Life Is Strange 2 on PS4
“Every artist is fucking unique, Sean. We all bring something different to the world.” That’s a little quote from Jean, one of the characters you’ll meet in Life Is Strange 2’s final episode.
Out of every line of dialog uttered throughout the course of Life Is Strange 2’s five episode and roughly 12-hour duration, this one stuck with me the most. To me, it’s a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark and depressing world. Everywhere you look, there’s inequality, rampant racism or xenophobia, and an intolerance for anything that’s considered ‘different.’ Life Is Strange 2 tackles these issues head-on, and reminds us that every single person is wholly unique, and has something of value to contribute. It’s a reminder we should be celebrating diversity, rather than segregating ourselves and building walls, and that the younger generation need to be, and are, the ones leading this movement.
The Life Is Strange series has always focused on the youth of today. Max’s story tells the heart-wrenching tale of a love that could never be, Chloe’s gives us a grander insight into the implications of familial problems, and Captain Spirit introduces us to a young boy who uses his imagination to avoid his father’s temper and drinking problem.
With Life Is Strange 2, DONTNOD Entertainment continue to focus on the younger generation, with brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz as they navigate the modern-world and its many intricate, complex issues. And truth be told, it’s all still rather brilliant.
Life Is Strange 2 follows the story of Sean and Daniel Diaz, the sons of a Mexican father raising his children on his own in the United States after their mother walked out on them. Their peaceful suburban lifestyle of smoking joints with friends, playing games with one another in front of the TV, and generally playing the part of annoying sibling to one another is quickly dashed once there’s an implication with the neighbor and a police officer shoots their father.
While the original Life Is Strange gave players direct control of the supernatural power that Max possessed, here players control Sean, and it’s younger sibling Daniel that’s got the power. It’s not the same as Max’s ability to rewind time, either. Instead, Daniel has the telekinetic abilities, allowing him to move and levitate items with the power of his mind. Understandably, in a fit of outrage of his father being shot before his eyes, Daniel loses his shit, and unable to control his powers, essentially wreaks a hurricane of destruction on the police officer and surrounding area.
Now without a father and on-the-run from the law, the two brothers embark on a journey across the country to reach Mexico and start over, stopping at various different locales and meeting friendly and not-so-friendly faces along the way. Oh, but Daniel can’t remember what happened, so there’s that bridge to cross at some point, too.
It’s in the many conversations and the relationships you forge with characters as Sean that really make Life Is Strange 2 shine. Just as its predecessors, the characters are the most intriguing element, and I often would go scouting around the environment to try and find items or points of interest to try and find out more about the people the Diaz brothers had just bumped into.
When these characters are never to be seen again after an episode or two, though, it is a little disappointing. Part of what made the first two games so special was how memorable and excellently-written the ensemble cast of characters were. While you still get these glimmers of brilliance, due to a lack of screen time, you seldom get to connect with these characters as much as I’d have liked.
Perhaps this was intentional, in an attempt to replicate the fleeting relationships the brothers forged along the way, despite how much they wanted them to last forever. There’s a few particularly great cameos that show up along the way that fans will love, though, with DONTNOD saving the best till last in episode 5.
That being said, Life Is Strange 2 does have a bit of a ‘marmite’ thing going on… which I’m realizing now as I’m typing this that any American readers may have no idea what I’m talking about. Basically, you’re gonna love it or hate it. This element just so happens to be the Diaz brothers themselves or, more specifically, the relationship that is forged over the course of the five episodes.
At the beginning, Daniel is the annoying younger brother. He complains about a lot, always wants his own way, and is forever pestering Sean. When the events of episode 1 act as the catalyst for their adventure, however, there’s an immediate pressure for this sibling dynamic to change.
The decisions you make, your responses to things he does or asks you to do will begin to shape who Daniel will become. Eventually, Daniel will either begin to listen and respect Sean, or he’ll just go rogue and do as he wishes.
Sean must now look after his brother as if he was his father. Problem is, Daniel thinks he knows better and will seldom listen to his older brother because… well… why would he? He’s a young sibling, I’m pretty sure it’s in our DNA to ignore, antagonize, and generally piss off our older counterparts.
This almost becomes the crux of Life Is Strange 2. Nurturing and developing the relationship between Sean and Daniel as you see fit. You’ve got to keep Daniel in check, while also letting him get to grips with his newfound powers. Not to mention trying to keep him on the straight and narrow so he doesn’t become some sort of supervillain.
