Life is Strange Episode 5: Polarized Review

Immediately after finishing my write-up of Life is Strange Episode 4 last night, I dove in to Episode 5 because the cliffhanger was so well done that I couldn't wait one more moment to see who Dontnod resolved everything (I pity all of the fools who played through the game episodically as they were released and had to wait those three months). If you're just joining us, you can check out my reviews of Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3, as well. As always, minor spoilers below.

Where Episode 4 gave us an extended glimpse into an alternate reality, the final chapter of Max's story gives the audience a trip through many alternate realities as Max tries to bounce from picture to picture in an effort to rewrite the past week and free herself from the dark room lair of her captor. Knowing what we know after a week's worth of investigations, I enjoyed how Max chooses to handle returning back to the game's opening moments in Mr. Jefferson's class this time around. We see a couple options that lead to what appear at first glance to be a happy ending, until that damn tornado from Max's visions continues to try and wreak havoc on the town.

There is a standout sequence in this chapter where we effectively play through one of Max's nightmares. The developers make the most of this opportunity by really going all-in on the messed up things that can happen in a person's dreams. You find yourself repeatedly walking through the dormitory halls as various characters in the game in one moment. Another features a scene that serves as a literal mirror of the game's opening credits scene in the school hallway with everyone walking and talking in reverse and even the button prompts and Journal text written backwards. You'll encounter a stealth section where you have to use your rewind power to sneak past other characters as they taunt you. And a series of vignettes where characters embody all of the insecurities hiding within Max. Every one of these scenes leap off the screen, combining together to showcase a powerful trip through Max's psyche.

After these series highlights, the game presents one final, heartbreaking choice. And I found myself wrecked weighing the consequences of each option. I actually got up off my couch and paced around the room trying to determine how I wanted my story as Max Caulfield to end. I've played a lot of Telltale's stories but I've never put this much stock into any of my choices on those games. The fact that Dontnod was able to elicit such a reaction from me serves as a testament to the characters they created and the power of their hauntingly honest narrative. Part of me knew that the end was near and I wanted to put it off just a little bit longer. But part of me was genuinely weighing the pros and cons of the paths laid before me.

Check back tomorrow for a review of the game as a whole. Thanks for reading!