Persona 5 Royal- First Impressions

This post almost did not get written today. I expected to get Persona 5 Royal on yesterday, so I had a full day to play it and then write this. But unfortunately, it arrived today. Luckily, it arrived in the morning so I’ve had a few hours to play and here is my thoughts and feelings. There are limited spoilers for Royal, but a few spoilers for Persona 5, if that makes sense.

I want to make it clear that I had high expectations for this game. Persona 5 has been my favourite game for about a year, and I have fallen in love with the story and the characters. I wanted things to be different because paying for a full game, obviously, there has to be differences. However, I wanted a little change. Maybe a few big ones but not a lot. I am very picky when it comes to things I love being changed, so much so that I was initially hesitant to get this game in the first place. I am happy I got it.

High expectations are usually met with disappointment, but not in this game. It seems like whatever expectations I put in place for Persona 5, they get met. There are some dialogue changes, some changes in tone, and they fit perfectly with what I have played so far. For example, Sojiro and Principle Kobayakawa are a lot harsher, whereas Sae seems softer. The pictures that show up when the characters talk change more so that they are more diverse and expressive. As far as I can tell, when shadows speak, their speech is in a different type of box. I love the explanation of the ammo reloading (a decision that my partner does not like but I think was needed), it fits in so well, much more so than running out of ammo.

Okay, so I know you are all here for one character and one character only: Kasumi Yoshizawa. For the longest time, I fully expected to dislike this girl. I do not like change. I did not like Haru because she changed the Phantom Thieves too late in the game (I love her now, don’t worry!). Something last night just told me, I might like her. I was still hesitant when the game was installing. That changed the second she came on the screen. I instantly loved her. I am still a little hesitant, but that is mainly because of the opening; it’s confusing. However, that is not a bad thing. It builds up anticipation because now I want to know everything.

Overall, I am very much enjoying the game. It seems to be the perfect balance of change and the same. I am very satisfied with the whole thing. Hopefully, I will provide more of an insight into the game over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to ask any questions. I am considering adding a third posting day as I play Persona 5 Royal, just to voice my thoughts and feelings.

PS: If you have bought Persona 5 Royal, please take the survey. Near the end, it asks if you would be interested in bringing Persona 5 Scramble to the West, and the more Phantom Thieves stories, the better!

‘Life Is Strange 2’ (2018)- Game Review

Introduction

Playing Life Is Strange 2 is comparable to grabbing someone’s hand to be lifted up and slapping yourself with your other hand. You will definitely suffer, but you will definitely be happy about it. This episodic game was released as a physical game in December 2019; it was released digitally from September 2018, one episode at a time. This is the way that I originally played.  

Sound

The first thing that needs to be said in terms of sound in Life Is Strange 2 is that the soundtrack is phenomenal. It is very well timed with the story and adds to the emotional factor of the game. The first Episode in particular, when the character’s emotions are particularly tense, the music sets this up wonderfully.

The first Life Is Strange game-used music during the opening of each Episode, whereas Life Is Strange 2 uses the voice of the main character to retell what happened in the previous Episode. The way that they did this is in a bedtime story-like fashion, and it fits in very well with the story of the game overall. In terms of voice acting, this was, again, unbelievably good. Pure emotion could be heard through the character’s voices, which is so crucial in a game with so many essential life lessons. The way that the characters reacted lined up with their voices. Attention needs to be drawn to the voice acting of Roman Dean George (who plays Daniel Diaz) in Episode 4. Daniel goes through so much in Episode 4, and because of that, his emotions are all over the place. You can plainly hear this in his voice, and George did a fantastic job at tackling such difficult scenes.

Lastly, the background noise. One thing, in particular, that was nice as a player was that when the player walked closer to someone, their conversation because clearer and louder, but it was still realistic in the sense that you can slightly hear the other conversations around you too. A great example of this would be Episode 3, when Sean and Daniel are staying with a group of people. Although the downside to this would be that the surrounding conversations could be very distracting while trying to listen to a particular discussion. There is a moment in Episode 5, however, where the sounds clashing works really well. Sean listens in to a phone call, and you can hear nature in the background, and it is a rather lovely moment before the chaos of the last Episode truly begins.

Rate: 7/ 10

Graphics

The Life Is Strange series has a very unique look. The graphics aren’t the best in the business and never have been. If the graphics had been great in this game, it probably would not look like a Life Is Strange game. That being said, the graphics are significantly better than the ones in Life Is Strange and Life Is Strange: Before The Storm. It doesn’t take a long time to realise how much DONTNOD has improved when playing this game. The characters, particularly Sean, glitched into walls and tables occasionally, but again, this is a significant improvement, and the issues were often quickly fixed by the developers.

One thing that looked particularly good was the transaction scenes. What was shown worked well with the music, and it all flowed nicely. It was very much the calm before the storm with each transaction. The transaction scenes gave the player to sit back and think about what had happened, giving them a breather while allowing them to see more of the world that was created.

Rate: 6/10

Gameplay

It is difficult to talk about the gameplay without referencing the first Life Is Strange game. Although the player had control of the older brother, it felt a little unbalanced as Daniel was doing all of the work. At times, it felt like you were playing as Chloe in Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. If the player comes straight from Life Is Strange, they may be disappointed by the gameplay in Life Is Strange 2.

However, that being said, Life Is Strange 2 is based heavily on choices, and it feels like each decision you make has some sort of consequence. If the player had played as Daniel, the game would likely not be as intense of it is. There is one particular part in Episode 2 that the player has to do in order to progress the story, but the way it is set out is to make the player feel like they have a choice, and what happens is the consequence of this choice. It’s almost like the player is forced into feeling bad because of a decision they were forced to make for the sake of progressing the story.

Another thing that should be mentioned is that it is not always obvious what you are meant to do. There are so many things that can be done in this game, a significant increase to the first game at the very least, that it is not always obvious and linear like it is in the first game. This is likely a downside to not having control of the mystical power in this game. In the first game, you knew what you were doing, and if you messed up, you could just make Max rewind time. In Life Is Strange 2, you obviously don’t have that because, for one, the power in this game isn’t time travel and two, the player character isn’t the one in control of these powers. So what does the player character do? Train his little brother. And sometimes, it is not always obvious how you are meant to do this in terms of controls.

Another thing in terms of gameplay that really needs to be mentioned is the little ‘mini-games’ that Life Is Strange 2 has. Although they are not strictly mini-games, they provide a break from the main story of the game. The two main points that come to mind are in Episode 1 – teaching Daniel how to skip stones – and in Episode 2 – playing a dice game with Daniel. Both of these situations happen when the brothers are alone, and things are pretty calm in terms of story. Both these actions have consequences, but the main point that needs to be brought up is that the gameplay itself is drastically different from anything else in the game, yet slightly similar at the same time. There are still choices to be made and, as previously mentioned, these things have consequences. However, this does suit the game very well. It fits in with both the gameplay and the story of Life Is Strange 2. 

Rate: 8/10

Replay Value

Life Is Strange 2 has 7 endings in total. Episode 3, in particular, has so many different ways that it can go. Life Is Strange 2 is one of those games where you could likely play it over and over again and not get the same results. Over time, your perceptions of each character changes, causing you to make different decisions the next time you play the game. The game is so different based on the decisions that the player makes, DONTNOD really has to be commended for this as there was very obviously so much effort and thought put into this game to make sure that everyone had an experience unique to them, and so each playthrough could be different.

Rate: 7/10

Story

There is a lot that can be said about the story of Life Is Strange 2. It was well written, well thought out, and plays on the emotions of the player.

