It really should go without saying at this point, but spoilers for the previous three episodes. If you haven’t played them, stop reading this and go do that.
The last episode, Chaos Theory ended on a pretty big cliff-hanger; Max altered the timeline to save Chloe’s dad from dying, inadvertently leading to a parallel timeline where Chloe is crippled in a car accident. It was a pretty sweet shock ending, but even at the time I had my doubts about it. This is a game all about player choices making a difference, so you can’t wipe out the last three episodes worth of choices by switching to a parallel universe. As a result, it was pretty damn obvious Max was going to undo this decision. Knowing this, the first big choice that The Dark Room throws at you feels hollow and pointless. No spoilers, but it was supposed to be heavy and moving, but knowing that about two minutes after I made the choice, it would be undone by the plot anyway meant that ultimately, it was all just a big diversion. DONTNOT have tackled a number of pretty heavy issues and they’ve done with an immense level of skill and respect, but it’s always been in the wider context of the plot whereas here it just felt tacked on, like they just needed a cliff-hanger for Chaos Theory and didn’t have anything hugely plot related to fill the gap. With that said, they handle a delicate issue beautifully and a lot of people will appreciate the scene in its own right.
So it’s Return of the Jedi all over again, we have to spend the first few scenes fixing a cliff-hanger from the last episode before we can get on with the actual plot, but once we do get back to the main plot, oh boy what a treat you’re in for. Max and Chloe’s investigations into Rachel Amber’s disappearance come together and this leads to not only some fantastic character and story development, but also the best gameplay that the series has offered up to date. Your investigations lead you to various locations around Arcardia Bay as you collect evidence, before starting up your own little CSI Arcadia to piece all the clues together. And that’s only the start of it, because once you do solve the puzzle, it leads you to The Dark Room. No spoilers of course, but the room is aptly named because from that point on, the story takes a very dark turn. Ashley Burch, the voice actor for Chloe really does knock it out of the park in one of the scenes that follows, delivering on of the most believable performances you’re likely to have heard.
We also get to visit the fabled Vortex Club party and chat with a lot of the series secondary characters. A lot of these conversations seem to suggest this is the last time we’re going to be seeing these characters and as a result, they stuff a little bit much into what should really just be two friends chatting at a party, even with Max knowing what she knows at this point.