Life Is Strange 2: Episode 1 Review – What Doesn’t Kill Us

Politics ebbs and flows through Life Is Strange 2, whether or not the characters are always aware of it. Unforeseen circumstances upturn the lives of the Diaz brothers, and in typical Life Is Strange fashion, while the supernatural lingers around the edges, it’s ordinary humanity that displays the ugliest sides of this heart-wrenching story. With a narrative that is unashamed to present a mirror to the most uncomfortable realities of the US in 2016, a diverse cast of characters who are fleshed out lovingly and respectfully, and mechanics that reinforce relationships between characters, the first episode of Life Is Strange 2 tells a story that deserves to be heard.

The plot begins a week after the final presidential debate between Trump and Clinton–and before tragedy strikes the Diaz family. You adopt the role of Sean, an artistic, sporty teenager with a tight-knit family supported by his single dad, Esteban. Sean’s life at the beginning of the game is punctuated by his efforts to be a track star, begrudgingly taking care of his nine-year-old brother Daniel, and figuring out whether he should pack condoms for the party he’s attending that evening.

Dontnod continues the pinpoint depiction of the teenage experience that it first displayed in the original Life Is Strange. Occasional unironic uses of words like “emo” and “BFF” rarely dampen the startlingly familiar conversations and texts between the game’s primary characters. The messaging system which appeared previously in the series is back, and it’s a delight to take the time to read each and every one of the dozens of texts in your backlog when the game starts. It informs the relationships between the characters and how they each see their place in the world; Sean’s conversation with his best friend Lyla evolves from entirely believable teenage banter into a grim exchange over watching the final presidential debate, foreshadowing the sociopolitical climate that defines the events to come.

Life Is Strange 2: Episode 1 Review - What Doesn't Kill Us

Conversations never occur in a vacuum, devoid of pre-existing relationships between the characters. Whether it’s Sean commentating on how his Dad hates sushi but buys it for them anyway, or Lyla lamenting the price of therapists, Dontnod’s writing makes almost every one of its characters feel like a fully realized person with their own fears, motivations, and intricate web of relationships. It’s this writing, alongside the game’s fierce attention to detail, which supports the strength of its overarching narrative and character development.

Interactions are also more dynamic and free-flowing than before. Changes in the world elicit a reaction from both Sean and those around him, which feels far more realistic and aids in grounding the characters in the world. If Sean switches on his music player he’ll sing along to the cued up track from The Streets, and Lyla will comment on the music playing during their Skype call. Some conversations will even start automatically when you enter the range of a person who has something to say to you.

Small changes to the series’ standard gameplay mechanics and their effects on the story deepen your immersion further. When the journey grows arduous, it’s wonderful that the game lets you join in the boys’ small moments of joy. While the brothers bounce on a motel room bed to Banquet by Bloc Party, the game ties your left mouse button to a camera zoom and mouse motion to bopping the camera up and down so you can jump along with them. The game’s licensed tracks and original score by Syd Matters, who also scored the original, underpin the tone of the game and the internal states of the characters to great effect. There’s a mix of teenage adrenaline, curiosity, and uncertainty in the score during Sean and Daniel’s first foray onto the open road that does a good job of putting you inside Sean’s headspace.

Share this Post :

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

© 2016 News of The World Games - International World Games Association. All Rights Reserved.
review | facts of life