Title: Life is Strange 2
Developer: DontNod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Narrative Adventure
Available On: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Version Tested: Windows PC
Official Site: https://lifeisstrange.square-enix-games.com/en-us
Release Date: September 26, 2018
The first Life is Strange was a groundbreaking game in a lot of ways, treading new ground in storytelling and showing that adventure games with multiple episodes don’t have to be built all in the same way. But does Life is Strange 2 carry on that tradition?
In Life Is Strange 2, you control Sean Diaz, a Latino teenager who lives in the whitewashed suburbs of Seattle, Washington. He’s your average rebellious teen; he parties, drinks, hangs out with his friends and has a huge crush on one of his classmates. He’s got a little brother, Daniel, who’s as rambunctious as you’d expect a 9-year-old to be; and a father, Esteban, is a hard-working auto mechanic that’s somehow managed to also be an understanding, caring, single father whose only goals seem to be making a good life for his children and becoming successful enough to move his family to back to his hometown of Puerto Lobos, Mexico.
As story heavy as these games are, any spoilers would ruin the emotional impact that the game would have on you, and from this point forward this review will contain only minor gameplay spoilers and vague broad strokes of the story, to preserve that surprise- and the events that happen in this game are certainly a surprise.
Following a story turn that happened fast enough to give you whiplash, the two boys are found traveling through the wilderness of Washington State on foot, with a backpack of supplies and a very limited amount of cash- not exactly the ideal situation for a couple of kids. After camping in the woods for a day or two, they learn exactly how harsh the world can be, and what people can be like when they’re at their worst.
Gameplay for Life is Strange 2 is very similar to Life is Strange 1, though the sequel lacks the time travel mechanics that made the first game famous. This makes choices much more final than the original game, as you lack the ability to see all of the possible outcomes before making your final decision. While this is a slight letdown, it does fit the theme of the game- make the best choice you can and hope everything comes out alright- and you will be faced with some very difficult decisions, even throughout the first episode. Choices do matter in this game, even minor decisions can result in your characters looking different for the rest of the episode.
Some of the most important choices you can make in this episode revolve around your brother, Daniel. He’s young and impressionable and anything you do can help shape his mind and his mannerisms, and it definitely caught me by surprise seeing the outcomes so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens in later episodes in regards to Daniel- the potential is there for major changes to his personality.
Life is Strange 2 has seen drastic improvements in the graphics department too, with much better animations and lighting than the first game, while still keeping the same art style. The textures all feature a minimalistic painted design that gives the game its unique look, and this game’s increase in graphical fidelity helps this design shine even more than the first game, and the better animations definitely give a boost to the believability of the conversations.
Storytelling through worldbuilding has always been an important thing in the Life is Strange series, and Life is Strange 2 has it in spades. Sean has a sketchbook that gradually gets filled in as the story progresses, showing his internal struggle and unspoken feelings towards certain events. Sean’s phone allows you to read through lots of text messages, and there are loads- from even minor characters- that help to flesh out the world and provide more backstory. As an example, there’s an event in the game that you’d never see if you weren’t paying attention to your phone. Though the first game did this as well, Life is Strange 2 uses the journal and the phone to an even greater extent, with lots of opportunities for indirect storytelling to immerse you deeper into the events that happen to Sean and Daniel.
The upgraded engine also leads to Life is Strange 2 having much more open environments than the previous games in the series. While the first game used mostly small hallways and school environments, the sequel includes large outdoor forested areas as well as some other spacious interiors, and this helps the world come alive in a way that has never happened in the series to date. It still remains to be seen how the future episodes turn out, but I’ve been impressed with the game that’s been presented so far.
Verdict: DontNod Entertainment has crafted a game that touches on some difficult topics but does so with the gravity and dignity that such a topic deserves. Life is Strange 2 has the potential to surpass its predecessor, with its more expansive and immersive world; but four more episodes remain in the season to find out whether or not the story eclipses the original. My heart may lie in Arcadia Bay, but this tale of the two Wolf Brothers still has the potential to win me over.
- Engaging story and characters
- Fantastic painted-style graphics
- Phenomenal indie soundtrack
- Some spotty voice acting
- Dialogue scenes sometimes 'clip' into each other
- A select few animations could use some work