‘Life is Strange: Episode Three – Chaos Theory’ Review

Platforms PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Developer Dontnod Entertainment   Publisher Square Enix

Genre Point and Click Adventure   Platform Played On PC

Life is Strange: Episode Three – Chaos Theory is well named. Depending on the choices made in the last two episodes, the initial mood of the episode is either incredibly dour or eerily uplifting. As I progress through the series, these reviews became more and more difficult to write without spoiling any of the content. I am, however, confident saying that Chaos Theory is where Life is Strange really finds its stride, despite a few hiccups.

Until now, Life is Strange has primarily been about Max exploring her powers in mostly harmless and relatively small situations. At the climax of Episode Two, this small-time butterfly effect began to shift, showcasing some more significant cause and effect. This transition continues through Episode Three as the stakes get even higher. Though the time consuming fetch quests are fewer and farther between, Max still spends a bit more time than necessary doing things like finding eggs for pancakes (hint: they are not in the fridge) and ingredients for a pipe bomb.

Despite these frustrating nature of this forced exploration, “Chaos Theory” does manage to show that Max is getting a better handle on her unique abilities. During a second visit to the local diner, she uses her power to chat up the unsuspecting patrons, then applies her knowledge to multiple conversations in order to get into Frank’s shady RV. Unfortunately, the nearly constant and unlimited use of Max’s rewind in this situation makes the restrictions placed on it at the end of Episode Two seem even more out of the ordinary. These conversational puzzles do offer a new and unexplored way to utilize Max’s power. Max also gets the chance to explore Blackwell Academy after hours, avoiding security and snooping around before using her power in order to avoid the serious disciplinary fallout.

As in previous episodes, it is in the smaller details that Life is Strange shines. Individual characters continue to develop, each student responding to the events of the previous episode with personalized reactions. Other characters get some screentime too, and we see a bit more of Chloe’s tumultuous relationship with her mom and “step-douche.” As for Max’s development, I would suggest taking a moment to sit whenever the game offers the chance, because listening to Max’s inner dialogue adds a whole new depth to the story.

The relationship between Chloe and Max begins to solidify, and even takes on what could be interpreted as a romantic tone. It is in this episode, also, that I finally found myself really appreciating Chloe’s role, as I found her a bit unlikable in the first two installments. In “Chaos Theory,” however, she felt less like Max’s “bad girl” foil, and more like a well rounded character with her own story, which makes the ending even more of a punch to the gut.

“Chaos Theory” throws one final curveball as the episode winds down: Max is now able to rewind time to a moment in her past that was captured on film. The new ability makes Max’s passion feel like more than a hobby. Her camera is now a tool, and all those pictures players can take throughout the game can be seen in a whole new light. She can go back even farther than she has before, and make amazing (or catastrophic) changes. Max is no longer just tweaking small details for information, or just breaking and entering; she’s altering entire lives, exploring the possible outcomes, and potentially changing them permanently.

This episode really blew me away. I sat at my computer for a solid ten minutes after the credits rolled, trying to figure out how to wrap my head around the new development.  Will players be able to rewind time and visit some of the pictures taken throughout the previous episodes? How will Max manage to fix something she might not like? And perhaps the most important question: How is this story going to be resolved in only two more episodes? Sadly, we will all have to wait and find out, but in the meantime, I suggest going back and trying different decisions!

The Good

  • The plot picks up quickly
  • Characters become even more fleshed out
  • New mechanic adds another layer to the story

The Bad

  • Mechanics from last episode seem to matter very little
  • Why are the eggs not in the refrigerator?

The Score: 9