Each Episode starts off slowly, using tasks such as gathering items to get the player used to the mechanics of the game again. This was more beneficial to those who played the game as each Episode came out. It is pleasant for Episode 1 regardless, but by Episode 4, it gets a little tedious (although Episode 4 would be a bad example due to Sean’s inability to do much at the start of the Episode regardless). Each Episode has it’s high points and low points, which is different for each player. One thing that needs to be mentioned straight away is that This is not Life Is Strange. Max and Chloe are done. This is the story of Sean and Daniel. A lot of the fanbase of Life Is Strange fail to appreciate this game due to the lack of their beloved Max and Chloe from the first game. Rather than Life Is Strange 2 being a sequel that most of the fanbase wanted, it is an entirely different game, similar to games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Fallout 3, Fallout 4 and Fallout New Vegas. Rather than the continuation of the story of the first same, it is a continuation of the world that the original game was based in. There are several hints towards Blackwell Academy, and some characters are mentioned during the game. The next few paragraphs will contain spoilers.

The first Episode has a severe lack of Daniel using his powers. It is much more about connecting with the characters and feeling the pain that they are going through. The death of their father in the first Episode was not so much a shock because of the trailers, but it still hit hard as the player spends time with their father, and they are even given a choice to hug him. During this time, you learn his morals and the love that he has for his kids (which is a lot). These kids are suffering. Episode 1 spends a lot of time with setting out the characters, explaining why Sean is doing the things he is doing. The goal of Puerto Lobos is evident right from the start. It is mentioned even before the death of their father, and the place very evidently means a lot to the man.

There is one particular character that needs to be talked about in terms of Episode 1, and that character is Brody. Brody is one of the characters that this game failed, in terms of there was simply not enough time to include him as much as he deserved. The reasoning is justified, granted, but in later Episodes, it really would have been a good call to bring him back, if only for a little bit. However, again, the reason for not doing this is easily justified by the brothers having a difficult time contacting him, them not wanting to get him into trouble and also him being busy with the death of his mother. Brody was such a unique character that the player almost instantly connected to. He was the first person that the brothers were able to trust; he helped them so much that it was likely that they would not be able to get by without the help he gave them.

Episode 2 is hard-hitting. Mushroom, the puppy that Daniel got in Episode 1, is attacked by a cougar and it is one of the most heartbreaking deaths in a game like this because it was so shocking. It was entirely out of the blue. It wasn’t that everything was going okay for Sean and Daniel, but they had a plan. Mushroom was the light of Daniel’s life. Daniel has just discovered that he has these strange powers, his father has just died, he’s on the run from the police and to top it all off, he has a bad cough. Sean lets Mushroom out to go to the bathroom (this is a choice but unavoidable- trust me, I tried), and she doesn’t come back. It’s a huge shock. There are really no other words to describe it, other than ‘shock’ and ‘heartbreaking’.

In Episode 2, you also get to meet characters such as Sean and Daniel’s grandparents, and Chris, who was the protagonist for The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which acted as a demo for Life Is Strange 2. Episode 2 feels long because a lot happens. Sean and Daniel work on training Daniel’s powers, Mushroom dies, they go all the way to their grandparent’s house, and Daniel makes a friend in Chris. However, nothing major really seems to happen. It’s almost like a slow burn episode, that is setting up for Episode 3. However, it again works majorly on character development and the bond between Sean and Daniel. There’s a lot of decisions that have pretty serious consequences, a lot of which it is not obvious straight away.

Episode 3 is where things start to get dangerous. Sean and Daniel work on a marijuana farm, and they stay at a camp. Daniel’s powers are pretty well hidden, but he does use them more freely than before. There is a clear tension between Sean and Daniel in this Episode, as Sean has the opportunity to socialise with people around his age for the first time in months, and Daniel seems to favour Finn, one of the other boys.  It is similar to when you spend too much time with someone you love, no matter how much you love them, they will begin to irritate you after a while. Sean and Daniel, at this point, have been on the road for so long, where it’s always just the two of them against the world. For Sean, keeping in mind the end goal of Puerto Lobos is easy as he is older, but that is not the case for Daniel. He is a kid. Time goes by so slowly when you are a child, and the longer they are not at their goal, the longer the goal is not achievable. Episode 3 needs to be commended for its realism in terms of the relationship between Sean and Daniel. The tension is evident, and from the previous Episodes, there is an obvious reason for that.

The ending of Episode 3 is where things get insanely crazy and dangerous: The heist.

The heist is proposed by Finn after learning of Daniel’s powers. This is one of the points in the game where there are so many different endings; it is difficult to explain exactly what happens. Consequences of previous Episodes come alive here, where it is reflected on Daniel’s behaviour. Regardless of which direction the game goes, Sean gets hurt. Daniel goes missing. The ending is scary for those who really care about these characters at this point. Their fates are really left hanging, and for those who played this game as it came out, they were left hanging for just over 3 months. The writers did a fantastic job here because it got everyone talking about it. In particular, people who were not interested in a game without Max and Chloe suddenly gained an interest.

Episode 4 was… difficult to play. Not for the lack of wanting to, nor for the lack of being interested. It was the sheer amount of hard-hitting, real-world issues it dealt with. It was difficult to sit through because it was like being smacked in the face. The writers did an amazing (for lack of a better word) job at handling topics such as indoctrination, racism in America and cult activity- all in one Episode. This Episode also makes you realise that by this point, Sean has committed many illegal activities. He is no longer running from the police because of a misunderstanding, or just to protect his little brother, but rather because he has done several bad things in order to survive and help his little brother. Episode 4 makes you question your own morals because although you are not actually doing these things, you are playing a character that was once innocent… and now he’s not, because he had to survive. This Episode really hits you in the face and makes you ask the question of “when is surviving a criminal offence?”. The original Life Is Strange game handled hard-hitting topics well, such as bullying, suicide and child grooming. However, Life Is Strange 2 improved on this drastically, made these issues so direct that it is painful as a player to watch these things and play through them. If there is a single Episode that deserves an award for best writing, then it is Episode 4, without a doubt.

The tension between Daniel and Sean is still on the player’s mind as Sean finds Daniel wrapped up in a religious cult. They say that he is special to them because of his powers, but this cult is ultimately dangerous. This, and reuniting with Karen (Sean and Daniel’s mother), are the key parts of this Episode.  The latter sets up a large part of the last Episode, and brings back the running theme of Daniel not understanding why their mother was a bad person, but Sean not understanding what actually happened when Karen left either. Learning the truth about what happened with Karen feels a little bit anticlimactic, because this woman has been thought of negatively by Sean for years, and talked about negatively since Episode 1. The player was made to believe there was something big there, or Karen had more of a reason to leave than she did. However, this – again – adds to the reality of the game. It makes you sit back and think “huh… this actually happens in real life” because real life isn’t a soap opera or a game. And sometimes in games, character’s don’t get a redeeming explanation to the bad things they did in the past. What they do get, however, is redeeming actions, and Karen’s is one of the best in the Life Is Strange series. This woman never intended to be a mother again, but she was. Whether or not she was okay with that did not matter because her son was in drastic danger. She was there when her son needed her most, and by that, I mean Sean. At this point, Sean was well and truly at his breaking point. The dream of Puerto Lobos was well and truly faded in his mind; his little brother was gone, and so was the use of one of his eyes. He needed hope that things would be okay again, and Karen was that hope.

Episode 5 is the last Episode of this beautifully written game. There is not much to say, as again, this Episode is drastically different for everyone as it is the end. However, there is one thing that needs to be mentioned, and that is the cameo of one Mr David Madsen. This cameo is such a warming nod to the first game and a sweet ending to Max and Chloe’s story (providing Arcadia Bay is no more). Through this cameo, you learn that David and Chloe are now on good terms, and Sean is able to listen in to a conversation between them. You also learn that Max and Chloe are still travelling together. This cameo was unexpected but very welcome.

The endings of Life Is Strange 2 are all good in their own way. Not a single one is disappointing. It depends on things such as Sean’s bond with Daniel, and how well Daniel was taught morals throughout the game. This is interesting because teaching a child morals is hard when you are his older brother, and when the player just wants Daniel to love them. However, ultimately, the conclusion of the game is phenomenal in every way possible. Most endings get an appearance of beloved characters in some way, and each ending ties up the game nicely.

