Hey guys! I’m finally back with the third and final part of my analysis of the video game Life Is Strange, where I will be tackling one of the most controversial areas of the whole game. It plays as honestly one of the major factors of the game that pulls the whole thing down from a lot of its credibility to a lot of people. I am talking about the ending. At this point, I am completely shying away from being spoiler-free and will be discussing some very significant details having to do with the end of the game, so please don’t continue if you don’t want to know the end of the story.
Spoilers start. At the very end of the game, Max Caulfield (and you the player) have two choices: save the town of Arcadia Bay from a gigantic tornado and sacrifice Chloe so that the tornado doesn’t even happen, or sacrifice Arcadia Bay so that Chloe can still live. After all the different decisions you made throughout the game, it has all come down to just two major event-shaping decisions. This is actually where a lot of people had a problem with the game. How did any of your decisions throughout the game mean anything if there’s only two endings lined up in the end? How does any of it matter if either everyone except Max and Chloe die or Chloe dies and time resets so most of what happened didn’t happen?
These questions can easily be overturned by pointing out one simple but very, very deep fact.
Max (and the player controlling her) still went through everything this game threw at her. Let’s examine the ‘Sacrifice Chloe’ ending first. While going back to the moment near the beginning of the game when Chloe was shot and killed means the other characters lost their experiences, Max hasn’t lost hers. Ultimately, this game was Max’s story. It was all about discovering the dangers of messing with time and other people. The other students at Blackwell were there to serve more as plot devices than anything else, and Max learned so much about them whether the experiences remain in the timeline or not. While the events of the timeline are gone, Max’s character growth is not. When the game ends, we can go on believing that Max will make the right decisions moving forward. She will start doing things differently, one of those things being not hugging the past so close but choosing to look forward to the future.
Another example I can think of for this kind of storytelling and character development is X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Wolverine goes back into the past to prevent the murder of the creator of the Sentinels, and by doing so, it changed the present in more ways than he had expected, which in a lot of ways meant changing the timeline so that certain key events throughout previous X-Men films didn’t happen (the whole thing of X-Men 3 as an example). While people may declare that the previous X-Men films are now completely meaningless because of this, it’s important to realize that Wolverine still experienced the previous films. He still has that knowledge and he still grew from it. His memory was not erased in the process of coming back into the present after leaping into the past. I always believed that most of the X-Men films leading up to that movie was Wolverine’s story anyway.
If there’s one thing I can criticize about the ending, it’s the fact that if you choose to sacrifice Arcadia Bay and Max and Chloe leave the town behind and go wherever they want to go, won’t the storms follow them? If Chloe was truly fated to die, wouldn’t the storm be a curse that Max and Chloe won’t be able to leave behind until the right choice is made? These are questions that I had with that ending, adding more confusion to the second ending than what is already there. If you choose to sacrifice Arcadia Bay, it’s a signal that Max (and even the player) learned nothing throughout the course of the game (even though the game really slams the point over your head during the last hour of the final episode). It’s also an indicator that the ‘Sacrifice Chloe’ ending is actually the canonical one (proven further by the fact that its a longer, slower ending.
What’s that famous saying? ‘Life is a journey, not the destination’. The journey is about the journey itself, not the finish line in the end. It’s the experiences that matter, and even if they’re made irrelevant, you don’t forget about them. Everything that Max experienced throughout the game is something that will stay in her memory, even if it doesn’t remain in the memory of others, which actually gives Max something that nobody else has. Life is a journey, and it is indeed strange.