As we mentioned before, with you not being in control of the supernatural powers, you’re kind of sidelined, left to try and control and look after your younger brother who’s now considerably more powerful than you. This can be used to your advantage, though. Daniel’s able to grab items from a distance, place otherwise unmovable obstacles in the way of pursuers and help you grab every collectible in the game.
Having Daniel as the bearer of these special powers makes for an interesting change compared to previous titles in the series. However, it also means that the gameplay is far more simple and as a result, its narrative really needs to come in clutch.
It does, for the most part, but there are times where it certainly feels a bit ham-fisted in a desperate ploy to refocus the action on the fragile relationship of Sean and Daniel. Cliche teenage romance moments, and the occasional outrageous decision — that a) doesn’t fit with the character and b) you’d be silly to take because a safer alternative will obviously come along to drive the story forward — do let things down occasionally, but they’re certainly in the minority and don’t manage to spoil the entire experience.
That’s because of the way in which Life Is Strange 2 boldly tackles real-world issues right now. In a post I wrote earlier this year, I talked about how in episode 4, the game managed to sum up most of what I perceived to be wrong in the world, or at least the prominent social issues in America in the space of three hours. Life Is Strange 2 doesn’t shy away from its political viewpoints and opinions on real-life issues.
Racism, police brutality, xenophobia, the illegal drugs market, extremism, cults, a sense of belonging, sexuality and homophobia… you get the point. It’s not just that the series attempts to cover these issues, but the means in which it does so in a respectable and mature manner.
Take Arthur and Stanley, for example. They’re gay and live together in ‘Away,’ somewhere you’ll visit in episode 5. In a conversation you can dive into with them, Stanley talks about how after being a “happily married man” for 30 years, he came out and felt truly happy. Despite this positive change in his life, both men talk about how they were essentially excluded from and looked down on by society, including their families as a result.
Life Is Strange 2 is still an emotional game to play. There are ecstatic highs, and truly low lows.
It’s all typical fare for Life Is Strange though, with teenage angst and that indie vibe oozing out of every scene. DONTNOD’s also spent time curating a soundtrack featuring Angus and Julia Stone, Gorillaz, First Aid Kit, Daughter, and Whitney that amplifies every emotional beat the narrative brings. The visuals have been given a nice touch-up, too, to really help bring the stunning, varied environments of scorching deserts, lush Californian forests, and a snow-covered suburbia to life.
There are some pacing issues throughout Life Is Strange 2. Episode 3, in particular, feels like a considerably slower episode compared to those either side of it. Episode 2 features some major story revelations and a massive cliffhanger, episode 3 then adopts a more relaxed pacing, before episode 4 picks things right back up. It’s a shame, as despite episode 3 still being an excellent episode on the whole, in the grander picture it does feel like filler to stretch the entire saga across a standard five episodes rather than fewer.
Life Is Strange 2 had big shoes to fill following Max’s story in the original, and the blossoming relationship of Chloe and Rachel Amber in Before the Storm. Despite this change of scenery, opting for a roadtrip rather than a rural romp in Arcadia Bay, Sean and Daniel’s story is still emotive, immersive and hard-hitting. The Diaz brothers’ plight is heartfelt, and watching their relationship develop due to the decisions you chose makes for a more personal and intimate outcome to the narrative, rather than the staggeringly massive decision that Max had to face.
Sean and Daniel’s relationship truly resonated with me, and I’m sure due to its perfect encapsulation of that sibling relationship, it’ll resonate with many many others in the same way. And just as Jean told us in the final episode, each brother brings something different to the dynamic, which enables them to survive together. A message that can be applied into any walk of life. We’re stronger together, and weaker divided.
Life Is Strange 2 isn’t some pleasant walk in the park, but a perilous slog across the country, staring adversity in the face and overcoming it in search of freedom and a fresh start. It’s not always comfortable to watch, but it’s a journey well worth taking for fans of the series, and narrative-driven experiences in general.
ProsPerfectly sums up the relationship between brothers.
Thought-provoking look at modern-day society
Solid voice acting.
Decisions continue to feel more significant than in the first title.
ConsSome weak story points used to help emphasize the turbulent relationship of the Diaz brothers.
Occasional pacing issues.
Some strange decisions.
Ep 5: 12/05/19
PS4, Xbox One, PC