Life Is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room takes its title literally—it’s dark in every conceivable sense. While it might still have its broody indie-rock soundtrack and (somewhat) hip teen slang, it’s a decidedly adult story that’s more disturbing than Max’s chipper attitude might let on. Featuring more diverting paths than previous episodes and a chilling, hard to swallow storyline, Life Is Strange Episode 4 shows that DONTNOD is committed to exploring the potential disturbing darkness of teen life, even if they sometimes stumble into melodrama.
Life Is Strange Episode 4 Tests Your Limits
Remember when Max Caulfield’s biggest worries were getting a photo in for the ‘Everyday Heroes’ contest and fixing her lapsed friendship with Chloe? Remember when the game’s indie rock and Instagram aesthetic felt like they were trying just a little too hard to be cool, and we could laugh and roll our eyes at teen melodrama?
By Life Is Strange Episode 4, we’re no longer laughing. After messing heavily with the timeline, Max has traveled into an alternate universe where Chloe’s father, who originally died in a car accident, is alive, while Chloe must use a wheelchair due to a spinal injury in a car accident of her own. Gone is her blue hair and rebellious attitude—this is a very different Chloe, one who has few friends and who eschews her alternate-universe use of aforementioned hip teen slang.
This provides a substantial conflict in itself: Max changed Chloe’s timeline to save her father, and now feels responsible for Chloe’s condition. Chloe also faces her with an incredible choice, one that spurs her over the edge and makes her return to the original timeline using her newfound powers.
Back in the Arcadia Bay we know and love, things are getting tougher. Whales are beaching themselves, birds are falling dead from the sky, and Nathan Prescott is still running loose despite his numerous shady activities. After paying a visit to drug dealer Frank, Chloe and Max have all the clues they need to figure out what Nathan was up to the night of Kate’s assault—it’s just a matter of piecing them together.
Without delving too far into spoiler territory for Life Is Strange Episode 4, what they find at the other end of their clues is more horrifying than imagined. And it doesn’t end there—Chloe and Max attend the Vortex Club party under the light of a double moon (another sign of the impending apocalypse) to find more unsettling information, and the game culminates in an awful, gut-wrenching moment that Max can’t rewind.
It’s a twist, and a surprising one at that. Life Is Strange Episode 4 does an excellent job of revealing precisely what it needs to when it needs to, meaning the episode’s shocks still have impact. When the episode finishes, you’ll be clambering at your computer screen for more—the episode ends on a cliffhanger that will have you theorizing about how this could possibly turn out okay.
Life Is Strange Episode 4 Finds its Mechanical Foothold
Like previous episodes, Life Is Strange Episode 4 is fairly light on gameplay. It’s far more about progressing the story than it is about solving puzzles, but this episode does make an effort to incorporate your previous choices as well as create conversational paths with radically different outcomes. The puzzles that aren’t related to exploring conversation are still a bit of a slog through tedium, but connecting the dots without relying on guessing and checking is a satisfying experience.
Some knowledge of the characters will serve you well in this episode. Sure, you can always guess, check, and rewind, but even Life Is Strange‘s minor characters are shockingly well developed and can be reliably read. Pay attention to what they respond to versus what angers them—it’s different for everyone, and minding how they like to be spoken to nets you better results.
While Life Is Strange is obviously following a trajectory toward a specific ending, your choices do carry weight. It can be hard to appreciate how much your choices matter without looking up alternate routes, but rest assured that they are there—the way you’ve treated characters in the past dictates how they’ll respond to you in the present, and there are still ramifications to come. Keep that in mind when you might want revenge; as we saw with Kate, conversation doesn’t just affect how they respond to you.
Life Is Strange Episode 4 Proves the Game Isn’t a Predictable Teen Drama
Life Is Strange Episode 4 continues the game’s ambitious storytelling. The game’s characters are flawed and human, for better or for worse. What may have been a plot ripped from a light teen soap opera is now a dark and deeply disturbing narrative where excellent characterization makes you really care—the episode’s final moments are shocking, but a strong reminder that nothing in Life Is Strange is safe. While it might have taken some time to get there, Life Is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room is DONTNOD hitting their stride, and is well worth pushing through some of the clunkier elements to experience.
Life Is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room is available now for PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. Game Rant reviewed the PS4 version for this review.