The “Life is Strange” finale leaves players with an impossible choice

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Contains major spoilers for “Life is Strange” Chapter 5

When I started playing DontNod’s adventure video game Life is Strange on the advice of a friend (thank’s Du!), it didn’t take long until I was utterly absorbed in the characters and atmosphere of the game. Set in Oregon (like another of my favorite female-led games, Gone Home), players play as Max, a talented and shy photographer and student at the elite Blackwell Academy. Max discovers she has the ability to rewind time, something she finds out after witnessing the murder of her childhood best friend, Chloe. From then on, Max messes with time over and over again, with her most significant jumps involving saving Chloe in some capacity. All these tears in time and space have caused a massive storm to descend upon the town, Arcadia Bay.

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The game has been released in chapters, with the final chapter coming out this week. That giant storm that has been ominously growing and casting a shadow over Max and Arcadia Bay, refuses to be pushed to the sidelines any longer. At the end of Chapter 4, we learned that the person who was kidnapping, photographing and murdering young women in Arcadia Bay was actually the beloved photography teacher, Mr. Jefferson. Before Max could use her powers to turn back time and bring herself and Chloe back to safety, she was drugged by Jefferson who then shot Chloe in the head. It was gut-wrenching for players, especially since the relationship between Max and Chloe is the driving force of the game.

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Chapter 5 finds Max a captive in Mr. Jefferson’s dark room. Chloe is dead and Max knows her time is almost up. She manages to escape through a photograph (oh yeah—she can go back in time that way too, though it’s a bitch and gives her a hell of a nosebleed) and spends most of the episode trying to fix all the things that were broken along the way. The thing is, and as Max learns, you can’t tear apart time and try to stitch it back together without serious consequences. Every time Max thinks she saves Chloe, Chloe is smack dab in danger again. It raises the question: Is Chloe meant to die?

Admittedly, the first half of this finale is slow. It really shows especially when you compare it to the fast paced second half.  Max’s world becomes more like a dreamscape (or hellscape) where she is trapped and taunted by visions of the men who have tried to take away her agency during the course of the game. The one thing that always remains on Max’s mind is Chloe. I’ve seen many fans and critics alike say that this game is about friendship, and that’s true. But it’s also about soul mates and deep, unwavering love. Max and Chloe may not be making out all over Arcadia Bay, but that doesn’t diminish their connection or the fact that these two young women are in love. Which is why this choice is possibly one of the most painful in video game history. (Don’t read on if you don’t want to be hella spoiled.)