During the time when Telltale Games were dominating the episodic narrative genre, along came Life Is Strange almost out of nowhere, and gave us a more emotional take on the new genre. In my opinion, Life Is Strange was better than anything Telltale Games ever released. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Walking Dead series, Tales From The Borderlands, etc.
But there was something so special about the first Life Is Strange series and ended up being one of my favourite games of 2015. Starting from September 2018, the first episode of Life Is Strange 2 was released, and finally ended with the release of episode 5 in December 2019. So the big question is: does the second series capture what made the original so great?
A Brother’s Journey
Life Is Strange 2 starts off showing the simple life of the Diaz family. You play as Sean, a typical teenager just basically doing teenage things. Shortly after being introduced to the characters, tragedy strikes, and Sean and his brother Daniel are suddenly on the run from the police.
With nowhere to run to, Sean decides the best course of action is to return to their father’s hometown of Mexico. To get there, they’ll have to journey across America with nothing but the clothes on their backs, along with their backpacks of limited supplies. As they travel across the country, they meet many different characters, and get into every kind of difficult situation they can get into.
But here’s what makes things a little more interesting- Sean’s brother Daniel uncovers a secret power within himself. He has this psychic power that allows him to levitate objects, destroy structures, and much more. Throughout the journey, Sean helps Daniel develop and control this ability, as it is very dangerous when used improperly.
In the first season of Life Is Strange, your character Max has the power to control time, and could use it to rewind to change undesired outcomes. In the second season, because it’s not the main character who has this ability, you can’t really use it for gameplay purposes, but only for storyline purposes. Since the story doesn’t revolve around this power like it did in the first season, I don’t think it was actually needed to be in the game.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they included it because it added another element to the story, but I think the story would have been fine without it too. If the main character Sean had this power, then it could have been used for puzzles, or other gameplay reasons. But because he didn’t, it was a bit of a missed opportunity to elevate the gameplay.
I suppose the main point of the episodic format is to tell multiple unique stories, but still contain an overall story arc all the way through. Sometimes when I play these type of games, I can’t really remember each individual episode, but maybe bit and pieces of the more memorable moments. But with Life Is Strange 2, it really excels with the storytelling in this format.
Obviously the main story remains the same throughout and the brother’s goal never changes, but each episode is very distinct from one another. I don’t want to give anything away, but each episode sees the brothers go through different scenarios, and each one is memorable to play through.
Whether they’re visiting relatives along the way and making new friends, working away in an isolated location to make money, or even dealing with cult-like groups, you’ll experience something new and unique in each episode.
Though not surprisingly from developers Dontnod, you’ll have to deal with political messages, whether you agree with them or not. I personally don’t want real world politics in my form of escapism, so be prepared for that.
Life Is Strange 2 Gameplay
If there’s one thing that may put people off this game, or this genre, it’s the gameplay (or lack thereof). When you’re not watching cutscenes, you’re walking around each area, looking at items and talking to people. At least in the first Life Is Strange, you had the rewind ability that was used for the very few puzzles in the game. This is what I was eluding to earlier, how it would have been great to be able to use Daniel’s power for puzzles, but there was none of that.
Of course, the main draw for this game (apart from the story), are the tough choices you have to make along the way. Some decisions will make are minor, but it’s those big ones that I love the most. They really make me feel like I’m having a big impact on the story. While I played through this game only once, I felt like the decisions I made helped shape the ending, because your choices seem to revolve around influencing your younger brother. This in turn shapes him into the person he is by the end. Even the stats shown to you after the fifth episode mostly are about Daniel and how he responded and reacted to the various situations. This is why I felt like every choice I made throughout the whole series meant something, no matter how big or small.
Life Is Strange 2 Review Summary
I’ve become a fan of the Life Is Strange series, and I was happy to return back in this ‘sequel’. Though the two series’ are still set in the same universe, the storylines are unrelated to one another. If you never played the first one, you can easily jump into season 2 and enjoy it.
It’s a very different storyline to the original too, where the original was more about Max’s time powers and the strange occurrences in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, the sequel is simply about the brothers’s long journey back to their father’s hometown in Mexico.
I love a good, hard-fought journey, and watching these brothers overcome the many obstacles in their path was great to be a part of. While these games still lack in the gameplay department, the main draw is the quality of the story, the storytelling of the episodic format, and the choices that make an impact. These were the highlights of Life Is Strange 2, and any fans of the genre should enjoy this journey as much as I did.