Whilst for the most part, Life is Strange episode 3 (entitled “Chaos Theory”) didn’t do anything particularly impressive in comparison to the two episodes that came before it, it’s perhaps the episode that has so far left the most impact.
Episode 3 kicks off back in Max’s dormitory, with the population of Blackwell Academy still reeling over the shock of the end of episode 2. The reactions and emotions tied in this feel very real, and it’s a great reintroduction into Max’s little world, once again making us empathise with these very believable characters. The harsh reality of your actions from the last episode will also be very visibly on display; Arcadia Bay will feel like a completely different place depending on how episode 2 turned out for you. Whilst Telltale games claim that your actions affect the story, you soon realise that most of these decisions are arbitrary and never amount to anything more than a change in an anecdotal side story. Life is Strange completely blows that out of the water, and the transition from episode 2 to episode 3 highlights that fantastically – so much so that it’ll make you want to play both episodes again, with alternate choices, just to experience how very different everything can be.
The focus of Chaos Theory is largely around Max and Chloe’s relationship. There’s a lot of tender moments between the two; incredibly human exchanges that, for brief moments, make Max and Chloe seem like any normal pair of teenage girls. And whilst it is humbling to see their friendship grow, at times some of these moments felt unnecessary and not entirely pertinent to the development of the story. We have an entire scene where, without revealing too much, Max and Chloe are playing around in the school swimming pool, which felt entirely inconsequential and irrelevant to the rest of the episode.
There were some things this segment of the game excelled at, including a stealth section that, considering the genre of the game, was done incredibly well. It felt perhaps a little easier than it could have been, but the tension created was excellent. That said, the gameplay in other areas of epsiode 3 felt a little weaker at times than the earlier ones. There’s a barrage of fetch quests, that make the flow of the game feel a little stilted – especially when one of these quests is made up of finding ingredients to make pancakes – hasn’t Max got more important things to do than trail around someone’s house trying to find eggs? It’s a very pointless task, and for me, made the bulk of this episode feel a little sour compared to my earlier experiences with the game.
It’s not all trivial though; there’s a lot of interesting information to be picked up, not just about Max and Chloe’s relationship, but also about other residents of Arcadia Bay. It seems that there are more “side missions” in this episode too, although they can be easily missed (as I did). Still, learning more about the town and the people in it is very welcome, as there are many great stories to be told – and unfortunately, over the course of five episodes (with only two remaining), there’s going to be a lot that we won’t get to see in much detail.
It isn’t until the end of episode 3 that everything truly kicks to life, though. Max accidentally learns more about her time travelling powers – and uncovers something truly game changing; for her, and for us. The last few scenes are both incredibly uplifting and devastating in equal measures, and Dontnod have truly knocked us for six with the latest revelation.
Regardless of whether some scenes may have been inconsequential, and despite some of the gameplay being a little repetitive and drab, there’s no denying the impact that Chaos Theory has. As Life is Strange episode 3 fades to black, you feel like everything you’ve already come to know about the game has totally been thrown out of the window, and we genuinely have no idea how episode 4 is going to pick up. But we desperately need to know. Any game that leaves you on such tenterhooks, eager to delve more into its world to uncover its secrets, is a massive success in my opinion.