[SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW ASSUMES THE READER HAS PLAYED LIFE IS STRANGE 2: EPISODES 1, 2 & 3. AS SUCH IT CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODES 1-3]
As the fourth episode of Life Is Strange 2 draws to a close it may leave players with mixed feelings. While there’s a lot to admire the way it’s fearlessly direct in the way it addresses hot button topics – xenophobia, homophobia, racism and grifting disguised as religion among them – it’s become very apparent that this second season isn’t living up to the standards set by either of its predecessors. It’s by no means terrible, but its sluggish pacing, lack of agency and its annoying protagonist make it feel like a chore to play at times. There are moments when it manages to lift itself above its drawbacks, but they are fleeting.
Previously on Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 (Wastelands), Sean Diaz was in pretty bad shape. Following a botched attempt to rob the owners of the weed farm he and his brother Daniel were working on (yes, an idea that was as stupid as it sounds), the Diaz brothers found themselves staring down the barrel of a shotgun. True to form, Daniel freaked out and blasted the whole room to smithereens. As the credits rolled, Sean was seen lying unconscious with a shard of glass sticking out of his left eye. Daniel was nowhere to be seen.
Episode 4 (Faith) opens up with Sean in hospital. He’s lost his eye and his depth perception as a result but that’s the least of his worries. He has no idea where his brother is, there’s a cop who wants a word with him and once the hospital discharges him he’s going to be banged up in a juvenile correctional facility. It’s a compelling set up, but it then descends into mundanity as, once again, the agency feels like busywork, the conversational trees aren’t all that interesting and Sean’s moody, sullen attitude makes him face-punchingly annoying. Dude, you were found in a wrecked house on a weed farm; maybe yelling at the police isn’t the best way forward?
Without wandering into spoiler territory, Sean manages to escape and hit the road again towards Mexico in search of his brother (although how he knows Daniel is heading in the same direction is anyone’s guess). The road to the brother’s reunion has bumps along the way; one is harrowing (Sean has a run-in with a pair of racists) and others feel mundane and serve only to pad out the pace (yes, Sean is still drawing landscapes in his book). As was the case with Wastelands, Faith saves all of its interesting moments (the racists notwithstanding) for the final third.
When Sean finally catches up with Daniel, he finds his brother is in thrall to a religious cult leader named Lisbeth, who spews more New Age/Christian claptrap than the Seed Family from Far Cry 5. Unlike the Seeds, however, Lisbeth is clearly a con artist, and her interest in Daniel is solely geared towards using his power as a tool to attract more desperate suckers and line her pockets. Needless to say, when Sean says he has no interest in her cult and that he and Daniel are leaving, she takes a rather dim view of him.
It’s here where all of Life Is Strange 2’s moving parts finally come together. All the way through the season so far, the main agency the player has had is in how Sean acts towards Daniel, and how their exchanges develop the younger Diaz in terms of his personality and his moral compass. This means that by the time the two reunite in Lisbeth’s church, the progression and outcome of the episode will depend largely on how players conducted their earlier interactions. Did they allow Daniel to cut loose? Did they keep their promise to be honest? Did they indulge his tendency to use his power unchecked? How willing Daniel is to see reason and how violent the ending of Faith is, depends on Sean’s input in earlier episodes. It’s an impressive denouement.
However, given the amount of meandering activities and glacial pacing the player has had to go through to get to this point, one has to wonder: was it worth it? The prospect of playing through the earlier episodes again in order to see different outcomes in Episode 4 may be enough to put off a lot of players. The first Life Is Strange didn’t have this drawback because one never felt like there were sections in it that felt like unnecessary padding. This isn’t the case with Life Is Strange 2, so its replay value – which is necessary to explore its different narrative branches – is negligible.
Last Updated: September 19, 2019