[WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EARLIER LIFE IS STRANGE 2 EPISODES]
Those who give a toss about award ceremonies will have noticed that Life Is Strange 2 is up for a couple of Baftas this month. Anyone who has stuck with this game since the first episode can be forgiven for wondering how this state of affairs exists, because while Life Is Strange 2 tells a decent yarn (taking aim at some hot button issues dominating news headlines in the United States), as a game – you know, something that’s engaging to play – it’s something of a disappointment.
For those not in the know, Life Is Strange 2 is DontNod’s episodic tale of the Diaz Brothers, Sean and Daniel, who go on the run after their father is killed by a cop and Daniel finds out that he has telekinetic powers. With the pair of them wanted by the authorities, Sean decides to take his brother down to Mexico to stay with their grandparents. Their journey takes them down the coast from Seattle where they run into all sorts of shenanigans, including new age travellers, a drug farm, a religious cult and lots and lots and lots and lots of racists.
Some of these encounters are pretty well written, while others land with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball hitting an orphanage on Christmas Eve during an extended period of load shedding.
The main play thread in Life Is Strange 2 is how the player – through Sean – shapes Daniel’s personality. With their dad gone, 18-year-old Sean is playing the role of a surrogate parent, while at the same time trying to deal with Daniel’s ever-growing confidence, since he can now do things like pick up boulders and rip animals apart using his mind. Depending on how players treat Daniel – and what they let him get away with – you might end up with a good natured lad on your hands by the end of the game or the second coming of Brightburn.
Episode 5 kicks off a month after the events of Episode 4, with the Diaz brothers living with their estranged mother in a hippy commune near the Mexican border. While they’re safe for the time-being, Sean is still set on heading to Mexico even though his brother seems quite content to remain where they are. Their mother is willing to help, and ‘Wolves’ eventually ends with Sean and Daniel hurtling towards the border between nations and a structure that is clearly meant to be US President Donald Trump’s infamous wall.
Problems however, arise early on in Episode 5 and anyone who has stuck with Life Is Strange 2 since the beginning will be very familiar with THE overarching drawback to this game – it’s just incredibly dull. For the first hour or so, Sean’s interaction with his environment involves wandering around, looking at items, and making chitchat with the locals. While there are a couple of heart-warming moments, things only pick up when the brothers head away from the camp and encounter… you guessed it: More racists.
This lack of interaction is compounded by the game’s pace, which remains plodding for the most part. This was a slight issue in the first game, but it was able to sidestep it thanks to the fact players had access to Max’s time-bending powers. Sean’s main agency throughout this sequel – aside from picking up items, conversing with others and drawing the odd picture – is guiding Daniel’s moral compass and that’s not exactly compelling, especially when one considers the huge amount of effort that goes into raising a child.
Maybe DontNod should take some lessons from this. Next time, give the player more agency than parenting, conversing and doodling on a sketch pad.
Last Updated: March 6, 2020