Storytelling school

7 years later, Life Is Strange is still storytelling at its best

When I began the journey of Life Is Strange when it first launched in 2015, I was very impressed with the unique portrayal of supernatural characters and elements. So now that I’ve had the chance to experience the Arcadia Bay Collection on the Nintendo Switch, my perspective on the game has changed since I was able to experience the whole narrative with storylines by Max Caulfield and Chloe Price. Each character is different in their own way, but playing these episodes side-by-side shows many similarities that I had previously overlooked.

In Life Is Strange, you will take control of Max, a lonely photographer who recently moved to Arcadia Bay (a small town in Oregon.) During this time, you can explore Blackwell Academy and chat with other students on campus, which can alter your future depending on the choices you make along the way.

Source: Dontnod and Deck Nine via Twinfinite

However, the most exciting aspect of the gameplay is Max’s time travel powers which I constantly used to get out of intense situations or if I accidentally killed a character (this happens more often than you might think). This Life Is Strange mechanic makes things a bit easier for the player and allows you to experience other scenarios simultaneously by simply rewinding time. But of course, there are limits to how far you can go back in the timeline, and it will negatively affect the character each chapter.

The story officially begins when you witness the death of your former best friend, Chloe Price, triggering your time travel powers that reverse the outcome of that event. From there, the two characters rekindle their friendship and go in search of Price’s missing friend, Rachel Amber. That being said, I enjoyed the mystery of the series because that’s where the game thrives and each character has a new secret to reveal.

As Max and Chloe embark on their adventure, some moments involve searching the area for objects, which can be frustrating. For example, when you go to a junkyard, you will need to obtain a certain amount of bottles to advance further in the story. However, because this place has a variety of items and tools, it was almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, Max will help you in these cases by giving you clues on where you need to go.

As the story unfolds, decisions become more complex, mainly when someone’s life is at stake. In turn, we delve into the concept of the butterfly effect, also known as the theory chaos. With that in mind, Max’s relatively minor choices begin to have larger impacts that can keep you guessing at everything you’ve done. This mechanic certainly encourages players to revisit the game to see what they could have done differently.

Max's time travel powers in Life Is Strange
Source: Don’t Nod and Deck Nine via emagtrends

After completing Life Is Strange, my view of the characters changed with Before the Storm, which was part of the Arcadia Bay collection. This prequel series allowed fans to see through Chloe’s eyes, which we only saw through Max’s perspective. Honestly, my first impressions of Chloe weren’t entirely positive due to her recklessness in pursuing Amber.

Before the Storm completely flipped this aspect of the character by featuring scenes from Chloe’s past and a depiction of her relationship with Rachel Amber. Suddenly, her selfish tendencies in the first game turn into acts of love, as well as her teenage rebellion taking on new meaning. It was also very moving to see how much Max missed Chloe when she left for Seattle. For example, her journals feature letters to Max that she never sends, and the character often mentions her when she sees a camera.

By comparing the two storylines, Life Is Strange expresses Chloe’s tough personality, while Before the Storm showcases her vulnerable side. As a result, I think playing these games together is key because it really gives you insight into the whole narrative rather than just experiencing it through Max’s eyes.

Besides Chloe Price, the prequel helps us understand what Rachel really looked like, as the first game portrays her as a mysterious and rebellious girl. However, I was surprised at how wrong I was about this character, and began to feel sympathy for Chloe’s drastic actions with Max. The reason for this change is mostly due to Price and Amber’s close relationship and deep conversations that embody raw teenage emotions.

Although there is no time travel mechanic, the game still has the essence of the supernatural, like dreamlike scenes where Chloe doesn’t know what is real or not. Other than this component, Before the Storm’s playtime is shorter than its predecessor, reducing the need to rewind time. Plus, there are new features, like Persuasion Conversation Topics, where you have to watch every word to get characters on your side.

Conversations in Before the Storm
Source: Don’t Nod and Deck Nine via emagtrends

Before the Storm clarifies a few Life Is Strange storylines that were briefly discussed, like how Chloe gets her famous truck. Plus, you’ll learn how she met Rachel, why she was expelled from school, and what led David Madsen to marry his mother. Players will also return to familiar locations that foreshadow moments in Max’s story, forcing you to look at each location differently.

If you miss Max, a bonus episode lets you play with her before she leaves for Seattle. Once again, you will be able to see the cast differently by going back even further in the past, when Chloe and Max were innocent children. Although it’s an hour-long story, it’s still a heartfelt sentiment that can bring you to tears.

When I compared Life Is Stange: Arcadia Bay Collection to previous versions, I noticed a significant difference in graphics. For example, the latter game has a much brighter appearance, making characters and environments more realistic. Additionally, Before the Storm improves gameplay by having a faster walking speed and adjusting facial features.

The overall performance of the Nintendo Switch version shows an improvement over previous consoles. But, the only thing I will notice is the loading screens which can take a long time. To top it off, these instances start to feel cumbersome as the game progresses as the collection often uses this mechanic to load the next scene. Additionally, a few moments present a glassy stare at the characters, which ends up disappearing within seconds.

There are no noticeable issues with the frame rate and everything runs pretty smoothly after the next scene starts. Still, this is a Switch version, so it’s understandable that the game has long loading screen times and temporary glitches.

Chloe and Rachel in the Arcadia Bay collection
Source: Don’t Nod and Deck Nine via emagtrends

Once I played both games, I noticed how similar Chloe and Max are to each other, despite their opposite personalities. In particular, their drive to save those they love is one of the most considerable similarities they share.

After all these years, the Life Is Strange series still stands the test of time, proving that video games can excel at the art of storytelling. With the release of the Arcadia Bay Collection, dedicated fans can revisit the world and newcomers can develop their own theories about the saga.