Saturday 10 November 2018

Life Is Strange 2 ★★★★★

‘Life Is Strange 2’ follows on from ‘Life Is Strange’, an indie classic by Dontnod Entertainment in 2015 that ended up with quite a large following due to its wonderful design and focus on making choices that have irreversible consequences throughout the game. In between 1 and 2 Dontnod Entertainment also released ‘The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’, a much smaller demo for ‘Life Is Strange 2’. As the newest game is also episodic, like the first one, and I’ve only played the first episode ‘Roads’ so far it’s still unclear as to how the demo links in with it if at all, but I’m sure it will make itself apparent at some point in the game.

This time around you play as Sean Diaz, a Mexican teen living in Seattle with his Dad and brother Daniel, 9. Unlike ‘Life Is Strange’ events quickly get out of hand during the first couple of scenes, leading to Sean and Daniel having to run away from Seattle together with a need to stay undiscovered and no idea of where they are actually going. The pace seems to have a lot more highs and lows this time – whereas the original was a slow build-up of tension leading to quite an explosive end, the second game is constantly flitting between calm scenarios and dramatic situations.

As before, choices make a big part of the gameplay, with a clear focus on the relationship between the two brothers and how your choices affect that. Although only one episode has come out there’s been several major choices already (which are actually quite hard to make at points), and so it’s likely that players will go back and play the game again just to see where those other choices could have taken them. Interestingly, the choice you made at the end of ‘Life Is Strange’ impacts your playthrough, with the results of your choice already apparent near the end of episode one.

Gameplay and design is very similar to the first game, though this I’m glad of as the original just did it so well. The art direction is still beautiful, and the music is a treat to listen to, emphasising the emotions of the game exactly as it needs to. Background conversations now continue as you go about with your day, leading to more flow in game. The characters are great and again it’s hard not to be pulled in by their stories – they’re easy to empathise with and quite layered already, even within such a short space of time. Playing as Sean I found it hard not to feel protective of Daniel, though it’s good that you can adjust Sean’s character to suit who you want to play.

There are some new features in the game as well, from a meaningful inventory of items that you can use to get more of an idea of character emotions and backstory (Sean has a sketchbook that you can contribute to which is nice, and this also gets added to during cutscenes), and instead of photos the collectables are small souvenirs which are difficult to find, but you can use them to decorate your backpack. Money is also counted, which can affect your actions – you’ve got to be able to afford food and other things, and so this is something you have to keep in mind. 

‘Life Is Strange’ is a hard game to beat, but Dontnod has somehow managed to refine it into a game that’s just as gripping. The writing is humorous and charming and the story is heart-breaking at points, wholly capturing that essence of naivety so well as our characters have to grow up fast. The political theme of racism is very current too, making it easily relatable. ‘Roads’ is a stunning introduction to what promises to be a wonderful game, so even if you haven’t played the first game ‘Life Is Strange 2’ is well worth checking out. 

Hannah Read

Life Is Strange at CeX

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