important decisions for the sake of keeping the story contained to a reasonable degree. It’s plain to see again that some ‘major’ decisions are heading towards the same conclusion anyway. Apologies for the vagueness there, but I’m trying to dance around plot spoilers when talking about a game that’s basically all plot!

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Darkroom Review

As a bit of an odd aside, I have to mention the clock in Chloe’s room. It has a second hand, and it actually works, I saw the minute hand move and everything. That’s the first time I’ve seen that in a game, as clocks are usually just painted on the walls. A tiny thing, but a brilliant use of detail from Dontnod. Someone will appreciate that too. Right? Anyways…

Max’s main focus is still trying to decipher the grim machinations of the Prescott family, and that creepy shit stain, Nathan. Add in the developments of Rachel and Kate and the plot is really starting to come together as the season draws to a close.

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Darkroom Review

Aside from the usual dialogue scenes, a fresh gameplay element is introduced as you use various clippings, clues, notebook entries and surveillance photos on an investigation board to piece together a timeline of various characters to nail down your next location. It keeps you on your toes and can make later scenes easier if you have a good memory (or a pen).

Many conversations with people of Arcadia Bay are optional, as is looking over every interactive item. But it’s worth diving into the details as much as you can as you never know when one may be called upon in an important moment. However, this opens you up to the reams of repetitive filler dialogue, that’s infuriatingly impossible to skip. I generally prefer to read dialogue as it’s quicker than waiting for every line to be spoken. Tough luck in Life is Strange; you’ll listen to every word. After the nightclub scene, having nigh-on identical conversations with a dozen jocks or hipster chicks, I was ready for the erratic lightshow to finally let their headache-inducing pulses put me under for a while.

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Darkroom Review

What’s worse, the timing of some of the chit-chats are seriously poor, hindering the urgent nature of some scenes, especially towards the end – are we seriously waiting to find out who won a photography competition right now given we’re chasing someone?

At nearly four hours, this is the longest episode yet and arguably a bit too bloated considering it’s the penultimate episode. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to replaying the game in full and opting for different choices, because at the same time, I’ll know which bits I can avoid to keep the story going at my own pace.

Pros

  • Investigation board was inventive and fun
  • Some well-written scenes
  • Sets up a great finale?

Cons

  • Overlong this time
  • Way too much pointless filler talk
  • Lip-syncing seems to be related to a different script

The Short Version: An overlong episode, but one bookended with some terrific scenes. The impacts of the tiniest details via time travel are explored and the continuing plot strands about the underbelly of Arcadia Bay take their darkest forms yet. There’s a lot riding on the season finale though.

We do not score episodic titles unless they can be purchased separately as standalone games, or at the reviewer’s discretion. A score will be assigned to the entire season once complete.

———–

Platform: PS4 (reviewed) | PS3 | X360 | XO | PC
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix

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You really should dive into Dontnod’s new series, as it’s shaping up nicely so far. Be sure to check out my spoiler-free reviews of Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3.

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