This one hurt a little. I absolutely adore this franchise, beyond comprehension. Life is Strange happens to be one of our most heralded titles here on DashGamer, and the word of a Remastered Collection had me elated. So bless my eyes deceive me when I began playing the first of two Remasters and in an unfortunate turn of events, it crashes. Not at all what I’ve come to expect from Life is Strange, DONTNOD’s premiere franchise that catapulted them to massive acclaim after the mixed reception met in Remember Me. But it’s not all bad, however far from perfect. Life is Strange has upheld its reputation over numerous entries, with specific themes that aim to tug at heart strings, and enter tumultuous territory within controversial and political topics.
The admirable attempt to bring the point-and-click genre to the forefront of mainstream gaming was effortless as DONTNOD’s storytelling in the original was fantastic, and still maintains that allure to this day. But as a gateway point for gamers that have yet to experience the franchise, is this best way to introduce them to the series? I’m still unsure. It’s as like the remaster still has some work to do, even after Square-Enix announced a litany of patches that should have addressed most of its problems. Yet, I still find myself stumbling through said issues that has seemed to rear its ugly head. You would think that taking the existing framework of both Life is Strange and Before the Storm, capitalising on its pre-existing presentation with additional polish would be simple, right? Well the Remastered Collection has proven that refurbishing and optimising can be more difficult than it seems.
While the Remastered Collection does an excellent job in reminding you how magical Max and Chloe’s journey is, its shortcomings are immersion breaking to say the least. For the uninitiated, Life is Strange follows transfer student Max Caulfield, who returns to her home town of Arcade Bay, Oregon, after earning a scholarship to attend one of the city’s most renowned photography courses at Blackwell Academy, taught by esteemed and highly regarded photographer, Mark Jefferson. The Veronica Mars meets Donnie Darko tale takes a sudden twist when Max finds herself in a vulnerable predicament after bearing witness to her best friend’s murder, whilst hiding in College restroom. Taking a quick snap for her class project, she’s suddenly trapped behind a stall with an erratic Nathan Prescott, entering the room looking flustered.
The Prescott family are widely known within the community as huge investors for small businesses and donate to the college on a frequent basis, giving Nathan, a ‘squeaky-clean’ record amongst Faculty staff, including Principal Raymond Wells who backs the Prescott’s as a respectable and reputable family. After a vulnerable Nathan enters the girl’s room, he’s flanked by a blue-maned punk, demanding he pay-up for an undisclosed item, which is then revealed to be drugs the duo had been dealing. The pair argue until Nathan pulls a handgun and threatens the girl. Upon shoving Prescott, he accidentally fires the weapon killing the girl in the process. Max rears her head from the stall corner in a panic, but in an odd occurrence passes out and ends up back in class, where she was only mere minutes before aforementioned events.
Not knowing what exactly just happened, Max was reliving her past. Moment-by-moment, minute-by-minute, Mr. Jefferson’s lecture was on repeat with young Max, trying her best to figure out how this was happening, and if she was dreaming or not. A bewildered Max breaks her polaroid camera, a moment which did not happen in her previous timeline, but then begins to wonder if she can rewind time. Reaching out to the broken shards of her camera lens, it’s as if the unit was mending itself yet everything around Max was moving backwards. Max had indeed somehow become capable of reversing time. Using this newfound skill, she suddenly remembers that the girl was about to be shot in the bathroom, and quickly makes an effort to repeat each event until that very moment where she changes the course of history by sounding the school’s fire alarm, alerting everyone to evacuate and diffusing the argument between Chloe and Nathan.
Life is Strange and Before the Storm are and ultimate bundle of joy and should be celebrated. It's not the perfect way to do it for the moment, but I'm sure there's going to be future fixes that will amend all prior issues mentioned.
This event alone introduces us the first game’s premise and how it would shape both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm’s narrative, from life to death, triumph and heartbreak and morally challenging players into choosing right from wrong, whether or not it may be the popular choice. Life is Strange makes every decision count, and moulds your path to what would be your personal perfect outcome. There’s a distinct difference made between the conventional Telltale Game, where choices only shape your character, rather this game does shape multiple personalities, their stories, their conviction and how they may be perceived, and this is all due to one small mechanic that reconfigures every fleeting moment. It’s insane how time can add multiple layers to one story, and give different sensations and emotions with each integral change. Still fascinates me.
Be Kind, Rewind...
✔️A grand revisit to Arcadia Bay, that will have fans reminisce the OG title.
✔️Massive improvements in facial animation and some material physics.
✔️Retains dialogue, but adds new tid-bits for impact and emotion.
❌A plethora of bugs hold it back from being perfect.
❌Would have been a grander experience if rebuilt from the ground-up, ala True Colours Engine.
Okay, let’s critique the Remastered Collections issues. Playing the PC version of the game on its base version, I ran into multiple issues, including a crash on cold-boot, framerate dissipation when I had the window active and in full screen, and while they did a spectacular job in re-animating each character and their facial movements, there were moments of deadpan, stoic looks or no lip movement during dialogue. This was something promised to be fixed in the latest roll out of patches, and while I wouldn’t say they remain as consistent they seem to unfortunately persist. The use of pre-rendered cutscenes in-between key plot points is unexpected, as the original prided itself on its “indie” look, but for added effect, it seems that a completely re-rendered animated scenes with new models was an interesting decision.
It would have been appreciated if the clips themselves matched the game’s aspect ratio, framerate and picture quality, which effectively declines drastically as they load and play. A major issue I ran into during these specific scenes was muted audio. I double checked everything I could to see if there was a problem on my end, yet Square-Enix assured us that the patch would fix this. With major story elements taking place during these essential intermissions, I was glad to see an effort made to fix most of these issues, but to still have experienced these deterrents after its initial launch and having to wait an entire month for gigabytes of patches, it was a little disheartening, especially as a massive fan.
While graphical improvements are evident, and make all the difference from the OG’s smeared and smudged textures, the immersion is lost on some minor blemishes that I hope can be finally addressed by the development team. Still, the remastered collection contains the exact same aura as you’ve come to expect from Life is Strange and Before the Storm. Both amazing tales tied into mystique and fantasy that ultimately lead to dire consequences regardless of action and risk. The former before the latter will introduce you to Arcadia Bay, and Max’s strange reunion with her best friend Chloe Price, as its prequel Before the Storm will tell you the tale of Chloe’s tragic life circumstances after the traumatic loss of her father, and how it led to her rebellious ways, influenced by confidant, Rachel Amber. This small town has some serious baggage, and it’s up to you to unravel.
Nonetheless, Life is Strange and Before the Storm are and ultimate bundle of joy and should be celebrated. It’s not the perfect way to do it for the moment, but I’m sure there’s going to be future fixes that will amend all prior issues mentioned. But for the time being, it demonstrates how the small French studio were able to take inspiration from Telltale’s successes and turn it into a formula of their own. A distinct mechanic that redefined the way we understood click-and-point adventure games. The genre would essentially lead the player down a fixed path depending on choice, but Life is Strange turned that on its head and allowed players to make changes in real-time. Experiment with outcome, retell the tale their way and morally decide on the story’s climax. I still enjoyed my time with this collection, but have hopes that it will be given the respect it deserves with a clean slate, and some added spit-shine.
Return to Arcadia Bay and experience two award-winning Life is Strange games like never before! Remastered visuals and animation breathe new life into the great cast of characters and gripping stories.