Hard-hitting sequel veers far away from original
BY GIESON CACHO // THE MERCURY NEWS (TNS)
Game Name: ‘Life is Strange 2’
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Rating: M, for Mature
Life is Strange was never supposed to have a sequel. When Dontnod Entertainment created the game, the developers imagined it as a stand-alone project, a one-off. What they didn’t anticipate was the success and enormous fan response.
The follow-up, Life is Strange 2, is about Sean and Daniel Diaz, two brothers from Seattle who have their life torn asunder when a small fracas with neighbor escalates into their father being shot by police. The trauma leads the younger Diaz to manifest a telekinetic power and it kills an officer. The siblings escape and end up on the lam with a plan to ultimately go to their father’s hometown of Puerto Lobos, Mexico.
That takes the two on a sprawling journey through the West. The siblings run into the dark side of American society, feeling the sting of racism, engaging in the illegal pot farm trade and dealing with religious fanaticism. It’s a different game from the original, which was centralized to Arcadia Bay and took place over a week.
In many ways, the sequel is the antithesis of the original. The protagonist doesn’t have the ability. Instead, it’s the younger Daniel who can move objects with his mind and becomes more powerful as the months move on. He’s also young and impressionable. As the teenage Sean, players will have a huge influence on the siblings’ development.
Their choices will determine how Daniel will react in important situations. It dovetails with the theme of education in Life is Strange 2. Players will have to teach Daniel, and the sibling will adopt the morals of the older brother. At the same time, players have to be wary of the power dynamic between the two. It’s an unusual one, in which the players have to be fearful of Daniel. The relationship is a complex one that players don’t often see in video games.
The slow start of the initial episode is off putting, and Life is Strange 2 doesn’t really take off until the second episode. Fortunately, it maintains most of its momentum despite the sprawling narrative.
Life is Strange 2 is a game that subtly educates players by showing them a slice of life that they may not know exists. It doesn’t always teach those lessons deftly and it stumbles a bit in places — the younger brother Daniel is hard to like. That abrasiveness makes it hard to bond with such a pivotal character, but the emotional power of the narrative and that sense of duty players feel nearly helps overcome these flaws.
It’s a different experience that’s not as good as the original, but nevertheless, the campaign has its own moments that will stay with players long after they the finish the game.