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Games of 2015 no. 10: Life is Strange

Sad Max.

This year, we're counting down our 10 favourite games of the year in daily articles. We'll reveal our game of the year on 1st January 2016. The top ten was decided by a vote among Eurogamer staff and contributors, and we didn't even fiddle the results!

There are small moments in each Life is Strange episode where you can simply sit a while and rest. Max, the series' protagonist, is allowed to reflect and take stock before the game's wonderful ambient score picks up the silence. The camera drifts across your surroundings - to Dontnod's hand-drawn visuals, its warm autumnal colours - and lets you pause for as long as you like, to drink in the atmosphere of sleepy Arcadia Bay.

In its leafy college campus and around the small town's streets there lies a mystery to uncover and a fantastical threat to investigate, but all of this sinks into the background in service of the game's characters and their own personal lives. Max roots the series as a drama seen through the eyes of someone already dealing with everything life throws at a young adult - and then some. The story is also handled with a surprising maturity that allows themes such as abuse, depression and suicide to be explored without their inclusion ever becoming plot devices.

There are archetypes to be found in Life is Strange's characters, sure, but all of its cast are humanised by redeeming features and negative traits. Max is undoubtedly the game's hero, but she's also an achingly hipster student who like anyone her age is not immune to the influences of her peers. She copes with the arrival of supernatural powers while navigating life as a teen. She is bullied, she suffers from anxiety.

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Life is Strange holds a special place in my heart for the memories it invokes - of an earlier time in my life when I was preoccupied with a whole different set of things. I'm not going to say it reminds me of when I was 'young' because Wes or Donlan will tell me I still am, technically, or that it reminds me of a simpler time, because all personal crises are the most important things to those experiencing them. Simply, its perfectly flawed cast of characters and personal dramas hold truths all of us can identify with.

Even after reaching the game's not entirely satisfying conclusion I can't wait to replay it all again when I find the time. Those moments in the game when you're listening to its score, watching light filter through the curtains of your friends' bedroom while you simply sit and hang out are more memorable than countless "choose who lives/dies" choices in other narrative experiences.

I can't recommend Life is Strange highly enough. It is a Telltale-style narrative-based adventure full of teen drama and pulpy sci-fi, but also a game far more than the sum of its parts. It is a world of memorable characters swept up in a fantastic story. It isn't perfect, true. It is simply human.

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