One of the first big announcements out of Gamescon 2014 is that Square Enix has announced a new IP, Life Is Strange with developer DONTNOD who brought us Remember Me.
Life Is Strange is an apt title that strays from what we have come to expect from the Japanese publisher. With the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy behind them, Square Enix is testing the waters with a different kind of female protagonist.
Life is Strange is a narratively driven as an adventure game, but what truly sets it apart is the episodic nature of the game through a digital delivery eschewing a disc based delivery, something Square Enix has not done with a AAA title. The partnership with Paris based developer DONTNOD was reported on back in June by IGN’s Evan Campbell.
“We’re very excited to be working with Square Enix on our new game,” said DONTNOD CEO Oskar Guilbert. “It’s a twist on traditional story-driven games, and we can’t wait to share more with you soon.”
Now that the cat is out of the bag, we see why Guilbert was excited. The twist is that Life Is Strange is a step away from what would be considered a “safe bet” for a publisher that has not had a good track record with games featuring a female protagonist, most notably the disappointing Tomb Raider reboot which did not meet internal projections, even at 3.4 million units sold in its first month. Even Lightning, the warrior princess from the Final Fantasy XIII series was easily dismissible due to a number of reasons including poor script writing for western audiences and a complete lack of personality in the final entry as her emotions were completely erased by “god.”
As a developer, DONTNOD created the artfully rendered world of Remember Me which we found a flawed but promising game. Even with the good will of some in the gaming press, Remember Me did not break into the Top 10 NPD sales figures and was considered, though never confirmed, to be a financial loss for publisher Capcom.
However, the surprising sales of the critical darling Bravely Default has resulted in Square Enix rethinking their efforts to make games appealing on a global level according to Wesley Yin-Poole of Eurogamer.
“Everybody at DONTNOD is excited to be working on such a refreshing title” said Jean-Max Moris, Creative Director at DONTNOD Entertainment. “We’re not only crafting the best game we possibly can, we also feel we’re providing the type of experience that perfectly fits today’s renewed taste for originality and diversity”.
“When we first saw Life is Strange we immediately realized that DONTNOD have created a unique experience, something special” said Jon Brooke, VP Brand and European Marketing Square Enix Europe. “Everyone who’s seen the game has instantly fallen in love with its distinctive style and mood”.
Quoting from the press release: Life Is Strange is a compelling, episodic, story-driven adventure that follows the story of the senior student Max Caulfield as she returns to the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon after a 5-year absence. Reuniting with her former friend, Chloe, they both work in uncovering the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of their fellow student, Rachel Amber.
Players will be able to determine the path of the story through offered choices. However, the course of history is alterable as well, as Max discovers at the beginning of the story her ability to rewind time.
The game will feature a hand-drawn art syle as well as a unique take on the choice and consequence mechanic. Max discovers early on that she has the ability to rewind time giving the player the ability to affect the game’s narrative and change the course of history itself in a kind of butterfly effect. Going by the official Twitter feed for the game, the game hinges on the choices the player will make.
Choice is a recurring theme for many games from BioShock, Mass Effect and inFamous that tout a system that lets the player experience the game with the type of personality they want to give their character. Critics of such a system have stated that the morality choices in games like the afore mentioned are binary with no real grey area when the tally is counted at the end.
Remember Me did not give players choices to make, but rather put forth the consequences of choices as the driving factor behind its narrative. This will be their first attempt to address the actual mechanic.
Life is Strange is slated to release on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC as a digital only title with a release date yet to be announced.