Life Is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized

Life Is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized is an amazing final entry to the game as a whole making the entire game more than worth the price of admission.

By Artemis, Posted 20 Oct 2015

It feels almost as if it's been years since we were left on a massive cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode of Life is Strange, and now Life Is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized closes the door on the story of Chloe, Max and the citizens of Arcadia Bay. Every single decision you've ever made is reflected in this episode, more so than in any episodes before it. You are the master of the ultimate fate of Arcadia Bay and everyone in it, because every single thing that has happened up until this point has been because of the actions taken throughout the game. As a brief warning this review will have spoilers, you have been warned.

Life Is Strage Episode 5 Polarized Max passed out

The last episode ended with Chloe getting shot while Max was drugged, taken to The Dark Room and held prisoner by Mr. Jefferson. We find out that he's behind all of the missing girls in Arcadia Bay, a chess master of sorts, and he's been doing it for quite a while. With some quick maneuvering, Max is able to go back in time to figure out more things about Jefferson or to try to change her past. The parts with Jefferson are truly chilling and after your first jump back in time it isn't the last time you'll have a scene like this. The developers genuinely tried to make this scene uncomfortable and terrifying, something they succeeded at in spades. The way the lighting and the shadows show everything, yet nothing you can use in order to escape, brings a sense of helplessness to not just Max but player as well. The way the camera is angled behind your head, while you can move it around (it's still a game after all), makes it as if you're the one tied to the chair. You may get revenge on Jefferson ten times over in the various timelines, but it doesn't change the fact that this man completely removes any power that you have throughout the game, you're no longer “Super Max,” as Chloe so fondly calls you, you're a helpless little girl and you're going to die. Most of this episode is spent with you and Max going back and forth between the Dark Room and Blackwell Academy, as well as some surprising other locations. Max is constantly changing the past, present and future, warping the fabric of reality in order to fix mistakes she made or may make in the future. There are actual consequences to your time travel and it's shown in this episode that everything is starting to unravel and Max is making things worse.

Chaos Theory, the title of the third episode in the series, is a great way of describing a lot of this episode. While the entirety of the Life Is Strange does small nods to photography and science in each of its episodes, the idea of Chaos Theory is especially prevalent in this one. For those who don't know, chaos theory, in short, comes down to:

“Chaos theory is the study of nonlinear dynamics, in which seemingly random events are actually predictable from simple deterministic equations.

In a scientific context, the word chaos has a slightly different meaning than it does in its general usage as a state of confusion, lacking any order. Chaos, with reference to chaos theory, refers to an apparent lack of order in a system that nevertheless obeys particular laws or rules; this understanding of chaos is synonymous with dynamical instability, a condition discovered by the physicist Henri Poincare in the early 20th century that refers to an inherent lack of predictability in some physical systems.”

What's going on in this episode is a lack of order between the separate realities that are being created by not just Max, but by you the player. They address the player in a roundabout way throughout the episodes, speaking of “choices” and how this is in fact, “not a game anymore.” You're given several hope spots such as one in which Max actually wins the “Everyday Heroes” contest and goes to San Francisco. It's a nice breather that allows the player to take a moment and enjoy photography and for Max to finally get some more praise for her work, rather than just her deeds as an “Everyday Hero.” It's nice and it gives a sense of closure before it's promptly torn away from you. If you got attached to game characters you'll have your emotions whipped all over the place in this finale and even if you don't, you'd be hard pressed to not feel anything for Max and everyone else in this final chapter of the game.

Life Is Strage Episode 5 Polarized mean Kate

There's some genuinely disorienting gameplay in this episode, not in a bad way, but in a very thematic, well executed way. Sometimes you need to avoid multiple antagonistic characters all searching for you, sometimes you need to collect bottles, sometimes you need to navigate through your dorm room as you transform into multiple different characters that you've seen throughout the game. There are a few bugs that you could easily ignore, like how moving your camera rapidly back and forth as fast as you can, can make you look under the world at one point. Most of these can be fixed in patches, but it is something to note because it is slightly immersion-breaking. You really need to try in order to break the game though, you need to actively try to ruin your experience.

Life Is Strage Episode 5 Polarized Max sneaking

The “puzzles” are easy to solve and since Max can rewind time, there's really no sense of failing with the exception of one thing, the failures in this episode have a lot more violent or unsettling ends than in the previous ones. This is the episode where everything falls apart, so a failure in this episode can lead to Max getting bludgeoned to death by a camera stand or injected with drugs until she dies of an overdose. While it doesn't show these things, the game itself shows the second when it's about to happen before it freezes and goes black and white. Life is Strange forces you as the player to examine everything you've done in surreal and in many ways, an existential kind of way, making Max genuinely wonder what her role is meant to be and is seen questioning in.

This brings us, to a very important part of the episode, because I can talk about the how smooth the gameplay in, how the graphics finally look at their best, how the music is thematic in all the right hipster ways all I want, but that doesn't bring us to one of the biggest parts of the game. That being the development of Maxine Caulfield, known to many players as just, Max. As a character, Max has a distinctive personality, she distances herself from people, gets invested into her work easily, she likes a lot of things no one else does, loves photography and nostalgic things but what else? As with most narrative-driven games, Max is a character who you could potentially say is that her personality is determined by who is playing her and that's not necessarily true.

Life Is Strage Episode 5 Polarized Max vs Max

Similarly to The Walking Dead, Max's character evolves depending on the choices you made, and throughout the episode you are shown what your choices mean and even told by some of the people you helped or didn't help. One player's Max is probably drastically different than another person's Max. Not only that, Max's dialogue changes depending on how you've played her thus far as well. There's a point in the game where Max confronts herself and Max talks to Max about what she did everything for and, depending on what you chose, changes the other Max's answers or retorts to you. It's a very important moment in the game and as an evaluation for the sort of Max you created, and it gives you a moment to recollect before you make the final decision in the game which, depending on the player as well as the Max they've created, will ultimately determine the fate of Chloe, Max and all the Citizens of Arcadia Bay.

The question is, who is Max Caufield?

Life Is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized is an amazing final entry to the game as a whole making the entire game more than worth the price of admission. The story has evolved far past a typical story about high school hipsters and their magic time powers; it's now become an entity in on itself, raising the bar for all future games of this type, actually challenging its audience to think outside of the box when it comes to characters, storylines and games itself.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Dontnod Entertainment
Genres: Cinematic
Themes: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 2015-10-20

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