Life is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized (PlayStation 4) Review

By David Lovato 22.10.2015 4

Review for Life is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized on PlayStation 4

In January, Dontnod and Square Enix released the first episode of Life is Strange. This obscure release from a relatively unknown French studio took the world like the raging storm protagonist Max Caulfield sees off the shore of her home of Arcadia Bay, and despite a few flaws in graphics, audio, or storytelling, fans eagerly awaited each episode. Time and again, Dontnod outdid itself with rich character development, fresh use of the game's mechanics, and shocking cliff-hanger endings. Now, the studio has delivered the final episode: Polarized.

Episode 4 left Max and Chloe in worse-than-bad shape. They had finally solved the mystery of Rachel Amber's disappearance, but at a tremendous cost. Using fast thinking and a little help from her rewind powers, Max navigates the flow of time trying to undo the events of the past few episodes. The puzzles presented to the player rely more on timing in this episode, and while trying to escape the Dark Room is fun, it's basically a no-stakes situation; there are only two ways the whole thing can play out, and players probably won't even know there was more than one until they see the results screen after finishing the episode.

Dontnod once again provides players with a new playground. Max visits some areas from previous episodes, but some new ones, as well, and the game world is bigger than ever. This episode had the longest wait yet, but it's easy to see why: Dontnod has expanded Max's world, letting her and the rest of the cast experience new places and events. There's an underlying layer of melancholy to it all—this is more than a way to expand the episode, it's a goodbye from Dontnod to their fans and to their characters. Fans will appreciate the alternate realities presented here; for a little while, at least, things are okay for Max and Chloe and the residents of Arcadia Bay, but it's too good to be true.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized on PlayStation 4

In the last third of Polarized, Dontnod pulls out all the stops. All of Arcadia Bay and its citizens are put on display from all angles: They are seen at their best and worst, through a series of events, rooms, dialogues, and stealth missions that put the last few Silent Hill titles to shame as far as pure "What in the world am I witnessing here?" goes. The calm before the storm has passed, and players are thrown into the deep end. The introspection and deconstruction of character isn't limited to the NPCs, and Max is soon put on display, as well: players are finally confronted with their choices. Nothing was without consequence, and the universe apparently didn't like being tampered with, even in minute ways. The message it delivers is clear: no one is innocent, now.

Episode 5 is the pinnacle of the storytelling and character development Dontnod has kept fans going with, and at the centre of it all is Max. Players will see her at her most vulnerable, but this only stands to show how far she can rise above it. Even the minor characters have their roles to play, helping or impeding Max as she navigates the chaos of the storm brought on by her decisions. Dontnod was correct to name this episode Polarized, as fans definitely are by the final decision that brings the episode to its close. It's easy at first to be disappointed that the game boils down to one final decision that matters more than the others, but Life is Strange has always been a game about moments. Players have lived a life in the shoes of a shy photography student named Max Caulfield, and maybe the things they've done don't impact the final cinematic of the game, but those moments are still there, those players still made those choices, and those who suggest they didn't have any meaning were perhaps playing the wrong game from the start.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Episode 5 - Polarized on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Life is Strange is not flawless, but it flawlessly uses its own weaknesses as strengths. The graphics aren't incredible, but they are consistent; the dialogue can induce eye-rolls, but the actors deliver the lines with confidence and make the characters real, helped, of course, by the impeccable writing team at Dontnod. Gameplay is simple, but used in a variety of ways that keep each episode fresh and exciting. This is an example of what video games can do that no other medium can; it wouldn't work to see these things happen on a screen or read them on a page—Life is Strange draws its power from putting choices in players' hands, and while it may not amount to a perfect experience, it is one that they are never going to forget.

Developer

Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

A certain someone keeps telling me how good this game is. I will have to get it in the next Steam sale.

Difficult to put into words how I'm feeling about this last episode, but I'm not happy with how Dontnod has ended this. With eps 1-4, this was easily the best game I'd played in a long time - I absolutely loved everything about it. But I was not expecting what happened with ep 5 to actually happen. It's left an extremely sour taste in my mouth, and I've been numb since finishing it. A real empty feeling from not being able to get my head over it.

The ending seems to have divided the fanbase. I see a lot of people who loved it and a lot of people who hated it.

Here are my thoughts on it, basically:


I do wish Dontnod had had the time and resources to knock the endings out of the park; there is a lot they could've done better. That said, the characters and experiences are ones I'm never going to forget.

Here's hoping they release a sort of Director's Cut when they do a disc-based version and maybe expand the game a little.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://www.davidjlovato.com

I've had time to process things.



But hey, physical edition. Pre-ordered immediately. Has exactly the right things for the right price. Wish it would be a Director's Cut, like you mentioned, but happy to support them with more money for all the things they did right with this game.

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Azuardo, RudyC3

There are 2 members online at the moment.