Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Life is Strange's Ending: A Meeting With Fate & Contrivance #2 (SPOILERS)

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post about Life is Strange's ending and why I believed it to be contrived.

I have received a fair amount of feedback in the meantime, some good and some bad. A lot of people feel that, between the recurring visions of the tornado and the obvious damage done to nature, the way the ending is resolved is actually quite natural. I still disagree, as I already covered that topic in my first post, but I understand that this isn't set in stone.

With that said, I'm still going to offer my suggestion for how I would've handled the ending. Apparently, it's fairly common for people to describe ways to 'fix the ending,' but I'd still like to get my own thoughts in on the topic.

Let me start with my premise. The final choice should not have been between Chloe and Arcadia Bay, but between Chloe and Max. 

Let's examine a few facts that might support this idea. While it is true that Max's powers seem to have adverse effects on nature, another negative effect is much more apparent - namely, the effect it has on Max herself. Trying to go further back than a short amount literally causes Max to exclaim that trying 'hurts too much,' and her power regularly results in her getting nosebleeds and headaches throughout the game. Indeed, while the effects on nature seem inconsistent and hardly more than background events, the damage to Max is a constant, obvious threat.

And on top of the aforementioned implications, let's not forget how the narrative of the game flows. Many of the choices you make are actually choices between Max or Chloe's well-being. For example, the very first major choice involving Chloe is either taking the blame for the pot in her room, or making her take the blame herself. Chloe will also regularly force Max to choose between her and her other friends - discouraging her from answering Kate on the phone, for example.

You might argue that, consequently, the ending makes some sense: Chloe regularly asks you to make sacrifices for her, and then, you have to choose between her or making the ultimate sacrifice. And while I understand the idea of sacrificing Arcadia Bay, this choice seems out of place when compared to all the others. Note that almost all the other choices are directly related to Max's personal situation; choosing between Chloe and Kate, or Chloe and David, or Chloe and Warren. All of these choices are essentially overwritten, thrown out the window, by this one final choice. It seems like little more than a way to force what was a complex branching story into two arbitrary branches, which is why I still hold that the choice and its consequences were contrived.

And as mentioned before, there are more facts backing this up than something as floaty or unsubstantial as the "flow of the narrative." The effects of Max's powers, and how they reflect much more clearly on her own health than on the environment, are an important argument here. In fact, the damage to nature - as mentioned - happened regardless of how much or little you use your time rewinding powers. In fact, even in the "alternate timeline" you create in Episode 3 where Chloe's dad never died and Max never experienced the event that made her discover her powers, there are still beached whales and similar signs of a damaged natural world. So, to summarize, because this conflict develops outside of your control, forcing you to make a choice based on it is a contrivance. What have you been shaping throughout the entire story? Max and Chloe. Compared to that, Arcadia Bay is just a backdrop. As a result, I come back to my premise: Between the implied damage to Max, the elusive and uncontrollable nature of the "fated hurricane" and how many choices and scenes are about Max and Chloe, a more fitting final choice would have had you choosing between the two of them. 

Either way, that's my two cents. I took way too long about finishing this fairly brief critique, but I hope I've offered some insight. I'm well aware that there might be things I have missed, and that there is room for other perspectives, so please feel free to respond to this blog with your criticism.

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