Life is Strange 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 12.04.2021 2

Review for Life is Strange 2 on PlayStation 4

Comments from the developers at Dontnod Entertainment indicate that many fans of the first season overlooked Life is Strange 2, which features a completely new story and set of protagonists. The episodic nature of the game and having to wait for each subsequent chapter months apart may have been a factor in people shying away from it, but so beloved were Max and Chloe from the original that it was always going to be difficult to attract players back. With all five episodes released, and a brand-new adventure coming this year, Life is Strange 2 deserves a chance - both by season one familiars and those new to the franchise.

Although Episode 1: Roads was reviewed individually not long after release, it seems more beneficial to review the season in its entirety as a whole, now. While episodic games may have their supporters, and they can be a sure-fire way to create suspense and leave players craving more after a cliff-hanger, the lengthy waits between episodes can do more harm than good, resulting in the case here that yours truly put this title off for too long, even after the final episode came out. Given the struggle in developing episodic games, too, these factors have probably contributed to the upcoming Life is Strange: True Colors ditching the format and opting for a singular game.

Like the first Life is Strange, season two tackles a broad range of themes, and it is respectfully handled. Whilst this game is set in the United States, the issues contained within Life is Strange 2, as noted by the developers themselves, are not exclusive to that country, and anyone anywhere will be able to find relation to at least one character in some way.

At the centre of this adventure are two young American brothers of Mexican heritage. Sean and Daniel Diaz live a quiet life in Seattle, Washington, but when a confrontation with the bully next door ends up getting physical, a patrolling cop reacts hastily, with the boys' father innocently getting shot and killed. What ensues is a phenomenon unlike no other, with the youngest brother, Daniel, unleashing a telekinetic power that only players of Max Caulfield's experiences could wrap their heads around. Sean makes the quick decision to get the heck out of there and make their way to Mexico, fearing the worst if they stayed in their home country.

Screenshot for Life is Strange 2 on PlayStation 4

What follows is a long trek for the brothers as they head south, encountering people good and bad, as older sibling Sean tries to be the fatherly figure that Daniel needs in this vastly different and lonely world the brothers now find themselves scooped up in. Daniel is clueless as to what happened back home, seemingly suffering memory loss of the event, but naturally the brothers clash over how they move forward, with players acting as Sean when it comes to the crucial decisions that are made as the pair gets closer to their destination.

Serious themes are prominent from the get-go, and huge respect must be given to the team at Dontnod for the messages they wanted to bring to the forefront here. How many Hispanic characters are the central characters of video games? How much is racism honestly explored or highlighted? Turning a blind eye to such issues is not going to advance the medium forward, yet there is always the risk that these could be fumbled in storytelling. That isn't the case here.

The Diaz brothers are likeable protagonists that get caught up in the harsh realities of the world and meet like-minded folk of all walks of life just trying to find their own place and get by. Anyone can relate to the individuals portrayed in this adventure, although some will connect more than others.

Dontnod is no stranger to conveying significant topics to its audience, be it sexuality, suicide, religion, bullying, or loss of family, so it should be expected that Life is Strange 2 also brings attention to not just some of the aforementioned issues, but others, too - some more prominent in the current real-world climate than others.

Screenshot for Life is Strange 2 on PlayStation 4

The important thing is that the story doesn't fixate itself on certain matters or dawdle too long on them. Due to the core narrative of the boys being constantly on the move, each episode presents opportunities to introduce new locations, types of characters, and topics, all the while managing its main theme: brotherhood. Sean and Daniel go through all sorts of situations, testing their bonds to the extreme, but this prevailing motif is always at the heart of what this story is about.

Like the first season, Sean must make important decisions throughout the narrative. Thankfully, unlike the original game, even the smallest choices play a part in affecting what ending will be obtained. There are constant opportunities to interact with Daniel, and this shapes the type of person he will become by the end. It seems to be the Life is Strange way that no ending is ever truly satisfying, but with more deviation than the simple binary choice players were presented with in the first game, irrespective of what choices had been made throughout the entire season, the potential for different outcomes this time adds more meaning to the commitments made.

