Life Is Strange has a charm that is hard to resist. The dialogue never quite manages to achieve believability, but the game's top-notch art direction makes Arcadia Bay an interesting pocket universe to explore. The time reversal mechanic is also full of potential and neatly executed through the game's thoughtful UI.
The great pity is that Lifeless Planet is not entirely without merit—Board has a good eye and ear for aesthetics. He'll make you trudge through a Mars-like landscape for five minutes and then have you turn a corner to find a 1970s-era Brutalist Soviet apartment block. Board loves this Duchamp readymade approach to level decoration, where mundane objects become striking by being dropped into an alien context. The Rich Douglas-composed soundtrack is majestic and mysterious, and Board uses it sparingly to preserve its power to move you. It is genuinely impressive to arrive at a Lifeless Planet vista, received by a stirring musical crescendo. It's a place that deserves a more compelling reason for you to visit it.
Perhaps, like a clever university student sitting an exam he's under-prepared for, Age of Wonders III takes the question of how empires are made and rejects it. With the attention that it lavishes on combat—from the panoply of tactical spells and abilities you can discover to the extraordinary visual detail afforded to even insignificant corners of every battlefield—Age of Wonders seems largely uninterested in the mechanisms of power. It's more focused on the application thereof.