When I started thinking about writing this review I said to myself that I didn’t want to compare Life is Strange 1 with Life is Strange 2. They’re two very different games in almost every way. But the more I think about the game the more I find myself realizing that having played the first game, and having given it such a great review, it’s almost impossible for me not to put them up against each other — for better and worse.
Life is Strange 2 is an episodic story about two brothers forced to make their way across the United States by themselves after an altercation leads to the death of their father, forcing them on the lam.
And while there is a similar connection to the supernatural in Life is Strange 2, there isn’t as much of an explainer as their is in the first game. While Max’s powers were connected with the storm, there doesn’t appear to be any real reason behind Daniel’s powers. They just are. This universe now lives in a world where powers exist. And I was pretty fine with it and chalked it up to Life is strange and sometimes strange things happens. I think we live in a Marvel drive enough universe that it’s no longer out of the question that sometimes random people get super powers.
The pacing of this game really matches that of a classic cowboy movie. It’s a journey of discovery for these two boys. They aren’t just running from the law they’re running to find any sense of normalcy after their life has turned to chaos. They make their way across the United States and, along the way, run into a bunch of interesting characters and that’s where this game shines. It’s a character driven story and the people you meet along the way seemed purposeful. None of them felt like they were simply there to be an obstacle for the boys or someone simply designed to give me a task.
With all that being said, if you’re expecting a fast paced, thrill ride … you’re going to have to look somewhere else. I loved taking the time to explore areas of the game and test out as many dialogue options available. While in the previous game, Chloe spray painted objects, Sean is a sketch artist and I looked forward to taking those quiet moments and letting him explore his art with pencil and paper. There were also lovely moments of solitude where you’d listen to the character’s internal monologue while he struggled with the challenges of trying to protect his little brother and deal with whatever obstacle they were facing, as well as worry about what kind of future the two would have once their journey ends … if it ended.
I will admit that after the first episode, I waited a very long time to complete the second episode and then I stopped and wondered if I would go back. I just didn’t know where this story was going and if I wanted to go with it. But then I remembered that in the original Life is Strange, I struggled through the first three episodes. The teenage melodrama was exhausting and I wondered if I was just too old to relate to the kinds of teenage girl meltdowns I was playing through. But then episode 4 hit and everything changed and suddenly it skyrocketed to one of my favourite games of the year. The struggle had paid off, and I thought about that when I wondered if I was going to go back to Life is Strange 2. I remembered how it paid off and I jumped back in to explore.
The exact moment I knew I was sucked into this game came in episode 3 when I was given a choice – as you always are in these choose your own adventure type games – either I do what’s best for my brother or be selfish and have a good time with new friends. I found myself wondering what this teenage boy would do. Would he be a typical teenager and blow off responsibility to get high with friends or would he take this responsibility seriously? I chose for him to accept the huge responsibility he has on his shoulders and do the protective thing and the game, somewhat surprisingly, followed through with my thinking. At that moment I thought, ‘I get this game. I get what it’s all about’ and I was all in.
The game also doesn’t shy away from the political climate in the United States over immigration. From the first episode, there’s a cloud of racism hanging over every possible encounter the boys face. It’s part of the reason they’re running and it’s a real danger from start to finish. I often found it a challenge making the decision to be a better person than the racist jerks the characters met along the way and when I chose for Sean to stand up for his family, I was honestly concerned over how far this story would go and what the outcome would be.
Overall I found this an unexpectedly worthy sequel to Life is Strange and a refreshing change of pace from so many dash and blast focused games. I really hope they decide to make a third. This is definitely a world I’m not ready to walk away from.