Review – Life is Strange 2: Episode 2

Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 review
Here’s where it all goes wrong.

The original Life is Strange and, by extension, its prequel, are two games that are very near and dear to me. I’m not a massive fan of the episodic point and click adventure narratives (I never could get into Telltale’s catalog), but the subject matter of Dontnod’s approach spoke to me on a number of levels. I didn’t get a chance to review Life is Strange 2 Episode 1 for TrustedReviews after handling their Captain Spirit review (they left that in the hands of the brilliant Jordan King), but I did get to vent my thoughts on GameWatcher which you can read here.

The TLDR is that Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 got off to a mostly great start. It’s clear that Dontnod is attempting to highlight the racial discriminiation minorities face in their day-to-day lives in predominantly white areas like North America, and being from the UK, I can vouch that it’s certainly not an isolated issue. They’re telling a story that needs to be told. But while the storyline will leave you angry and frustrated by design, its gameplay choices – of which the genre is built upon – shouldn’t; yet they do.

My issues with Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 basically mirror those of the first episode – I rarely agree with the choices I’m forced to make. Episode 2 gets off to a rather slow start with lovable siblings Daniel and Sean holed up in a fairly swanky abandoned house in the woods. As bad as it sounds, there’s no murderer lurking in the trees; not that we come across, anyway. You don’t spend too much of your time here, but it is used to demonstrate how far Daniel’s control of his powers have come since that outburst at the end of Episode 1, and how the two boys are keeping themselves fed, rested, and entertained out in the wilderness. It’s great, honestly, and even one of the more controversial decisions you can make here didn’t rile me up too much.

Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 review

But after that, things quickly went south. Episode 2 is titled “Rules” for a reason. It’s all about setting boundaries for when Dan should and should not use his powers, and which rooms you’re not allowed to enter at their grandparent’s house a little further down the line.

I can fully understand the implications of the rules put in place for Dan’s use of his powers; it’s clear the kind of danger they two can wind up in very quickly if basically anyone else realizes Daniel is essentially Professor X. But being forced to dismiss the kind requests of the two pensioners ready and willing to break the law to protect these two fugitive minors just doesn’t fit the characters we met in the previous episode.

This personality defining moment in the plot actually comes after I was forced to steal a yo-yo as a Christmas present for Daniel. As Episode 2 heads toward its predictable finale, Daniel and Sean decide to join Chris (of Captain Spirit) and his father to an outdoor christmas market, with Sean breaking away from the pact to pick up a Christmas present for his little brother. Miraculously, neither of them saw the obvious risk factor of this little excursion.

The $4 I had left from Episode 1 wasn’t enough to buy any of the homemade crafts on sale there – totally understandble. But for some reason or another, I wasn’t even able to buy a simple Christmas card and teach Dan that it’s the thought that counts. A decent selection was clearly on display alongside the rest of the gift options, but I didn’t even have the option to pick one up. It just felt like a major oversight in an episode that begged you to teach Dan right from wrong. Instead, I was basically forced to paint Sean as a character he certainly wasn’t back in Episode 1 by swiping something from the donation box (which didn’t even have a Confirm prompt) or go home empty-handed.

Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 review

I can forgive the relatively slow pace and strange divide between gameplay and cutscenes, but Life is Straqnge 2 continues to fall short in what I would argue is the whole point of the franchise; player choice and believable storytelling.

You rarely feel in control here as plenty of the options you’re presented with just wouldn’t be necessary in real-life. We’re supposed to care about and sympathize with these two boys for very obvious reasons, yet we’re forced to paint them as rude, disrespectful, and unthankful toward those trying to help, and their reasoning just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. If things keep up in future episodes, Dontnod will run dangerously close to reinforcing the baseless stereotypes we expect them to break down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *