Life is St range Episode 4: Dark Room

Is the penul­ti­mate chap­ter fully de­vel­oped or over-ex­posed?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - REVIEW -

The hor­ri­fy­ing cli­max of Episode 3 al­ways seemed like a dou­ble-edged sword. Dontnod left us with a doozy of a cliffhange­r, but had clearly wan­dered into a nar­ra­tive cul-de-sac. It’s no sur­prise, then, that it takes the most ob­vi­ous es­cape route. And yet it’s far from the cop-out it sounds: 45 min­utes or so of golden-hour melan­cho­lia es­tab­lishes a mo­ti­va­tion for Max’s forth­com­ing ac­tions, while deep­en­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Chloe. It all cul­mi­nates in a par­tic­u­larly wrench­ing de­ci­sion. It raises an im­por­tant ques­tion that isn’t an­swered for the rest of the episode, but may yet have wider con­se­quences in the sea­son fi­nale. As you can prob­a­bly tell, we’re hav­ing to tread care­fully here: let’s just say we’ve never been quite so re­lieved to see cash in the cookie jar.

There­after, we re­turn to the cen­tral plot, with Max and Chloe tug­ging at the var­i­ous threads con­nect­ing the Prescotts with Rachel Am­ber, the Vor­tex Club, and the seem­ingly pre-apoc­a­lyp­tic hap­pen­ings around Arcadia Bay. What fol­lows is a se­ries of pleas­ant sur­prises: play­ers who ex­pe­ri­enced a suc­cess­ful res­o­lu­tion to an ear­lier sub-plot will en­joy a touch­ing re­union, while a re­turn visit to volatile dealer Frank has an alarm­ing ar­ray of pos­si­ble out­comes, con­tin­gent not only on the di­a­logue choices you make, but on de­ci­sions made in past episodes. Then there’s a sim­ple but en­joy­able bit of de­tec­tive work, as all the clues Max and Chloe have been as­sem­bling are laid out, and you’re in­vited to pull out the key pieces of ev­i­dence to work out how ev­ery­thing ties to­gether. There’s some much-needed lev­ity, too, in­clud­ing a line that can be read as a light-hearted jab at crit­ics or a won­der­ful mo­ment of self-aware­ness.

It’s not all good news. Af­ter Chaos The­ory, the pac­ing seems rather un­even. The script may have im­proved, but Max’s pu­ri­tan­i­cal party-pooper act isn’t en­tirely con­vinc­ing, ei­ther. And yet it more than com­pen­sates else­where. The tone turns de­cid­edly darker as our cu­ri­ous pair get close to un­earthing the truth, lead­ing to some truly shock­ing plot de­vel­op­ments and the most dis­turb­ing cliffhange­r to date; let’s hope we don’t wait long for what looks like a chill­ing sea­son fi­nale. OXM

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