Life is Strange 2 has started out as a captivating, emotional, and fantastically written piece of drama. The runaway success of the first Life is Strange has spawned so much other media, and an expecting fan base to go with it. Following this sort of success was never going to be easy. However, DONTNOD have taken what worked about their original and amplified it. The writing is more polished, the characters more authentic, and the emotion stronger. From what we’ve seen from episode 1 of their new saga, Life is Strange 2 may even surpass the first in quality.
No need to worry, there are no spoilers.
Ripped from The Headlines
Taking a political stand is one of the last things that major games are currently doing. Major publishers and developers have contorted to pretend that their works stand in isolation. This makes games the only form of culture that is entirely devoid of political meaning. Even when doing this, you’re likely to upset someone. Life is Strange 2 clearly doesn’t take this view, and rightly so.
From the outset of the game, it’s place in today’s climate is clear. The catalyst for Sean and Daniel fleeing their hometown that drives the plot is a perfect example. On their way, they encounter their fair share of racism but also their share of compassion. In pretty direct terms, they are faced with the impact of the last presidential election. The game is set in 2016 but these issues are still at the forefront of culture.
Life is Strange 2 doesn’t shy away from confronting these issues. It also doesn’t define the game though. This sets the plot in motion, and impacts evens but it isn’t the entire experience or the main thrust of it. The interpersonal drama is still there. Giving the game such a grounding in real world politics will give DONTNOD as many detractors as advocates, many will probably be quite loud about it. It’s a brave choice to be so open with politics in the game, it wont be appreciated by everyone. It allows the ugliness of discriminatory views to be the driving force for conflict, rather than ignored. This background makes the game more powerful, but it’s still secondary to the characters.
Not Another Teen Drama
It’s the characters and their relationships that still define Life is Strange 2. In this respect, the series has matured and grown. For every piece of honest dialogue in the first, there were cringe inducing ‘hellas’. These little tics are pretty much ironed out in the sequel, Sean and Daniels voices feel completely natural. The sections of the game that deal with teenage issues, are an all too close to home depiction of the awkwardness of these years.
DONTNOD do a fantastic job of capturing the behaviour of a young child in Daniel. However they also capture the complexities of sibling relationships. It’s a relationship that is very affectionate, they care about each a lot. Its also a relationship that involves a fair bit of unpleasantness. This is true of sibling relationships though, especially when you’re a teenager. It avoids drifting into territory too saccharine. What exact nature this relationship is, is your choice. In any of the choices, it still shows how siblings relationships aren’t always perfect but they are important.
The Next Four Episodes
There’s a lot that you can’t judge from a first episode. It’s pretty much just an introduction to the overall plot. Life is Strange 2 did feel like it had an awful lot happenning in the space of one episode, which is good given the hefty price rise over the first game. There’s still too much up in the air though. Elements like how your choices affect the overall plot and how the gameplay actually progresses are going to be more important as the series goes on. The story is fantastic, but needs to build on the choices system from the first Life is Strange.
Acting a role model to Daniel is supposed to factor into the ongoing plot. These choices that you make with Daniel have been portrayed as a major part of the game. Hopefully, this will be implemented in a more creative way than a binary A or B ending. Life is Strange left a lot of room to improve in this regard. DONTNOD is framing the game around choices impacting the story, more should be expected of this system this time around.
- Well Written, real feeling charecters
- Emotional Weight
- Topical and thought provoking
- Surprisingly Long
- Too early to tell if consequences system has improved
Overall, Life is Strange 2 is off to a wonderful start. It has exceeded expectations and improved fantastically on the first. Whether it can continue this is a different matter, but it’s an impressive start.