What a delightful little gem Life is Strange turned out to be. It’s a game of choices and consequences much in the same vein as Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls. We were given a brief 30 minute off-hands demo presentation of Life is Strange and were left rather impressed. Developed by Dontnod Entertainment, the same team who brought you Remember Me, Life is Strange is a nostalgic tale of young teenager Max and her rebellious and estranged friend Chloe as they try to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of a fellow senior at school. While trying to uncover the truth, Max makes a startling discovery: Max has the power to rewind time and thus our story begins.
The demo took place mainly in Chloe’s room but we also got to see the player venture down stairs. Prompts for interactive actions were abundant here as it looked like one could possibly spend a hefty amount of time just interacting with everything. In one instance the player had to rewind time after knocking down a bunch of things in order to retrieve what she was actually looking for. This was an example of how Max’s power was utilized and we were told that her actions differ depending on the situation. The beautiful hand-painted environment was really a sight to behold as colors were warm and easy on the eyes. From the little time we spent on the characters, it’s fairly obvious that these two are an unlikely pairing; Max is a temperate and level-headed girl while Chloe is smoking joints and listening to loud music. It will be interesting to see how this pair works together to uncover the mystery that is driving the story.
After the presentation, we sat down with creative director Jean-Maxime Moris of Dontnod Entertainment to talk more about this deep, narrative-driven game.
TGF: Can you talk about the significance of featuring a female lead as you did in Remember Me and now with Life is Strange and was it difficult to pitch to publishers?
Jean-Maxime: There’s a lot of debate going on right now with the Press these days about that and there should be but Gender equality is much, much bigger than games. It’s a political, social issue and we’re just game creators so we’re not pretending to address the issue or use the issue to stand out from the rest. We’re just making the games we want to make and characters that are suitable for the story; in this case with 2 female characters. We were very happy to see Square Enix accept it from the very beginning. Our next game may very well feature a male character but right now, it’s all about Max and Chloe.
TGF: Can you talk about the rewind ability and Is it something we have access to at all times?
Jean-Maxime: its checkpoint based so you can only rewind what you have done between the last 2 checkpoints. So if you spend 12 hours just doing stuff downstairs in the basement (if you want), you can actually rewind all of that because the game tracks your activities.
TGF: Is the rewind mechanic built for the player or does the character actually have the ability or aware that she has this power?
Jean-Maxime: Yes, she is aware of it. She retains everything she learns. If she learns something and then rewinds, she still remembers her past actions as well as keeping items in her inventory for future use. Those are the kind of mechanics we’re using.
TGF: What engine is Life is Strange running on?
Jean-Maxime: This is Unreal Engine 3.5; it’s all of the tools we made for Remember Me. We spent a lot of time pimping the Unreal Engine 3 (laughs.) All of the special effects like lighting and depth of field effects that our Engineers have worked tirelessly over the years and everything we learned on Remember Me all boils down to this. This is the best of our know-how.
TGF: Is this a digital-only title or can we expect a physical release?
Jean-Maxime: There might be a boxed release but for right now, it’s digital only.
TGF: I love the art direction and the warm autumn-like colors; it’s a big departure from what we saw in Remember Me. Did the art direction for Life is Strange come about early on its development?
Jean-Maxime: It’s something that we worked on early on. We’re using all the technology that we used on Remember Me but we saw that focusing on too much realism caused us to lose sight of the simple things and our interpretation of certain things changed because of how realistic certain assets were. We’re trying to tell a story that feels nostalgic and personal with the music and the art and it’s the reason why we decided to go for the hand-painted art style, we feel it evokes the nostalgia if growing up.
TGF: All the background textures of the areas are hand-painted? It’s beautiful
Jean-Maxime: Thank you, yes it’s all hand-painted.
TGF: One of the things that surprised me when viewing the demo was the music. Can we expect original music created for the game?
Jean-Maxine: It’s a combination of original and licensed music but some of it is still being negotiated.
TGF: Can you tell us about who the voice actors will be?
Jean-Maxime: We can’t discuss that but we can tell you that you might recognize some actors.
TGF: Will we be able to explore other different places?
Jean-Maxime: It’s just her room (laughs) the whole game. You’re gonna see lots of different places, Arcadia bay, the streets, the lighthouse, the city. There will be quite a bit of variety in the places you can go.
TGF: When can we expect to play Life is Strange?
Jean-Maxime: So the game is episodic, its 5 episodes, the first one is coming out early 2015. It’s going to be a steady time window of releases, 6 weeks between each release is something we’re working very hard to achieve which is very new to the episodic market; being able to tell when the next one is coming out. And it will release on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC