SEE TRAILER: Life Is Strange final episode has arrived.
Life Is Strange is one of those rare beasts – a computer game with a woman protagonist. The leader characer in question is Max Caulfield, a young woman with the power to control time and a quest to find a missing fellow student. Sourcing a publisher for a game with a woman protagonist wasn’t easy. As creative director Jean-Maxime Moris of French Dontnod (the same studio that brought you Remember Me) said:
“Square [Enix] is basically the only publisher who didn’t want to change a single thing about the game. We had other publishers telling us to make it a male lead character, and Square didn’t even question that once.”
In Polarized, the fifth and final episode, Max will have to face the most agonising decision of her life, even as Arcadia Bay is preparing to weather a huge storm. And thus the much talked-about series comes to a gut-wrenching conclusion…
NEW TRAILER ALERT: You can watch the finale trailer at the bottom of this post (be warned – if you’ve not played the game, it contains spoilers…)
Retrospectives are strange…
There’s no doubt that Life Is Strange has generated huge interest in its surreal take on things, its focus on women protagonists, and the gut-wrenching storylines which see Max doing her very best to ‘fix’ life with disastrous consequences, being thrust into high-risk situations with the stakes raised ever higher. The game is a powerfully evocative one, and bold at that… there aren’t many games out there which place an emphasis on emotion, play with pace and expectations, and value non-action as much as action.
However, a game featuring a woman protagonist isn’t magically insulated against potentially problematic elements. Some of the storylines give women a very rough time, despite a woman being in the driving seat. It’s great to see a plot that centres on a young woman’s coming of age. Nevertheless. Even so. Slut-shaming, bullying, suicide, sexual assault, what appears to be an ableist approach to disability (disability as punishment?)… the game is full of potentially triggering content that has led to many conversations on the web, and you can’t imagine Solid Snake (or, more appropriately, a character more akin to Max in all save gender) coming up against quite the same array of frequently gender-related challenges…
Life Is Strange is an interesting game. Flawed. Tricky. Uncomfortable at times. Uneven. Trope-y. Determined to make you emote. And yet… interesting. The commercial success of this one will, hopefully, lead to studios taking a punt on far more games with women as protagonists. The fifth and final episode is out now and available for download on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Read next: For an atmospheric game featuring a woman protagonist, try Gone Home