I had no idea what I was getting into, downloading ‘Life is Strange’ from Playstation’s store; it was the free game of the month, and I was up for a nice change from the usual 3 games I’d filter through. I enjoyed ‘The Walking Dead’, and this game had the same choice-making theme, so maybe I’d enjoy it as well.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional consequence of starting this game. I was not expecting to fall in love with the dork Warren, or sympathize with the wallflower Daniel. I wasn’t prepared for the actual panic in my heart while trying to talk Kate down from the roof, or when alternate-reality Chloe asked me to end her miserable life. What I truly wasn’t ready for, was the final decision: Sacrifice Arcadia Bay, or Sacrifice Chloe.
I stared at my screen for a good few minutes, the indecisiveness and torn thoughts in my mind matching the frozen, distraught face of Max. It was the classic Trolley Problem; do I risk one person I love for many I don’t really know, or save that one person at the expense of these lives?
Selfish, I know. I was surprised that 47% picked the same as I, and I honestly hovered on the ‘Worldwide Stats’ page for a good three minutes feeling bad. Then, sitting back in my glider-turned-gaming chair, I realized there really was no way to save Arcadia Bay, technically.
Time, as you may know, is not a timeline like we saw in our high school history books, but an intricate web, a web that was ripped by Max and her time hops. At some point, you hop around to so many alternate timelines – in one, Chloe is completely paralyzed and slowly dying. In another, Jefferson has Max captured, in the Dark Room, and is taking some final pictures before he kills her. And even when Max leaves these timelines to go to others, all realities continue, just with a Max that goes through the motions subconsciously (proven by the progress Max made with the clues in one reality while with disabled Chloe in another). These alternate realities run parallel to each other, sharing the same moment in time but drastically different due to Max interfering.
These realities don’t run parallel like two ends of a highway, though – they all run off of one main ‘trunk’, the original timeline, each alternate one being a branch, breaking off where Max interferes.
Max left the original timeline the first time she rewound time, creating an alternate reality in which Chloe lives. This creates the eco-havoc you see; this timeline is unstable, as are all the other alternates Max creates. Each time Max uses a picture to change a drastic part of the past, she creates a new alternate reality (I’d like to note that this does not involve her simple rewinds to open up more dialogue options, or to keep herself from getting trapped or hurt. While these are subtle shifts in the fabric of time, they are not as large a change as time hopping through pictures or saving a life meant to cease, and thus do not create their own, separate branches of reality). In the original timeline, Chloe does indeed die, however Max elects to not have her conscious be in this timeline, but rather a new one – however, events take place how they would regardless.
That being said, there really isn’t a way to save Arcadia Bay, or save Chloe. It isn’t so cookie cutter as it seems. Instead, it’s which reality Max (AKA you) decide to live in –the original timeline, with Chloe dead and Arcadia safe, or the alternate timeline, where you ride through the wreckage, and off with Chloe, into the sunrise. It’s oddly comforting, knowing that in the original timeline everyone is okay (well except for Chloe), and I am now comfortable with my decision to stay in this alternate reality with the one person Max couldn’t live without.
Of course, this is my rationale, probably my way of trying to feel less guilty of having a horrible moral compass. It’s such a hard topic to write on, simply because the art and science of time travel doesn’t exist (currently, at least). However, this is the best explanation I could come up with, not only for my choice, but for many little bits of the game (specifically the eco-havoc, and why it was occurring). Regardless, we can all agree on one thing: Max is going to need some serious therapy after this.