There is a plot element in things that is almost-universally-hated – the Deus Ex Machina. The simple definition of the concept is – when a completely contrived plot device solves the situation. usually out of nowhere. However, this term can also refer to when something comes right the hell out of nowhere and completely invalidates everything that has happened beforehand. I got to see this happen today, in something that I love. Now, the cool thing about what I have seen is that it doesn’t have to be the end. This could all still work out. In fact, I genuinely believe it will. That said, I have a word of warning to the creators of Life is Strange.
I am about to spoil the shit out of the end of Episode 3, so if you haven’t seen that, STOP READING! I mean that. Stop reading this right now and play that. Because you will love it. However, the ending is leaving me feeling uncertain. I am on shaky ground right now. Part of me wants to be more certain. Part of me wants to be like, “Dude, the creators of this game aren’t crazy enough to do this. Don’t sweat it. But there is this other part that is scared to death that my worst fears will come true. So, in a long and rambling way, this is my attempt to give them some very constructive criticism.
The end of Episode 3 has Max discovering a new ability. She can go back in time even further, through photographs. That’s SO fucking cool! That enables her to see the past and affect it even more. She saves Chloe’s father from death. At first, that looks great. Max’s life is going great. She is the best friend of everybody. Chloe’s dad is alive and well. David Madsen is a bus driver. A fitting position, for that creepy bastard. And everything is hunky-dory. But something is wrong. Freaked out, Max goes to see Chloe, and finds out something awful. She is a quadriplegic. For those who are ignorant of medicine, that means that she’s paralyzed from the neck down. It is implied that it was from an accident in her new vehicle. Max sees this, and the words that I felt came right out of her mouth – what have I done?! I did this. Me, the player, made this happen. And just like Max, I thought that I was doing the right thing. It felt like this was the right thing to do. But seeing what happened, a result that couldn’t be changed no matter what choice I made, it made me feel like shit. I did this. I have put Chloe through Hell and now it was too late.
But, as the player, another thing kicked in – it damn well better not be too late! For real, if this alternate timeline stands, then I am going to be so pissed. Why? Because that will mean that EVERY choice that I’ve made up until that point is totally invalid. I mean all of them. The choice to save Chloe? Didn’t happen. She was never in that bathroom. The deal with Rachel Amber (that is the driving force of the entire series)? Probably didn’t happen, since her friendship with Chloe didn’t happen. Me stealing the money from Blackwell to help Chloe pay off her debts? Saving Kate Marsh’s life, probably the most emotionally-satisfying thing I have ever done in a video game? Nada. It never happened.
As I said before, I don’t think the creators of this game are dumb enough to let this be the case. I am certain that they are going to take us back to the original timeline, because we have a mystery to solve. Let me put this plainly – if they do not do this, and I am having to deal with this new timeline, which has invalidated everything I did before, then I am going to give the next episode the worst review that you have ever seen! All my careful planning, all my plotting to get the best possible situation, would amount to nothing. No! Wrong! We are not doing that. There isn’t a single part of me that believes that the creators of the game are dumb enough to go that route. But I’m writing this as a head’s-up to them. I’m watch-dogging you.
That all being said, I got to thinking again, about Max and the look on her face when she sees what she’s done to Chloe. A girl who, in the game I am playing, is starting to have real feelings for her. I do like how the creators of the game have given us a choice on how we want this to play out, but I’m not an idiot. I can see where your choices are going to lead. Hell, this episode gave it to me straight. The choice is there, but the option it gives you is blatant as fuck. It turns out, I was right. It is a lot like Riley and Ellie in The Last of Us: Left Behind. Do I find that annoying? Not at all. You can choose to get with Warren. I’m going to let him down easy. No need to be cruel. There is a date planned, and I am going to be gentle in how I break to him that I’m not interested. A sweet guy must never be hurt. Especially when he’s genuinely sweet and he is trying to be a good person and get with Max, romantically. No ill will here.
Still, Max has really fucked up Chloe’s life. First, it was when she moved away. Then, she comes back and exposes all of the truth that Chloe had in her life as lies. Now, she has tried to save Chloe from the darkness that is haunting her, and ends up hurting her even worse in the process. If my assumption is right, and the makers of this game aren’t bat-shit insane, then she is going to have to go back in time and let Chloe’s dad die all over again, breaking her, twice. That is SO fucked up! For real, how fucked up is that?! I bet that it’s going to kill Max. That would make for a GREAT segment. Her telling Chloe the truth and seeing how much her heart is breaking because of what she has done to a person who is either her best friend, or someone she is coming to love. Man, this is some heavy shit! I like it.
Dontnod, you have a chance to do something amazing, here. I think I’ll let Mallory say it.
Until next time, a quote,
“Don’t cock it up.” -Gareth Mallory, Skyfall