It’s been five years since Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment released the original Life is Strange game, which told the heartrendering tale of photography student Max Caulfield, and her attempts to save the lives of everyone around her with her newly discovered ability to rewind time. Spoilers after the track played in one of the endings:
At the end of the game, Max must choose between allowing the death of her childhood friend/secret crush Chloe Price (which she prevented at the start of the week), or allow a tornado created by the constant use of her abilities, to sweep through the town of Arcadia Bay. This dilemma, known by fans as ‘Bay or Bae,’ leads to two drastically different endings, not just in tone, but also runtime: Chloe’s death leads to a lengthy, emotionally satisfying funeral set to the Foals song above, while the ‘Bae’ ending causes a significantly briefer scene of Chloe and Max driving out of the ruined town, into an uncertain future, and ambiguous on whether she made the right choice or not.
The ‘Bae’ ending became the basis of Titan’s Life is Strange comic book series, which explores the idea of Max’s ultimate decision is merely of one of a number of infinite outcomes in the multiverse, where the ‘Bay’ timeline also exists, and Chloe is still with her first — and perhaps greatest — love, Rachel Amber. Life is Strange 2 focuses on the new characters of brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, but if you import a save with the ‘Bae’ ending into your playthrough, you will get some insight into that version of Max’s subsequent life during the fifth episode, when the boys meet Chloe’s stepdad David in the desert.
In his trailer, Sean can observe a photo of Max and Chloe (left) during a recent visit, where we see she has grown out her hair (like Chloe, whose blue dye has turned green). He can also look at some polaroids she took that are pinned to the wall, although not knowing who she is, he assumes those were by David. In stark contrast, if the game is being played with a ‘Bay’ save, then there are no references to Max whatsoever: that version of her presumably lost contact with David after Chloe’s death, and his separation from her mother.
It’s rather peculiar we have no hints regarding ‘Bay’ Max (no pun intended)’s subsequent activities, especially when most players agreed to Chloe’s sacrifice. We can surmise a few things from her alternate self in the sequel and comics though; she may have become an item with Warren Graham; she gets involved in a gallery in New York; and as mentioned above, she loses touch with one of Chloe’s parents, which should come as no surprise given how the game emphasized she’s terrible at keeping in touch with physically distant people (like Chloe after she moved to Seattle).
We can further surmise she would’ve finished Blackwell Academy’s two-year extended senior program in 2015, and moved on elsewhere: perhaps her Nancy Drew-esque experiences would’ve given her a taste for forensic photography, though the trauma she went through may have also led her to photojournalism, since it would mean some less heavy subjects. In any case, she would’ve needed the close support of friends and family to cope with the memories of what she went through: as the comic suggests, she would’ve eventually told someone else about her powers, and the week with Chloe that was erased from history.
It seems Square Enix and Dontnod are wary of the backlash if they release something with Max but not Chloe, although they were happy to do the reverse, and let Deck Nine develop the Chloe-centred prequel game Before the Storm (where Max only appears in the final episode). It’s understandable they may be scared to release a spin-off without Chloe, especially after the divisive response to Life is Strange 2, but Max shouldn’t be defined by just her relationship with Chloe — she has friends and family in Seattle, and she interacts with many other characters during the game.
Personally speaking, before I realized to what extent Life is Strange was a game about Max and Chloe, the most important relationship was that between Max and Kate Marsh, a timid classmate who has become a victim of drugging and cyberbullying, and whose death she must intervene in at the end of the second episode. Unfortunately, since Kate can die, and because budgetary concerns are an issue, she is largely relegated afterwards to a fleeting hospital visit — it’s a shame we never get to see her and Max go to the tea date they agree upon.
Likewise, Max never gets to go to the movies with Warren, thanks to the storm (temporal or otherwise) that engulfs her week. Expanding on Max’s relationships with these characters, and others like (the perpetually unlucky) Alyssa Anderson, or (budding reporter) Juliet Watson, may feel like the stuff fan art and fan fiction is meant for, but regardless, it would be nice to know something canonical about Max after the ‘Bay’ ending.
Perhaps if Life is Strange 3 happens, Max will make an appearance in-person, somewhere where her partner’s absence makes sense ie. separate day jobs, or the developer could justify Chloe’s appearance in only half the playthroughs by having her voice actor, Ashly Burch, play another role— after all, she is a very prolific and versatile actress.
For the record, today is canonically Max’s 25th birthday, and I hope wherever she is, she’s having a good one — given what made her a great protagonist was her ability to reflect the player’s anxieties and moral choices, I imagine she’s safe and well, being responsible, and trying not to allow the crisis of this wretched year to get to her: perhaps she’s even learned how to use her power to fast forward through all this anguish.