End Of Spoilers

Every single playthrough is different, so the story will be different for everyone, and therefore it is difficult to discuss the story of this game. One thing that runs through it right from the start, in every playthrough and with every single person, is the feeling of brotherhood. The connection that Sean and Daniel have is special. The story well and truly focuses on this, and as a result, the story is one of love, trust and a pinch of reality. This game was remarkably written, well thought out, and DONTNOD should be highly commended at their improvements at tackling real-life, pressing issues that are faced in modern-day society.

Rate: 9/10

Opinion

Lastly, my opinion on Life Is Strange 2. I don’t think it would come as a shock to anyone who has just read over 3000 words on this game that I liked it. I enjoyed playing it, and I very much enjoyed the story. I felt completely connected with the characters and more than anything, I wanted things to work out okay for Sean and Daniel. Life Is Strange 2 hit me hard. It threw the reality of issues that I don’t have to deal with as a British, white female. I liked that tremendously. I learnt a lot from the game, and I learnt how ignorant I had been in the past about issues in America, as issues that came up in the game are not as talked about in the UK.

This game is a work of art. There is clearly so much thought put into it, and I cannot help but love it. More importantly, I loved the improvements that DONTNOD had made since the original Life Is Strange game (and there were so many improvements).

The main thing to mention about this game, in my opinion, is that it makes you question your own morals, as I’ve already mentioned. It wasn’t until Episode 4 that I realised that Sean was an actual criminal, and then it hit me that he had been stealing (in my playthrough) since Episode 1. But it’s scary, because you understand Sean’s motives for doing these things, and the game leads you to believe that Sean isn’t a bad person because he has a good reason for doing these things. It makes you wonder, where is the line?

TLDR: do I think you should play this game? Yes. Completely. Especially if you enjoyed the first game. Please do not let the lack of Max and Chloe put you off such an incredible story.

Overall Rate: 8/ 10

I actually edited a video of my reaction to a certain part of this game, but it wouldn’t let me add it so here’s the playlist to the streams I did.

My Top 10 Favourite Personas

This list is more personal than I would have liked my first top 10 to be, but since I have been playing Persona 5 for *checks game file* 279 hours and counting, I thought I might as well share my current top 10 Personas with my lovely readers. This is mainly because I have a super-secret Persona 5 project in the works but still wanted to post about my favourite game. So, without further ado, here of my top 10 personal favourite Personas, with a few honourable mentions. WARNING: This includes spoilers for Persona 5 boss fights, palaces and confidants (namely the Strength confidant), so please proceed with caution.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite Personas from Persona 5!

10) Nue. LV 24
Weak: Fire
Null: Curse
Strong: Ice
Moves: Maeiha, Skull Cracker, Garula, Life Drain, Regenerate 1, Makajama, Mamudo, Pulinpa

Nue is one of those Personas that I struggle to realise that they are under level because I love them so much. It is one that I do not necessarily use a lot, but Nue is in my active persona list until at least Okumura’s palace. That’s usually the point where I have to make room for Personas that just do the job more efficiently. I do not know why I love this Persona so much. I do not particularly like the arcana, so it is not like I associate it with a character that I am fond of. I thought I would include it on this list because I always struggle to get rid of it.

9) Lachesis. LV 53
Weak: Electricity
Null: Ice
Strong: Wind
Moves: Tetraja, Elec Wall, Growth 2, Sharp Student, Trigger Happy, Maeiha, Makouga, Mabufula

Lachesis is a persona I was not very fond of during my first playthrough; although back then, I did not use much of the curse or bless skills. However, in my second playthrough, I used Lachesis more than I perhaps care to admit. Lachesis is the type of Persona that you use to get a quick and easy All-Out Attack. She stayed in my active persona list until close to the very end of the game, because if anything, she is convenient. I was heavily Curse/Bless based in my second playthrough (as I am sure you will be able to tell by the rest of this list), so it was often more efficient to use Lachesis to get All-Out Attacks, rather than using a stronger Persona and wasting SP to get virtually the same effect.

8) Unicorn. LV 51
Weak: Curse
Null: Bless, Ice
Strong: Psychokinesis
Moves: Garula, Hamaon, Dekunda, Maragion, Matarunda, Fire Boost, Samarecarm, Kouga

I worked hard to fuse Unicorn as soon as possible in my first playthrough. It was possibly the only Persona that I saw in the Velvet Room and got excited about. I actually grinded for the first time just to make Unicorn, which is the main reason that it is on this list. Unicorn made me excited to fuse Personas, which is vital for the next few Personas.

7) Black Frost. LV 75
Repel: Curse, Fire
Nul: Nuclear
Drains: Ice
Moves: Mabufudyne. One-Shot Kill, Miracle Punch, Diamond Dust, Life Drain, Megaton Raid, Freeze Boost, Ice Amp

So, a little backstory: Persona 5 was the first JRPG I completed, and the first game that I finished that had New Game Plus. My partner had completed it a while before me, but as soon as I started my New Game Plus file, he asked what Personas I was going to bring back. I was beyond excited for this and thought of two instantly. Black Frost was one of them. You see, in Shido’s palace, King Frost made my life a living hell. I am pretty sure that I cried because King Frost killed me multiple times. Fusing Black Frost was so satisfying because I had to get King Frost and destroy it for Black Frost. Black Frost just worked well for me. It was cute and strong, and I just liked having it on my active Persona list.

6) Kali. LV 77
Null: Fire
Strong: Curse
Repel: Psychokinesis
Moves: Vorpal Blade, Psiodyne, Tentarafoo, Agidyne, One-Shot Kill, Heat Wave, Cripple, Matarukaja

Kali is one of the creepiest looking Personas, in my opinion. I initially created it because I know someone called Cali, and she wanted me to do it. But Kali is strong and powerful. During the last fight of the game, Kali was actually one of my strongest Personas; it was not through hard work either, because I created Kali very close to the end of the game. Kali also looks interesting. Looks are not usually important in regards to a Persona, but usually when a Persona looks interesting, it makes me want to try it out to see what it can do.

5) Seth. LV 66
Weak: Bless
Null: Wind
Repel: Fire
Moves: One-Shot Kill, Agidyne, High Counter, Kougaon, Megido, Spirit Drain, Psiodyne, Cripple

Seth. Seth is beautiful. I love Seth so much. At first, I was excited because Seth reminded me of Red-Eyes Black Dragon from Yu-Gi-Oh, which is a card played by one of my favourite characters in the original show. However, I use Seth a ridiculous amount considering other Personas could probably do the same thing for less SP (or at least early on in my New Game + playthrough). Seth is obviously all well and good during your first playthrough when you have a decent amount of SP to use the moves that require SP. New Game + hit me hard when I used Agidyne once in Kamoshida’s palace and instantly ran out of SP. I learnt quickly that for me, Seth’s best moves are Spirit Drain (I live by that move, and no one can convince me that it is not useful) and One-Shot Kill. Both of these can be used throughout all of the game in New Game +, so it is super helpful. And yes, Spirit Drain is probably the main reason Seth is so good in my eyes but oh well.

4) Bugs. LV 56
Strong: Psychokinetic
Weak: Nuclear
Moves: Miracle Punch, Masukunda, Psiodyne, Samarecarm, Mabaisudi, Rising Slash, Diamond Dust, Auto Mataru

Confession time, here’s what I’ve got- I’m Welsh. I was beyond terrified of Bugs as a kid. I remember my school teachers telling me stories, and I had literal nightmares about Bugs. So to say I put off making Bugs is a slight understatement. I told myself that I would not finish the Strength confidant because I just could not make myself to make something as revolting as Bugs. Yes, I know I have a problem. But regardless of this problem, I tackled it head-on because I wanted to make Alice when I got Takemi to rank ten and I was nowhere near the level I needed to be, so the only other alternative was getting Justine and Caroline to rank 10, and I was not far off so I said “screw it” and went for it. I am beyond glad that I did. Do you have any idea how good it feels to destroy shadows with something you are afraid of? It feels good. Real good. I love using Bugs now. Bugs also makes me feel more at ease with not having Morgana on my team because it has the move Samarecarm, which is so good, and no one will be able to convince me otherwise.

