Life is Strange 2, Episode 01: Roads

DontNod’s episodic adventure Life is Strange (read my review here) is an enchanting game, slow but intense, with a great atmosphere that at times feels like re-living a lazy summer afternoon. Numerous choices and dialogue options make for great player engagement and I really loved it. Which is why I had to go and buy Life is Strange 2 as soon as I could, of course.

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Meet Daniel and Sean Diaz, on the road South.

Life is Strange vs Life is Strange 2
Life is Strange is all about relationships and father figures. Its successor is no exception. Yet, there are some differences. Life is Strange plays out entirely in the microcosmos of the fictional town of Arcadia Bay on the coast of Oregon, with a cast of locals and a band of college misfits centering around heroine Max, a photography senior, and her best friend, Chloe. Chance has it that an ominous storm bestows a gift on Max that enables her to rewind time and, later, to relive past events by re-entering them through a polaroid foto.

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Just like in Life is Strange, the fate of the heroes’ father ignites the happenings in the story. and just as Chloe’s father, Mr. Diaz is a kind-hearted and wise man.

By contrast, Life is Strange 2, is a road trip, starting in Seattle, Washington. Sean and Daniel Diaz are the heroes of this tale, two brothers on the run after a heart-wrenching incident that sees them orphaned. Although, it may be that their mother is still out there somewhere, but Sean in particular does not seem to have any desire in finding her. Yet.

On their way South, the boys encounter a number of characters, some of them well-meaning and others just mean.

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Old white guy harrassing two boys for no reason… This scene wasn’t easy for me to stomach thanks to Sean’s reaction, but then, I am quite a bit older than he is and certainly not shy to speak my mind and stand my ground.

I should mention that Life is Strange 2 is more political than its predecessor and makes xenophobia its central motive for conflict. Which is why the game’s heroes are of Mexican descent. And, yes, the presidential elections of 2016 also get a mention in this episode.

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Sean and Daniel come up with a name for themselves, the Lobos brothers or wolf-brothers. Whenever the symbol of the wolves appears, you can be sure that whatever choice you make then will affect Daniel in some way.

At heart though, it is still about relationships, in this case about the bond between Sean, a 16-year-old, and his little brother Daniel. Just like Max, Sean is an artist, who captures scenes on paper with ease, just like she did on her polaroids. Daniel, then, is the gifted one, and I can’t help but wonder whether that gift was inherited from their mother and that is the reason for her absence.

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During the first leg of their journey, Sean and Daniel hike through the woods. The visit to this local store is therefore a welcome diversion, though money is tight. (You can choose to steal stuff, too, btw)

Roads
The first episode starts the two boys on their journey and as with its predecessor, the choices the player makes as Sean have more or less grave impacts on the course of the story as well as the relationship between himself and his brother, Daniel.

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Brody is the nicest person the boys meet in this episode. He also has some sound advice for Sean which, alas, comes too late.

Sean is Daniel’s role model, something you will be needing to keep in mind. There is one scene where I, as Sean, decided to take something because I thought I would need it in order to keep Daniel safe and sound. A noble thought, right? But it prompted Daniel to steal something later on, from someone who had helped the boys. Not cool, brother!

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Choices such as this one will influence the story greatly and I remember that I replayed quite a lot of those choices in the first Life is Strange-game.

Also, there is one bit where you have to decide whether to pack beer or lemonade. Why that is of importance became clear much later in the game and it surprised me, which made me smile.

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Strong negative emotions trigger Daniel’s destructive gift that is unleashed three times in total during this episode.

As for Daniel’s gift, that is way more frightening right from the start than Max’s. True, over time her abilities took a turn for the worst, but Daniel is a terrifying force from the beginning. I wonder where that will lead?

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Honestly, I forgot the puppy’s name, maybe it’s Cheesecake? Anyway, Daniel finds her in the store and falls in love. And while she is incredibly cute, I have a feeling she won’t last.

As you can tell, I do not want to get into spoilers, yet what I can say is that the first episode played like a dream. The story takes its time and that benefits the experience greatly. Whenever there is action, the previous, more quiet bonding scenes have built up so much empathy that you, as the player, will feel instantly engaged in the scene.

That’s what I really like about Life is Strange.

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Once you finish the episode, you will get a summary of all the choices you made as Sean and all the choices Daniel made. You will also see what choices other players preferred.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 02 will be released on January 24th and I am very much looking forward to continuing the brothers’ journey.

Until then, keep on playing!

Cheers

Vanessa