New beginnings are tough in our favourite franchises. Or are they?
Getting into Life is Strange wasn’t easy. Though the game released last year and I had periodic access to episodic updates, I only really plunked down for the entire story earlier this month. Spoilers had been avoided successfully and it was time to finally experience the adventure. Keep in mind that I knew the game was good. Heck, I knew many similar games like Tales From the Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us were good but never got around to playing them.
"Like many fans, the finality of the game’s story still hits home. Whether you made the “right” choice in the end or not, you dealt with the consequences."
But what struck me about Life is Strange is how subjectively great it really was. From the set-up to the events and characters to the ending, everything about the game seemed to fit together so well. It was probably the first game in a while that felt perfect, even if it wasn’t. Perfection was achieved through the sum of its parts, even if you could deconstruct the game into a myriad of different flaws.
Like many fans, the finality of the game’s story still hits home. Whether you made the “right” choice in the end or not, you dealt with the consequences. This was perhaps the first time that “things just ended” meant more than a sudden and abrupt conclusion. It meant that for all the unanswered questions I had and the potential for a sequel, it just didn’t seem right to have a follow-up or sequel at all.
There will be a second season though – developer Dontnod Entertainment confirmed as much back in November 2015. It was also revealed by co-director Michael Koch that, “We can really go with other characters, other locations, but still keep the identity of the game, the themes of the game.”
"And yet, there is a worry with trying to adhere to that theme or the “growing up” story of season one. Not because it won’t work but because that interpretation of the game’s themes will differ between the developer and fans."
Of the many unanswered questions, one feels like Max’s time-travel ability just didn’t have a proper explanation behind it. Many have expressed frustration with the loopholes that require the game’s events to make sense. However, the central theme shines amongst all – that being that life isn’t always a walk in the park. Even if you could conveniently go back and fix things, some events are just meant to happen. However, the way you deal with this and the kind of person you are – especially when it comes to Chloe – is what’s most important. By the end, Life is Strange was a story of love and friendship above all else.
And yet, there is a worry with trying to adhere to that theme or the “growing up” story of season one. Not because it won’t work but because that interpretation of the game’s themes will differ between the developer and fans. I’m reminded of True Detective’s second season which diverged quite a lot from the original season’s premise. Did that make it bad? Not at all…depending on who you ask.
There are some who believe that even with its new premise, it could have been done a lot better. In that case, treading the line between creating something new and expanding on the original mythos becomes difficult. Then again, there’s also the fact the season two of True Detective was rushed to cash in on the original’s breakout success but that’s another story.
"A new beginning is inevitable but I’m not ready to forget about Max and Chloe just yet."
It is possible to have a healthy balance of new and old. Look at Dreamfall: The Longest Journey which had a new protagonist but weaved the original’s mythos and events into a compelling, memorable adventure. That’s a credit of good writing but you have to consider what the sequel brings to the table. Can it live up to the original’s themes while bringing something to the table? How many games have we seen which don’t really try anything inventive and just try to cater to their loyal fans? There’s nothing wrong with it but if you’re going to mess about with a game that had such a tone of finality like Life is Strange, you should be prepared to add something of importance to the sequel.
At this point, it’s hard to tell what season two should really offer but that’s a testament to how affecting the first season was. Life is Strange at this point exists as its own story and universe which appealed to fans. Adding on to the universe, as with many franchises, is never easy and bound to annoy some one or the other. At the end of the day, one can only hope that the developer gives us a new way to look at the same familiar themes while also creating something genuinely fresh and likeable in the process. A new beginning is inevitable but I’m not ready to forget about Max and Chloe just yet.