Life is Strange 2 Episode 1 Review
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
The first Life is Strange was a surprise when it first debut in 2015. Combining realistic and relatable human drama with a supernatural element thrown in to add to the drama and stakes of the story. The game was a success both critically and commercially, so a second entry was a sure thing even back then. After some prequels and side stories, we now finally have the next chapter in the Life is Strange universe.
That is to say that, while the two games do occupy the same world, the stories are not connected and do not share any characters or plot details (at least as of now) of the first game. Instead, the developers at Dontnod Entertainment are focusing on a different set of characters and story, while also tackling different thematic elements from the first.
This is ultimately the best move for the franchise and allows the developers essentially limitless freedom with where they choose to go with this story and others down the line. However, it is unmistakable that this is a Life is Strange game. While the characters and location are different, the tone, setting, and atmosphere place this game firmly in the same universe as the first.
Life is Strange 2 follows the story of Sean and Daniel Diaz, two brothers who, through events I won’t spoil here, find themselves on the road on a journey to a faraway destination. Like the first game, the choices you make in the story can have long reaching and unforeseen consequences down the line, and there is no way to immediately tell what result your choices will bring. This means that there is no “right” or “wrong” choice in the game. You must simply use your own judgment to make the decision you feel is best at the moment. This makes the decision making much more personal to you as the player, and helps makes you feel more invested.
The biggest change to the Life is Strange formula is Sean’s brother Daniel, and what Dontnod is calling the “Role Model Dynamic”. Every action you take and choice you make not only affects Sean but his brother as well. Daniel, like any little brother, watches your every move and how you act will infer on his own behavior. This adds an extra layer of weight to each choice, as you not only must make the best decision for the specific situation you are in, but also consider how it will affect Daniel as well.
Life is Strange 2 is definitely more politically charged than its predecessor. Playing two Mexican-American citizens, the political tension of Trump’s America is in full force. However, these themes of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia are a bit too heavy handed and don’t come off nearly as subtle and thoughtful as other moments in the game.
Where Life is Strange 2 excels is in the small, personal moments between Sean and Daniel and how they interact with each other and the world around them. Dialogue is extremely well written and each main character feels like a real person with a real life that has been lived long before we as players got involved.
The heavy handed Trumpisms and a few instances of poorly signposted progression paths are small hindrances in an overall enjoyable first outing into Life is Strange 2. I found myself choked up and emotional at more than a few points in the story, and felt emotionally invested in the choices I made and curious as to their consequences down the line. Sean and Daniel are going to go through a lot during this five episode journey, and Episode 1 does exactly what it needs to do to keep you attached and invested in these characters and their journey moving forward.
This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.