3) Satanael.

Okay, so this one is a bit of an odd one because obviously, I have not put the moves, but there is a reason for that! Satanael is obviously a fantastic Persona that a lot of people wish to get (let’s pretend it is not just to get that shiny Platinum trophy). However, the main reason I put Satanael on this list is because Joker’s second awakening is impressive, for lack of better words. Considering each and every one of the other phantom thieves can possibly have a second awakening before Joker, it needed to be dramatic and at the right time, as well as more powerful than all the other Personas that Joker can make. It is all of those things. Joker’s second awakening is at the perfect time, and it is precisely what you would expect, but more. I cannot express how perfect Satanael is for Joker’s second awakening. So, Satanael is one of my favourite Personas because of Joker’s second awakening more than because of the Persona itself.

2) Satan. LV 98
Strong: Gunshot
Repel: Ice, Curse
Moves: Diamond Dust, Ice Age, Regenerate 3, Spirit Drain, Makarakarn, Drain Ice, Black Viper, Invigorate 3

Satan is the most terrifying Persona in the compendium, and I love it. Obviously, anything with Black Viper is going to be great, but Satan having Ice Age is even greater, as even Yusuke does not have Ice Age. Using Satan will give you a feeling of all-powerfulness, no matter what level you are. I often combine him with Alice (concentrate) to make Black Viper super effective no matter what enemy you come across. Spirit Drain is always a bonus. I will always, always, always pick to give a Persona Spirit Drain because I just find it so useful. Even when you are going up against powerful enemies, most of the time, Joker can just use Spirit Drain on his turn and have the rest of the party deal with the enemies.

1) Alice. LV 84
Weak: Bless
Strong: Psychokinesis, Nuclear
Repel: Curse
Moves: Megidolaon, Mudo Boost, Dekunda, Eigaon, Concentrate, Curse Amp, Evade Bless, Die For Me!

I was going to put Alice a bit further up the list – number 3, actually – because although useful, her best skill is undoubtedly one that cannot be used against bosses, which is such a shame (but seriously understandable). I actually did not have Alice when I started this list (same for Satan), but when researching, I discovered that I really really wanted them both. Alice was the one Persona that I absolutely needed. Die For Me! Is, what I consider to be, the best move in the game. The animation is amusing, and also creepy if you think about it too much; it hardly ever fails (I don’t believe it has ever entirely failed for me); it’s just fun to use. Whenever I use it, I feel so powerful and evil, and it’s just fun to use. The only major downside is that no matter what level you are, you really cannot justify 44 SP over and over again. Personally, I use it for big groups of Personas or King Frost (see the reason I like Black Frost for clarification). Alice is also useful for getting rid of groups of Personas as she had moves like Megidolaon, which is great but should never be used on one single enemy. Concentrate should not be looked over either. I used it during Shido’s boss fight, and it was beneficial when severe moves were only doing around 190 (it increased it to 500+). I was thinking about putting Alice third on this list because despite her being fun to use, she has her limits. But then I got reminded that this is not ‘Top 10 Best Personas’, it is my Top 10 Favourite Personas. Alice is my favourite Persona to use. This list, in general, changes a lot. Shiisaa, for example, was a Persona that I held on to until the bitter end of my first playthrough. However, Alice has solidly held the top spot since I fused her.

With the release of Persona 5: Royal on the 31st March, it will be interesting to look back and see if this list has drastically changed or not. There may be another list similar to this in a few months, which will be an update from Persona 5: Royal, but I highly doubt that Alice will not be at that number one spot. That being said, that spot was once held by Seth, and he is pretty far up, so I guess we will have to wait and see!

What ‘Until Dawn’ teaches about mental health, and why it is important.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR UNTIL DAWN (2014).

Until Dawn is a psychological horror game, with emphasis on the psychological part. This article will discuss what this game teaches its audience about mental health illnesses, and why this is important. Mental illness is shown primarily through the character of Josh Washington, the elder brother of twins Hannah and Beth Washington, who go missing at the beginning of the game. This game is broken up by therapy sessions, although it is not immediately apparent who the player is playing as during these sessions. Josh, also known as The Psycho, is the only character who is not able to be rescued at the end of the night; either dying or turning into a Wendigo.

The first appearance of Josh in Until Dawn was when he was unconscious, presumably from drinking too much alcohol. He is at the lodge with the others and is downstairs in the kitchen when the player first gets to move around as Beth. The second appearance is when the player starts noticing that something isn’t right.  In a cutscene, you see Josh in a video on Sam’s phone. It’s like a welcome back video, as the group is returning to the lodge one year after Hannah and Beth go missing. Josh is very clearly excited about this, but it is easy to get a gut feeling that something isn’t right with Josh, right from the beginning. He’s trying too hard. It’s almost like he is working too hard to be happy. Out of everyone in the group, Josh would have had it the hardest during the past year. He was the older brother of Hannah and Beth. He was likely held responsible for their disappearances by their parents because he was meant to be looking after his sisters while they were at the lodge. More importantly, Josh likely held himself responsible. If he hadn’t drunk so much alcohol that he passed out, he might have been able to prevent them from running off. He might have been able to comfort Hannah instead of her running off, which would have also prevented Beth running off. He might have been able to catch up to Hannah before Beth did, and therefore talk sense into her. Josh probably felt a lot of guilt regarding the situation, which is why this video is so off-putting. He seems overly happy, overly excited. There is something off, but it is challenging to work out what with the limited information available at the time.

Skipping forward a little bit, the big (immediate) issue that the group face during this horror night is The Psycho. He is the secondary antagonist that taunts the group, psychologically torturing each and every one of them. The group are led to believe that this guy is the one who killed Hannah and Beth a year ago, and now he was back to get the rest of them. His first kill is Josh, which makes the idea of this murderer being back for more even more likeable because the first person he goes after is Hannah and Beth’s older brother. Josh gets cut in half in front of Chris and Ashley. At this point, The Psycho is torturing Chris, making him pick between his best friend and love interest, and then just killing his best friend regardless. So, Josh is dead.

Until he isn’t, of course, because in a shocking turn of events, Josh is actually The Psycho. He means well, but his friends do not see it that way, probably because of the whole psychological torture process that Josh made them endure. Josh explains that he had a plan, that he was filming the entire thing and was going to upload it online to make the group famous. His friends were less than impressed at his plan, and at this point, the player realises that there is something psychologically wrong with Josh because he just tortured – and depending on how you play the game, caused the death of – the people who were meant to be his friends. It was all for some video that might not even go viral.

So, let us dig deeper into Josh’s head.

Remi Malek, who portrays Joshua through voice acting and motion capture, states that Josh’s original reason for inviting everyone back a year after the disappearance of Hannah and Beth is so that everyone could get a little bit of closure. His intentions were always good.

Looking at the psychiatric report that can be found by Sam, you can see that Josh has suffered from mental illness since he was a child. He had been on many different medications to treat the same thing- depression. Looking further down, it is shown that Josh was referred to Dr Hill as he was at risk of suicide after the disappearance of Hannah and Beth. He was put under observation and then treated with medications. Dr Hill believed that Josh needed a higher than the normal dose to see improvement. But there is a much bigger issue here that this game touches on quite well, and that is how medical professionals treat mental illness.  

This is not to say that medical professionals fail because of something on their behalf. The issue with mental illness is that no one knows how to treat it efficiently. People, especially children, in treatment (such as therapy) know that their treatment is not working, but feel they cannot speak out for two reasons. The first reason is that it is meant to work. Treatments such as CBT and antidepressants are intended to work and expected to work. When these treatments do not work, the patient is often left feeling like they are too sick for treatment. The second reason patients with mental illness do not feel able to speak out is because they are unable to offer an alternative. As a whole, people who are mentally ill do not know what kind of treatment or support that they need, similarly to people who are physically sick. They rely on professionals. With physical illness, the goal is typically to fix the symptoms. Some doctors treat mental illness this way as well, especially due to mental illness being linked to physical symptoms. However, this is also the route that antidepressants take. They balance out the chemicals in the brain, but at the end of the treatment, the patient still has depression.

