by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
A NORMAL LIFE
I wasn’t sure what to expect when coming into Life is Strange 2, but having played the prequel episode, Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, I felt sure that the story would in some way relate to Chris or his town. So I was surprised when I found myself in Seattle, no longer a young boy, but a Mexican-American teenager, Sean Diaz, on the cusp of graduating high-school. You hang out with your childhood friend, Lyla, chatting shit as teenagers do, though unfortunately that teenage dialogue does still sound like it’s written by old people, but hey, maybe teenagers speak like that now? What do I know? Lyla sets you the task of getting money for weed, drinks and snacks. I really revelled in the task, feeling like maybe a teenage life simulator is the direction Life is Strange 2 should go, but then, inevitably, weird stuff went down. Long story short, Sean and his little brother Daniel find themselves as fugitives, wandering through the backwoods of the state, trying to find safe harbour. This is how episode one, Roads, begins.
This episode is, unsurprisingly, considering the name, about finding direction, both in a literal and metaphoric sense. You look after you little brother, caring for him and trying to teach him, but also balancing that with the harsh reality that you both find yourself in. Your choice is to try and shelter him from that reality, while perhaps inadvertently hurting him, or just literally saying “It’s us vs. the world”. I thought this was a really great direction for the episode and these choices are reflected in that now you can use your brother to interact with objects; discussing them with him, teaching him about them, or asking for his help. Sean and Chris find themselves in a pretty dire situation and more than a few times you’ll have to swallow your pride or compromise yourself and your brother just to get by.
But the episode is about learning the new brother based mechanics the game relies on and the narrative is well set up for that. The game also acknowledges the current fractured political climate in America through its character use. I’m not necessarily sure I’d call it a balanced depiction (which isn’t especially surprising in a game series that has always seemed pretty libertarian) but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ring true, as many of the events do mirror those we’ve seen in recent years. I think we’ll have to see how that dialogue develops and perhaps concludes, to truly appreciate it.
GROWS ON YOU
I’m not going to lie, I found both of the characters pretty annoying at first. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Sean Diaz makes Max Caulfield look charismatic. That’s right: he makes the self-professed introvert observer look charismatic. Just something about his dialogue is so stumbling, like they’ve taken the classic teenager lack of self-confidence and amplified it to an absurd degree. His brother Daniel is also a little too young for his age and is constantly saying kid stuff like “Wow, that’s awesome!” But I’ve got to say, they grew on me, especially Sean, who does gain a little more confidence as the episode goes on. So I’m holding out hope for his growth as the story progresses. Being Life is Strange, the game also wouldn’t be complete without a load of random hipstery references, including the weird section where Daniel says a mushroom on a tree looks like a ‘clicker’ and they both make clicker noises (he’s like a little kid who loves cartoons and bear toys; somehow this doesn’t translate to The Last of Us). But I always prefer it when Life is Strange relies on its nondescript nature to create its own culture instead of borrowing from our world.
All in all, it’s a strong initial start. While a little disorientating and stumbling at points, it’s believable as this player experience mirrors the confusion of Sean and Daniel, trying to find their way. There are lots of decisions to make and the game doesn’t pull punches in terms of asking you to make uncomfortable choices. The narrative also does a very good job of introducing you to the brother based mechanics, showing you how those decisions impact both Sean and Daniel in the long run. I’m excited to see where the road will take them next.
Good intro to new mechanics, tough choices right from the offset
Weird teenage dialogue, out of place references