Dontnod and Square Enix have done it again with the choose-your-own-ending book made video game series, Life is Strange. Life is Strange 2 releases today, and I’m excited to finally be allowed to release the review! I’ve been biting my tongue on this for a bit, so let’s get started!
Life is Strange 2 focuses on a totally different town and totally different characters. You play as Sean Diaz — teenager, big brother, son, and best friend. You enjoy normal teenage stuff, like being socially awkward around a girl you like, having a bff who goads you into bad behaviors like smoking and drinking, and having an obnoxious younger brother and a father who loves you too much. Your mom is hinted at with stuff around the house, but I get the feeling that she’s passed a while ago. Nobody talks about it.
The story itself starts with you getting ready to go to a party with your bff Lyla. You’re hoping your crush is there, and Lyla is helping you with your game. You’re tasked to go around and collect stuff for the party, like snacks and booze, and if you search your house for a bit you find other things to bring (like condoms). As you’re Skyping Lyla, you hear a commotion outside your window and see that your jerk of a neighbor is picking on your little brother, Daniel. You have the option to confront the bully, or question Daniel. Your choices in this game matter. Either way, someone called the police on the dispute. When the officer arrives, he’s drawn his weapon (uh oh!) and some serious stuff goes down, which leads to a supernatural event that kills the officer and the bully. More police arrive as backup, but you grab your, now passed out, little brother and hit the road before they get to the scene. This is a heartbreaking story about you and your brother on the road (the first episode’s namesake), trying to survive a post-Trump America that’s full of danger and racism, as you make the long trek from Washington to Mexico to be with your family on the other side of the border.
The Unreal Engine 4 gave this game a great updated feel without losing the initial cinematography we know and love from Life is Strange. Watching the environment change as you walk along the roads near the coast of Washington and Oregon is just stunning, and the physics of the world have improved since the first game drastically.
I didn’t notice a lot of ambient noise or background sounds, but what I did notice was the impressive soundtrack. The music in this game is beautiful and emotional, and goes perfectly with each situation.
Having just finished Tomb Raider, it took some getting used to to walk so slowly and go from something action-packed to a more relaxed pace. Walking and running aren’t meant to get you from one place to another quickly in this title. That being said, once I got used to the slower pace, I really just enjoyed taking my time to explore the surroundings and interact with as much as I could. Doing this opens you up to finding souvenirs, and potentially additional cash (which is difficult to come by). I did have some difficulty selecting certain items by using Look, but moving around a little bit helped out. I didn’t get stuck on anything, didn’t see any weird glitches, and didn’t have anyone ghost through me.
This game has a powerful message, and is very emotional. I really felt for the brothers and their situation, and love how in-depth the character development is. The locations are awesome, and exploration games have always been a favorite of mine. The pace is slower, but that’s necessary in order to really enjoy the story.
Honestly, the only con I can see is how gross the racism is. Watching and interacting with it might be triggering for some of the players who deal with that sort of thing on a constant basis.
All-in-all this is an incredible game with an incredible story. The cliffhanger end of the first episode tugs on the heart strings, but the tidbit after the credits lends to a positive Episode 2 that I can’t wait to add to my library. Just like the first Life is Strange, the story doesn’t disappoint in any way, and sucks you into the lives of the characters.
That being said, I’m a huge fan of this season like I was for the first one. If you’re into story-driven games that will leave you laughing and crying alongside the characters, you’re going to want this. If you want a game where you can just run and gun, what are you doing here? Go back to CoD!
Life is Strange 2: Episode One is available TODAY on PS4, XBox One, and Steam.
Images sourced from Square Enix