Let’s take a further look at Josh’s medical records. Joshua had been seeking treatment since 2006, when he would have been 10 or 11. He was a child. He was also put on antidepressants around this time. Antidepressants are typically not used in children or teenagers (below the age of 18) due to the risk of suicide or self-harm that may be caused by the medication for this group age. However, exceptions are made after the patient has already tried therapies (such as CBT) and have been unresponsive. The question that needs to be asked is: was Josh under some kind of therapy before he was put on antidepressants when he was a child? The short answer is, we do not know. However, it is unlikely. He was referred to Jeremy Harris on 11th June 2006. He was then put on antidepressants on the 18th June 2006, just a week later. It is improbable that in this time, they tried some kind of therapy and decided that Josh was unresponsive to the treatment. According to ABC News, one in ten Americans over the age of twelve are taking antidepressants. Yet, less than one-third of these patients are seeing a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or therapist.

The problem with taking antidepressants without some kind of therapy is that it does not solve the problem, it just hinders the symptoms to make depression easier to cope with. Let’s put this in a physical condition situation. Let’s imagine you have a headache. You take a pain killer (paracetamol, for example), and the pain goes away for a little bit. This is a repeated occurrence. You go to the doctor because you’ve had this headache almost non-stop for a few months by this point. It’s easy to tell that there is something else wrong. Something is causing those headaches. Paracetamol is not enough to fix the cause of the issue. Similarly, antidepressants are not enough to fix depression. It merely suppresses the symptoms of depression. This can be fine for people who are having depressive episodes, but depression itself is not that easy to solve. It is an illness. It is not just going to pass by.

Depression is often caused by (as well as other things, including genetics) environmental factors. This is why therapy is so vital to the recovery of those patients who have depression. While undergoing therapy, patients are able to establish a different way of thinking about negative situations in their lives, as well as being able to express how they are feeling about these situations (that being said, there are many types of therapies that work in different ways). It helps to heal the problem rather than suppressing the symptoms like antidepressants.

Next, let’s talk about why some people would want to go on antidepressants and the symptoms of depression itself. This will help us better understand Josh’s situation. Depression is not just being sad all of the time. More than that, it is feeling numb. It’s not feeling anything, despite knowing that you are meant to. It is looking at your parents and saying “I love you” because that is what you are expected to do, not because you feel that way. There sometimes comes a point when you have depression that days blur into each other, you sleep through most things, you are constantly sick, and you isolate yourself. The physical symptoms of depression include insomnia, headaches, and stomach aches. These things, although happen to everyone, can be debilitating. For example, having a headache for every day for a month will eventually lead to symptoms such as nausea. Insomnia, or struggling to sleep in general, can worsen the mood of someone, making them more irritable. However, it can also shorten someone’s concentration, making them less likely to be able to do their daily tasks up to their usual standard. Experiencing just one of these symptoms every day for a long time can be worrying, but also frustrating as it does get in the way of everyday life. If the doctors put Josh on antidepressants a mere week after first being seen regarding mental illness, it would be wise to assume that Josh had more than one symptom, and was experiencing them quite severely. As for therapy, Josh may have experienced therapy alongside taking his medication.

However, the most likely answer is that he was put on a waitlist for some kind of therapy and while waiting, the medical professionals thought that it would be best to attempt to reduce Josh’s symptoms to help him handle day to day life a little better. Unfortunately, a child suffering from depression is not uncommon; rather, the opposite. Medical professions should act forcefully when treating a child with depression due to the high risk of suicide. Children are often more pressed with the ideologies of social groups, school work, and growing up in general. As adults, it is easy to forget how hard all these things were at the time because they seem easy to deal with in adulthood. However, for a child dealing with depression, dealing with social pressures is extremely difficult. Adults often dismiss the feelings of children who are struggling, as they feel like they had gone through the same thing and what they are going through is small in comparison to real-world problems. They often forget that children do not have to deal with real-world issues, and therefore they have nothing to compare this negative situation to. It may feel like the end of the world to them, and depression can cause these thoughts to turn suicidal. This is why it is so important for doctors to put children in therapy. However, this creates an issue in terms of waiting lists. There are not enough therapists around to have sessions with all the children that need it. In America and other places without free healthcare, there is also the worry of cost. Parents are sometimes hesitant to send their children to therapy as it costs significantly more than medication, and they often do not understand that their child needs therapy. The most likely case for Joshua, as stated above, is that he was put on a waitlist during this time, and his antidepressant medication is merely to help with the symptoms.

So far, the main topic of this post has been focused on Joshua’s psychiatric report. Next, the discussion is momentarily directed to the therapy sessions that break up the game a little. The player plays through these sessions as Josh, as he talks to Dr Hill about the game that he intends to play on his friends. Dr Hill questions the root of Josh’s anxieties, asks which friend he likes least and most; overall, it seems pretty basic. It is evident that this is the way that the game finds out what you are scared of, and which characters you like least or most. It is a horror game. It is meant to make the player uncomfortable. However, the main thing that needs to be addressed here is that the therapy sessions are not advanced enough to be helpful, due to the short amount of time that they take up. This reflects how many people find therapy unhelpful for (typically) one or two reasons. One being the lack of time spent there, and the other being that what the therapist directs the conversation to is irrelevant to the problems at hand. Both of these issues will be addressed.

All the scenes with Dr Hill take roughly 20 minutes, perhaps a bit longer or shorter depending on how quickly you answer the questions. There are 10 Chapters in Until Dawn. Each chapter takes roughly an hour, depending on how you play the game. Twenty minutes for ten chapters mean 2 minutes for each chapter (approximately). This is 2 minutes with a character that is meant to be helping you through the game. This is a refreshingly realistic aspect of the game, although exaggerated. The majority of patients seeing a therapist see them either once a week, or once every two weeks. This changes depending on different things, such as the patient’s financial situation, the patient’s and therapist’s availability, and if the therapist thinks the patient needs more or less time.

Taking the best-case scenario of the majority, the once a week arrangement, that means that the patient would be seeing their therapist for one or two hours out of 168 hours. That means that a lot is going on in the patient’s life that will probably not get discussed due to more pressing issues. Despite Josh’s therapy sessions in Until Dawn being hallucinations, it is still a good insight as to how therapy works. In the prologue, Dr Hill asks you how you feel about a scarecrow image. He asks if it makes you uncomfortable, would you want to stay in the place, even if it was haunted, those types of questions. They seem irrelevant, but they’re not. This allows the therapist to understand how the patient thinks more.

The second session, at the end of the first chapter, is a lot more direct. The game gives the player a choice of two things, and the player is asked which scares them the most out of the two. According to Dr Hill, it is to understand the root of anxieties. However, remembering that the patient in question here is Joshua, it becomes clearer what is going on. Josh does not have anxiety. He has depression. Therefore, these questions are meaningless and a waste of time to him. This is not helping him get better as he does not need help with his anxiety. He has 1-2 hours to talk about what is making him depressed (likely the disappearance of his younger sisters at this point), but his therapist would rather ask him about what scares him. Not what makes him sad or angry or upset. Not why he is depressed. But what scares him. This is something that is entirely irrelevant to Josh’s situation. This aspect of the game teaches players that therapy sessions for those who need it are short and sometimes unhelpful.

Now, the main event. Josh’s hallucination in Chapter 10. This particular part of the game is terrifying yet refreshingly realistic. This hallucination helps the player understand a little bit more about why Josh did what he did. It becomes very evident that Joshua is not well. Hallucinations can happen to anyone, on any scale. However, it is highly suggested that Joshua suffers from a mental illness called schizophrenia. This is not his imagination; it is not him being tired; it is a mental illness that affects a lot of people. As someone who has psychosis, I saw this scene and felt reassured that the Until Dawn team did their research. I hallucinate daily, and it does get that bad, and it is that scary, even if you deal with it every day.

