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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!