Dark Room finally takes Max deep into the Vortex Club.
Please note that since each episode of Life is Strange features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Chrysalis.
Life Is Strange’s third episode ended with a hell of a cliffhanger, but given Max’s ability to rewind time, it seemed like this was primed for a cop out resolution within the first few seconds of Dark Room. Fortunately, the team at Dontnod stood its ground and the opening segment sets the tone for an emotional and intense episode.
For better or worse, though the episode feels a little longer than previous ones, actual gameplay segments seem to be getting shorter and shorter, with less emphasis on controls and more on listening/watching. This is particularly true for the first half of the episode, as some sections are literally all dialogue with minimal interactivity.
Dontnod has had to incorporate decisions from the past three episodes and create dialogue for all possible outcomes. Given that, there are some notably awkward transitions in which it seems like the dialogue tree permutations didn’t exactly sync up. This is noticeable in two particular sequences, one at a trailer park and one at a party. You’ll feel yourself gaining momentum with the character and then they’ll say something completely opposite.
While Max is still played well by actress Hannah Telle, some of her supporting cast is hit or miss. Chloe’s annoying tendencies are toned down and even specifically addressed through a somewhat meta moment, while others (Kate, Frank, Nathan) are played either too over the top or too deadpan given the circumstances.
As with the awkward transitions, this might be a function of trying to cover too much ground in terms of how the player got there. Also, one logistical question we couldn’t shake — if the school’s photography class has around a dozen students, why is the contest such a big deal to a campus big enough to have a football team?
As the penultimate episode of Life Is Strange, Dark Room starts to draw the various storylines together while raising the stakes. This leads to life-or-death moments or choices with chaotic ripples down the line.
Even with a handful of poorly planned puzzles, this keeps the pressure on the player with a creeping anxiety that culminates in an even bigger cliffhanger than the last episode. Even if you saw it coming, it will likely gut-punch you… which is the perfect setup for what should be a whopper of a finale.
Despite some technical hiccups and questionably designed puzzles, Dark Room is consistently engaging and continues to ramp the stakes up for the series’ conclusion.