Joshua is terrified in this scene, and it is heartbreaking to watch.  Joshua needs help. One thing that is often pointed out on the internet is that depression was not Josh’s biggest problem, but schizophrenia was; that he should have been on medication for schizophrenia instead of depression. However, antipsychotics have a lot of side effects, and they are often more severe than antidepressants. There is also the issue of since Josh has been on antidepressants for so long, there may be side effects to him coming off them and starting a new medication. Of course, he could have taken both antipsychotic and antidepressant; however, mixing these two drugs may not always be beneficial. The point also needs to be made that Josh had been on several different antidepressants. They all have different side effects, and it is important for antidepressants to get into your system to have a stable effect. If there is a lack of stability in terms of antidepressants, there is a risk of there being a negative reaction if the antipsychotics are also taken. It is also important to remember that schizophrenia can develop slowly, and often in the teenage years. Josh was already being seen by a mental health professional at this time, and we know this because of his psychiatric report. It is sometimes complicated for medical professionals to pick up on new symptoms that a current patient is developing, even more so due to it developing during the teenage years. Josh is 20 during the game. Some people still count this as being a teenager; however, with the recent events of the disappearance of Hannah and Beth, it would be understandable if the doctors wanted to focus on his depression, rather than looking into new symptoms.

In conclusion, Until Dawn teaches the player a lot about mental illness and how it affects the person who is struggling with it. The scene in which Joshua has a hallucination, you can see how scared he is. It is not clear as to if Joshua has experienced this before, but regardless, it shows that even people who (potentially) have this happen every day can still be scared. Joshua’s changes in medication show that nothing is set in stone. In regards to how quickly Joshua was put on medication, it shows that therapy is not always an option at first and that sometimes it is better to treat the symptoms of mental illness rather than not treating it at all. It was likely difficult to diagnose Joshua with schizophrenia due to both the age he was when he started getting medical treatment. Because of the age, his symptoms likely first started- his teenage years. After the disappearance of Hannah and Beth, it would be understandable for the doctors to focus on Joshua’s depression. Above everything else, Until Dawn teaches the player that mental illness is a scary thing to go through and that treatment is not as simple as just going to therapy or just taking medication; it teaches the player that people with mental illness need help, because they are not okay, which seems obvious but due to stigma surrounding mental illness, it is not.

And why is this so important? Because this game is scarily realistic in terms of Joshua’s mental health. This stuff happens to real people on a daily basis. Mistreatment and misunderstanding lead to patient’s mental illnesses becoming worse; however, that is somehow unavoidable. We know Josh is getting treatment, yet his mental health is still extremely hindered due to misunderstanding and mistreatment.

'This War of Mine' (2016)- Game Review

Sound:

The sound in This War of Mine reflects the point of the game. It is gloomy, slow and reflects the ominous atmosphere. It doesn’t have cheery, upbeat music that people associate games with because the game is not cheery at all. This War of Mine is a game that resembles war in the way that war should be mirrored (accurately) and the sound in this game reflects that.

In terms of action sound effects, this game does a great job. When the character speeds up, the sound effects adjust accordingly in terms of both speed and volume. Attention is drawn to this as there is no voice acting, and the music is repetitive, so any changes to the sound are noticeable.

There are some points in this game where sound effects would be beneficial; something that was profoundly missed, however, was voice over. There was an issue with graphics that will be discussed later, but voice-over could have very easily made this problem not an issue.

Rate: 6/10

Graphics:

This game resembles the mobile game Fallout Shelter in the way that it looks. It has a side view of houses, similar to the side view of the Fallout Shelter vaults. There was plenty on the screen, and due to the side view, most of the time, you knew where you were going and what needed to be done.

As for the characters themselves, they looked good. Their movements were smooth, and you could sometimes tell when they were tired because they would slouch and move slower. The characters all look distinct enough so that you could easily tell them apart during a first playthrough. The characters glitch a little bit when they interact with each other; this is not often, so it is not something that happens all the time, and even then, it is optional.

The biggest issue I had with the graphics in This War of Mine was the writing on the character profiles. Regardless of how big the screen you play on, the writing is too small to be legible. This makes the game itself more challenging to play, and this issue – as previously mentioned – could have very easily been solved with voice over. This is not an issue if you sit very close to the screen, but it is still a difficulty that could have been easily solved, even with just changing the font.

Rate: 4/10

Gameplay:

This game is set to take part in the middle of a war, so the main point of the entire game is survival. This game does not make that easy at all.

The game isn’t challenging in terms of surviving. It is more frustrating that you are unable to get the items to protect yourself by scavenging in the safer places, in order to build weapons to go to the more dangerous areas. Things such as food and bandages are tough to come across in safe places, and you are fortunate to get enough items to make something as necessary as a lockpick to look around the house you are staying in, never mind somewhere that you need to go scavenging through.

This game is hard. You have to make difficult choices, sometimes that leave people dead. But overall, especially in the day, there is not a lot to do gameplay-wise. Sometimes you get to make something (that doesn’t take up a lot of the day, and with three characters, there’s always something else you could be doing), sometimes you can cook something. The daytime is the part of the game that drags, which is disappointing because the risks taken during the night-time are to make the daytime better.

This War Of Mine feels like it had the chance to do something amazing, to teach people a lot about war beyond the military stance that shooters tend to take, and it just missed the mark in terms of gameplay. There feels like something is missing, like you should be able to do more. Perhaps when attempting to recreate the dreariness of wartime, 11 bit studios forgot that this is also a game.

As for the controls, they are sometimes a bit temperamental. For PlayStation 4, you have to use the right stick to move, just like usual. However, this game would have benefitted more by perhaps using the D-Pad to move due to the layout of the game.

Rate: 6/10

Replay Value:

This game is one of the games, similar to Until Dawn and Life Is Strange 2, that replaying the game would give you a different result each time that you play. Therefore, it does have replay value. However, this game starts off slow and therefore, may be frustrating to play more than once.  

Rate: 9/10

Story:

Slight spoilers, but every story is different.

This War of Mine is set during some kind of war. The characters you start with have journals that you can read (again, please remember the issue with the writing mentioned in the graphics session). Each day, you do things as the characters; each night, you go scavenging, or sleep, or guard the house.

The best part of this game is when the character is sent to go scavenging. You can meet vulnerable people, such as hungry, homeless people or elderly sick people, or dangerous people who will try to kill you. When the night is over, the characters sometimes update their journals so that the player has some kind of insight into the character’s thoughts and emotions.  

The characters are vital to this story. Their relationship is shown through the knowledge that each of them knows (as it shows that they talk about and share what happened during the night). When someone dies, the characters can become depressed.

A radio can be made to give the player more of an insight into the world that the game is set in. This can be anything from warning about dodgy meat being sold, to the weather. It may not be valuable information, but it is a good insight into the world in general as it shows what people believe is necessary enough to report on.

There are also ‘outside characters’ that are apart of the story. As the game goes on, they keep popping up, and it feels like ‘your actions will have consequences’ is vital at these points. For example, if you steal from someone, they may not survive.

Rate: 6/10

Opinion:

I did a total U-turn with this game, and I really hope that this is the only part of this review that you can tell that. I hated this game. I wanted so badly to like it but got easily frustrated. After writing this review, I felt like it deserved another shot. I did not want to be overly negative about a game, especially if it did not deserve it. And this game really did not deserve the negativity I gave it.

There is an issue with the graphics, but that is nothing new. This game is different from the ones I usually play. But I am so glad that I gave it another go because once I did, I enjoyed it significantly more.

This actually taught me a lot about myself as a gamer; I am too stubborn, and I should definitely give more games more of a chance. It makes me wonder how many games I have claimed to dislike but just have not given enough of a chance.

In conclusion, this game is interesting. It is hard to take seriously as a console game. The resemblance to Fallout Shelter is strong. It may have been better suited to a mobile game. That being said, it is fun after the first couple of days. I started having fun when I stopped taking it seriously, which is a little strange for a survival game set in wartime.