It is necessary to remember that this series has always been an interactive narrative adventure, rather than anything massively involving when it comes to gameplay. Huge portions of Life is Strange 2 includes walking around and interacting with things, and it doesn't really get any deeper than keeping an eye out for a few collectibles for achievement purposes throughout each episode, as well as chances to dabble in drawing in Sean's sketchbook.

Daniel's telekinesis plays a secondary role that the player has no control over directly, unlike Max's rewind ability in Life is Strange 1, and remains tied to the decision-making process in how it is utilised. Although the lack of additional gameplay mechanic to mess around with pushes this game further along the lines of just being an interactive adventure, not much is lost in this regard. The original title still presented key decisions that could not be reversed and that remains the case here.

Screenshot for Life is Strange 2 on PlayStation 4

It is difficult to see how having the ability to control Daniel's power freely would have worked without drastically altering the type of game this is and the story Dontnod wanted to tell. This is just as much about Sean as it is about Daniel, and how the older brother quickly must mature to look after his sibling and reach the border.

The stories of both main Life is Strange games are, of course, quite different from each other in many respects, but the first season had more impactful moments throughout its episodes. It probably comes with the territory of detective-based narratives that try to uncover shrouded mysteries, but the urgency felt in the suspenseful moments got the heart racing more than the fewer similar situations the brothers found themselves in here.

There are dramatic moments, including ones where it can be tough to pick one choice or another, with these usually happening at the very end of episodes, but Life is Strange 1's intrigue and thriller style plot makes it more memorable. That isn't to say Life is Strange 2 doesn't stand out, though. The fact that each episode is so wildly different to the ones preceding it gives a lot to look forward to when moving onto the next. This also plays with the emotions when the boys get to know some great people but are forced to part ways suddenly. Things may calm down for a while but there is always that reminder that the Diaz brothers still must get to Mexico.

The setting itself of the West and Southwestern United States makes for absolutely beautiful imagery, whether in the forests of Oregon or the deserts of Arizona. Life is Strange 2 is worth a playthrough alone for the tranquil and visually breath-taking moments just as much as it is for the well-written characters that are caught up in relatable plights.

Screenshot for Life is Strange 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Anyone that enjoyed the original Life is Strange and opted not to give a chance to this sequel should reconsider right away. The story may not deliver the same impact or suspense, but this is a poignant narrative that many should find a degree of relatability to, with extremely likeable characters in the form of Sean and Daniel. With the full season discounted often and a new game on the horizon, this is a great time to journey south with the Diaz brothers.

Developer

Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I must agree that I tend to shy away from games that give me chapters. It is like buying a Stephen King novel and waiting months in between for the rest of the story. At least comic books give you a set schedule, y'know? The whole chapter concept is what sequels are meant for.

It's also hard not to compare games to one another, especially if they are in a series. I have never played the first game because I never cared for it. However, this second game I would be more inclined to try just because of the topics involved. I am Mexican American and it's something I can certainly relate to.  I also know that some of the themes are what others may roll their eyes at. Life is strange sounds like it's a great type of series in the sense that each story is never the same. I'm wondering what the third will be about?

I also enjoy games where player choice also has an impact on the ending. The first game I ever experienced that was with Chorno Trigger! But it seems that most games that tried the whole "your choices matter" didn't really matter in the end. Mostly one got the same ending, just through a different path. This one seems like there's more of a choice, which I like a lot. Really great review!
 

I think you'd enjoy it! It's really well acted, too. I like that they really try to hire authentic actors where possible, too. Sean's actor is Spanish speaking and from Argentina, and the father's actor is American born to Mexican parents. I learned that Sean's actor had some liberties with line changing, and used the word enano to refer to Daniel because that's what he would call his younger brothers in real life. I love that.

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