Life Is Strange: Episode 3 – Chaos Theory marks the third of five planned story instalments in Remember Me developer DONTNOD's divisive high school story. We had our fair share of problems with the first two episodes, but left the door open for the developer to truly deliver on the glimpses of promise that it had shown thus far. Well, it seems that someone at the Parisian outfit has been listening, because this third outing has struck back with a vengeance.
The nature of episodic games makes it tougher for us to touch upon the specific narrative beats as we don't want to spoil things, but rest assured, there's quite a lot that happens here. Building off the extreme ending of the previous instalment, Chaos Theory picks right up from there. It starts at a heightened emotional point in comparison to the previous two episodes, and rarely lets up until the absolutely stunning conclusion.
This is the most marked improvement in the new episode: there are rarely any periods of filler. Everything that happens feels like it advances the plot in a meaningful way, which is a far cry from the previous two instalments. And we cannot emphasise enough just how game changing the conclusion is. For reals.
On that point, the writing is finally settling down, too. The dialogue through the first two episodes was physically painful to endure at times, but Episode 3 strikes a delicate balance between cheesy and grounded. The teen speak is used much less liberally, and as a consequence seems less forced. This helps the conversations to feel far more organic, and by doing so raises the material to a higher level than before.
The game isn't just better on a dialogue basis either: the gameplay is getting more complex as well. Max – our protagonist – is now beginning to get a firmer grasp on her powers, allowing her to do more with them. This brings with it more complex and engaging challenges; the puzzles are still relatively simple, yes – but they bring some variety to the walking and talking. Towards the end, you'll even get access to a new power – and while we're past the halfway point now, we're curious to see if any more get added to the mix.
While proceedings are much improved across the board, it is still, ultimately, the same game, so the poor lip syncing that's been present from the start is still a problem – but like the odd framerate fluctuation, it's not so bad that it ruins the experience. This is great, as we wouldn't want technical hiccups to get in the way of the game's generally excellent art direction – including a trip to one particular location that we've been wondering if we'd get to visit since Episode 1.
We weren't particularly sold on the first two episodes of Life Is Strange, but we could see the kernel of potential that was hiding beneath the surface. Episode 3 – Chaos Theory is where that promise finally bursts to the forefront, delivering an almost perfect balance of tense storytelling, organic dialogue, and improved gameplay – all while setting up a potentially brilliant follow-up episode. This series is finally delivering what we always thought it could, and that makes us hella happy.