TLDR: This is a fun game with some issues, but overall good. Just do not take it too seriously, and you should have a good time.

Overall Rate: 6/10

What Life Is Strange Teaches us about child grooming.

IMPORTANT: Spoilers for all episodes of the original Life Is Strange game.
DISCLAIMER: These ‘kids’ are 17/18, so technically they are adults. However, I class it as child grooming as they are still students.

Life Is Strange is a hard-hitting episodic game that came out in 2015. It contains five episodes that focus on protagonist Max Caufield, who has the new-found ability of time travel. It sounds fun. It is fun.  However, it definitely has a dark side. The game features drugging, potential suicide, and more importantly, to this article, child grooming. Although Max was part of the child grooming, the focus on this article will primarily be based on two other characters: Nathan Prescott and Victoria Chase.

Victoria Chase is the Heather Chandler/ Regina George of Life Is Strange. She is 100% the stereotypical mean girl in every single way. She’s mean (obviously), rich, and an all-around awful person. Victoria is the kind of person that friendly people go out of their ways to ignore actively. Throughout the game, she definitely goes through some changes. She softens up by Episode 4, which is where the metaphorical bomb drops. You see, Victoria is also a major suck up to her photography teacher, Mark Jefferson. She even goes as far as to flirt with him, trying to get her entry to the competition to win the top prize (which it does). She is seen talking to him several times throughout the game, the first one being in the classroom at the end of the lesson in Episode 1, where she gets annoyed at Max for interrupting their conversation. It is relatively obvious to the player that Victoria admires her teacher. As Victoria is a typical ‘queen bee’, you can imagine that her respect is hard to earn.
Victoria’s parents own a gallery, and throughout the game, you learn that Victoria is trying to get her work to be displayed in art galleries (and is currently failing to do so). She has all the most expensive equipment and is even looking into buying a 3D printer, but she feels sub-par in comparison to Max, which is likely why she treats the protagonist so poorly. She is desperate to win the ‘everyday heroes’ contest in order to get some kind of recognition in the industry. She even flirts with Jefferson and threatens him to tell everyone that he offered to let her win ‘for a favour… or something’, indirectly saying that she would lie and get him fired, telling everyone that they pursued a sexual relationship.

Okay, let’s move on slightly and talk about the ‘dark room’. We will return to Victoria, all in good time. So, the ‘dark room’ is a place owned by the Prescott family. There will be much more on them later. Still, all you really need to know right now is that they are a very wealthy family who basically owns Arcadia Bay, and Nathan (who is very important to this whole situation) is, in fact, a Prescott. The ‘dark room’ is located in the Prescott bunker, and it’s decked out in everything to survive a Zombie apocalypse. The bunker itself is located underneath a very old, run-down barn that Max and Chloe (Max’s best friend) find after doing a lot of detective work. They didn’t initially know that the Prescott family owned it, but when they found a bunch of documents showing how much the Prescott family has done for Arcadia Bay, it was evident who this barn belonged to. Max looked around the barn while Chloe looked through a chest full of documentation. After a little bit of work, Max finds and opens the bunker, which is very clearly brand new.
This bunker can be different to get into, and the player will need to do a few time rewinds before getting there, but it is worth it. It is absolutely laced with evidence, all pointing directly at Nathan Prescott. Nathan was not the nicest person in the game, so the protagonists were already highly critical of him while stumbling across all of this stuff. The further they get into the bunker, the creepier it gets. Top of the range equipment? Yeah, that’s fine, I mean, he is a photography student. Throughout the game, you get the general vibe that Nathan Prescott is an entitled brat who hasn’t learnt right from wrong yet. The bunker is definitely shady from the get-go, and the more evidence you find that stacks up against Nathan, the more you begin to worry about the actions that he has taken, and exactly what he uses this room for.
Then you find the folders. They are these red folders with names of girls written on them. Two names immediately attract the player, and those names are ‘Kate Marsh’ and ‘Rachel Amber’. These names stick out as they are basically the main reason you were doing all of the super-secret detective work in the first place. Kate Marsh had either just committed suicide or, if you are lucky and managed to convince her not to jump, she had just attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of the Blackwell dormitories; Rachel Amber is Chloe’s entire motivation for pretty much everything in this game. She had gone missing before the game begins, but you get the sense that there is definitely something more going on as the game constantly throws her missing posters in your face. In these folders, you find images of the girl that corresponds to the folder. The photography shows each girl in vulnerable positions, looking spaced out and in some cases, scared. It was very suspicious, but it only gets worse from this point on. There is one particular photograph of Rachel Amber, who was Chloe’s ‘angel’, in which she is posing with Nathan Prescott in a location that Chloe immediately recognises as the junkyard that she used to hang out with Rachel in (she also took Max there in an earlier episode). They quickly go to this particular spot, and it does not end well in any way possible.
Rachel Amber is buried in the junkyard. The smell is repulsive. Chloe is traumatised after digging up the body of her best friend/lover after believing that she was just missing for six months.
So, Chloe is understandably furious at this point, so the duo run off to find who they think is guilty of murdering Rachel- Nathan. Only he’s nowhere to be seen. Flashforward, they go back to check that Rachel’s body is still there and Max gets drugged, and Chloe gets shot. I know what you’re thinking- ‘dang that Nathan kid needs to calm down!’. Yeah, that’s pretty much what everyone was thinking at this point. And everyone was wrong. It is then revealed seconds later that the person who shot – and essentially just killed – Chloe was not Nathan Prescott, but in fact one Mr Mark Jefferson, the famous photography teacher.

The gamer is ultimately confused by this because everyone trusted Mark Jefferson. He was a teacher, a famous photographer. He was well known, well-liked. He was trusted. So what are you meant to think?

Informally, I would easily say that Mark Jefferson is the biggest pile of revolting trash in any video game ever (slight exaggeration because Kamoshida from Persona 5 exists, but Jefferson is definitely a close second). Formally, I would say that his character shows off some fantastic writing from the team, and I applaud them for making such an obviously shady character and disguising him in plain sight. At the end of this game, emotions were high, but one thing I could not deny is how well this part of the story was written. It is threaded secretly throughout the game, so going back to do a second playthrough leaves you slightly uncomfortable for the entire game at worst, but absolutely ranging at best. Plain and straightforward, Jefferson is a creep. Going back, it’s obvious, and the game is desperate to make you realise this.
After spending a bit of time in the dark room, Max has a nightmare where you are forced to go through the first class again. And that is pretty much when you realise how unobservant you were throughout the entire playthrough. The game literally throws it in your face. Jefferson says this within the first half an hour of the game:

“Seriously, though, I could frame any one of you in a dark corner,

and capture you in a moment of desperation.”

Every single inch of that screams that he’s a creep, right? But it goes completely unnoticed until later on in the game, until after you find a dead girl, your best friend has been shot by this guy, and you have been drugged and kidnapped. He said this in a class full of kids, most of whom looked up to him. Everyone seemed to admire him for this. He is one of the best photographers around, and everyone loves his work. This work is a result of drugging all of these poor girls. This work is the result of grooming, in more ways than what is immediately evident.

