Life Is Strange is a five part episodic series that began in January and ends in October. This review is for Episode 5, titled Polarized. Given how important the story is to experience Life Is Strange, this review is spoiler free but given the stage at which we are with this game there may be some spoilers for previous episodes.By this point anyone who is following Life Is Strange hopefully has a general idea of what the series is about. In case you haven’t heard – it follow Max Caulfield, a senior photography student who lives in Arcadia Bay. Enrolled within a prestigious academy, Blackwall, she eventually reunites with one of her close friends, Chloe. Chloe’s father’s death occurred several years before and lead to the two growing estranged, so as you can imagine the two of them have quite some catching up to do.
The academy and the town itself is rife with rumours and speculation as to the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber, a girl whose reputation is variable depending on which residents you speak to. Some regarded her as innocent and sweet, others as a promiscuous drug addict. It’s up to both Max and Chloe to solve the mystery behind their mutual friends disappearance and other elements that may be threatening Arcadia Bay.Being the final episode of the series, Polarized aims to cover up most of the loose ends that might’ve been left hanging in previous episodes while wrapping up all of the conflicts that might’ve presented themselves to the player. Without ruining too much – there’s barely any reasons given for the storm that threatens Arcadia Bay. Similarly, the motivations of the characters are quite simplistic – though to criticise these elements when I praised the game for being so simplistic in its depiction of college life during Episode 1 would be remiss.
But how does it all come together? And how do your choices affect the endgame? Honestly – it’s quite disappointing. Because while all of these choices were made that were presumably going to affect how the story plays out – many of them merely result in some differing dialogue or the presence of a character during a major scene. Your ending, in particular, is still decided by a binary choice at the end of the episode. A hard choice, for sure, but one that feels ultimately quite phoned in given how the “butterfly effect” and “chaos theory” were so emphasised early on in the series.That’s not to say that the story in Polarized isn’t interesting – it is – especially for those who have a penchant for anything David Lynch. The story is quite interesting and the journey to the rather phoned in ending is still enjoyable. A poor ending, fortunately, doesn’t retroactively ruin the experience I’ve had with Life Is Strange’s characters, world and story. But it has definitely not lived up to the ambitious credo that the developers setup in the early episodes.Much like all the other episodes of Life Is Strange, there’s not a whole lot that changes between each episode in terms of visual style and presentation. The game employs a very rough looking aesthetic that gives it a dreamlike, surrealist quality. This, in particular, is effective in Polarized as it is easily one of the trippiest episodes in the series thus far. Don’t expect many, if any new locations in Polarized however. You’ll be visiting mainly the same locations you’ve been to before, but with interesting twists that still make them feel fresh. Overall, Polarized is a much darker episode and suitably so.