Going back to Victoria Chase, the winner of the ‘Everyday Heroes’ competition and if you’re not careful, the girl who ends up on the floor next to Max in the Dark Room. This was hinted at previously in the game because you find an empty folder with Victoria’s name on it. Still, since you assume that Nathan was behind all of this, you don’t think much about Victoria’s relationship with Jefferson. After all, Nathan and Victoria seem pretty close. They share emails, hang out together, and it is pretty apparent that they are friends. When you think of Victoria’s relationship with Jefferson, however, it goes a little bit deeper. Victoria is seen continuously flirting with Jefferson, and he seemingly pushes away her advances. However, it is also important to remember the one scene where Victoria and Jefferson can be seen together pretty late at night when no one else is in the school. This suggests that Jefferson went out of his way to help Victoria; to make her feel special. Anything could have happened during this time. They were alone. But from their dialogue and considering they had no idea that Max and Chloe were peaking around, it has to be assumed that they were genuinely working on Victoria’s photography work. Jefferson is an established, well-known photographer, after all. That would make sense. But what doesn’t make sense is why they would be staying behind so late. The player knows that no one else is in the school because they go into the school after Jefferson and Victoria. The only person they could potentially get caught by is the school’s security guard, David. So why were they staying behind so late? Although when they are outside of the school, Victoria does make a comment about spreading a rumour, the timing of this situation suggests something slightly different. Jefferson is grooming Victoria. He is slowly gaining her trust, bit by bit. Helping her with her portfolio after hours, announcing her as the winner of the everyday hero competition, going out of his way to help her. Kati Morton explains in 7 stages of grooming by a sexual predator that the predator – Jefferson – could slowly gain the trust of their victim by offering their help. Then they become essential as the predator fulfils a need by giving advice. Victoria is undeniably Jefferson’s next Dark Room victim, yet this argument still feels weak. Jefferson is a teacher. He is meant to help his students, after all. The most substantial bit of evidence here is that Jefferson and Victoria were together, alone, very late at night. But even then, they were still at school, and somewhere Victoria felt safe. It’s not like Jefferson asked her back to his place. They could have been caught by David, the security guard that was previously mentioned.

There is a strong argument of grooming somewhere else, however. And that somewhere else is Nathan Prescott.

Nathan is a very push and go character of the Life Is Strange franchise. Some love him, and some hate him, some do not have a strong opinion. At the beginning of the game, he shoots Chloe. He is aggressive and very clearly entitled. Nathan’s family rules Arcadia Bay. Above all his other traits, good or bad, he does come off as entitled. He is the Draco Malfoy “my father will hear about this” type of kid. It makes you feel annoyed, and it’s almost like you feel like he deserves terrible things, because he just goes running back to his father whenever anything goes wrong, or he reminds you that his family owns the town whenever you have a disagreement.  You can go through the entire game hating Nathan’s guts, but there’s one part that makes you feel sorry for the guy. In Episode 5, when Max is driving back through the storm, she gets a voice message from Nathan. It is him apologising for hurting everyone, stating that he never wanted to hurt the people he hurt and that Jefferson is coming after him. He also warns Max that Jefferson was going to target Max next. He voice acting in this scene is exceptional, to say the least. The pain in Nathan’s voice is evident. You can tell that this boy is broken; everything he has ever known is wrong. And this is because he was groomed.

The dark room is Prescott owned. It has everything that Mark Jefferson could have ever needed. Supplies to last months, expensive equipment, plenty of storage, and it was in a secure location that was not available to the general public but was easily accessible to him. So, the question that stuck in my mind after playing wasn’t “did I make the right decision regarding Chloe?”. It was “how the hell did Mark Jefferson manage to get on such good terms which a power-hungry family, and put their son in a position that he was able to be framed for Jefferson’s crimes, all while just being a seemingly normal, friendly teacher at Blackwell Academy?”.  

It’s a big question and not one to just throw away. In a game that so openly tackles issues such as suicide, cyberbullying and gun violence, how was this issue hidden for the majority of the game? And how is it so easily explained?

Apart from the obvious answer being good writing on behalf of the team, this is a serious and deep question because this is how grooming happens in real life. This is how awful, predatory people get away with grooming children and their families.

There is an interesting part in the dark room, when Max and Jefferson are talking. Max can accuse Jefferson of using Nathan, as he mentions that the whole set up of the dark room looks like Nathan did it “for homework”. Jefferson’s response to this is quite interesting, as he states that he prefers “the term ‘manipulated’. Like with an image… Nathan’s was easy to twist around”. This is evidence that Nathan had a direct impact on the dark room and that Jefferson got away with this because of the manipulation of Nathan.

Nathan Prescott is mentally ill, undoubtedly. You can easily find a lot of evidence that points to this, such as prescription medication, letters from a doctor etc. He is very clearly unstable, and that instability comes across from the way he acts. Right from the start, in the bathroom in Episode 1, he has to give himself a forced pep talk in the mirror because he knows that Chloe is going to try to walk all over him. Just like Jefferson did… only, Nathan doesn’t see it like that. Nathan believed that Jefferson genuinely cared about him, and the scariest thing about the whole situation is that Jefferson believed in that too. Maybe it started off as something innocent, Jefferson helping Nathan here and there because “he was genuinely talented” but then Nathan’s family got involved, and it suddenly became serious. Maybe as soon as Jefferson met Sean Prescott, he saw the potential for business and for the perfect image he wanted to create, and that is when his desires became distorted. Maybe, just maybe, Mark Jefferson did initially have good intentions.

But that didn’t last. During the same conversation, Jefferson admits to becoming a father figure for Nathan, who’s father (in his words) is “an asshole”, but he only told Nathan what he needed to hear, and because of that, Jefferson had access to the Prescott family’s wealth, which paid for the dark room and all the expensive equipment. In the same conversation, Jefferson refers to Nathan as a “dumbass”, showing the lack of respect that he has for his victim.

Another possible victim of Mark Jefferson that needs to be discussed is the one and only Max Caufield. Yes, the protagonist of this game is not immune to grooming just because she has super cool protagonist powers. Throughout the game, Jefferson has very clearly taken a liking to Max, even calling her back after class to remind her to submit a photo to the contest that he literally told everyone about in class. He is someone that Max admires profusely; it is almost like she wants to be just like him when her career takes off. He is successful in the field that she wants to go into, after all. This would make sense. Jefferson, as mentioned earlier, pointed out that become a father-like figure to his students was something that happened a lot. However, it was not like that with Max. She admired his work more than anything else; there is even a chance that you could tell the principle that he was at fault for Kate Marsh’s suicide. From the evidence available, it is assumed that Victoria has been fully groomed by Jefferson as she is his next dark room victim; Jefferson is slowly grooming Max, who will be his next victim after Victoria.

In conclusion, all of this is subject to interpretation. However, there is evidence to suggest that Mark Jefferson groomed Victoria Chase to become his next dark room victim (and possibly, by extension, each victim before that). There is a substantial amount of evidence that suggests that Mark Jefferson also groomed Nathan Prescott, and perhaps his family (although his family is not shown in this game). Jefferson goes as far as admitting that he manipulated Nathan for his own personal gain. However, as said many times throughout this post, in a game that deals so well with throwing issues such as suicide and violence in your face, this is kept scarily under wraps. There are very subtle hints to this throughout the entire game, and it becomes apparent when Max rewinds time after being in the dark room. The subject of grooming is never really thrown in your face while playing this game, which only makes it more realistic as grooming in real life is hardly noticeable from an outsider standpoint.

Post Explanation

So I thought I would take this time to get everyone familiar with some types of blog posts that you can expect to come along within the next couple of months. These differ (in some cases, drastically) and I do not want to have to put an explanation of a type of post at the top of each post.

Topical Posts: These will be (hopefully) at least 3000 words, and go into detail about something a game teaches you about. An example of this would be Until Dawn and mental illness.

Top 10 Lists: These, I feel, are pretty self explanatory. All opinions are my own; the order of which things are put are opinion based.

Dear Diary: This is the post series that I am probably most excited to do. This will start with Persona 5 Royal. I will be taking notes throughout my playthrough and then after an hour or so, writing diary entries from the perspective of the protagonist. This works well with games like Persona 5, as they have dates (and saving is literally just Joker writing in his diary). After time, this may move on to secondary characters (such as Ryuji and Makoto). This type of post shows my fictional writing skills, and allows me to reflect on my playthrough.

In The Eyes Of A Girlfriend: This is the one that will be much more personal. It doesn’t have to be ‘girlfriend’, it’s more a casual gamer watching a more intense, experience player play a game from the beginning and the whole experience of not completely understanding what is going on but still being interested.

Game Reviews: Again, I believe this is self explanatory. I play a game a little, review what it was like and give you my opinion at the end, with a rating at the end of each section and an overall rating at the end.

I hope this guide was useful for you. There may be more types of posts over time, but these are the ones that are planned as of right now.

-Eleanor

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