Following on from the first episode, I expected more from Life is Strange 2 – Episode 2, titled “Rules”. With Daniel’s powers being out in the open, I was hoping to find more of the mysterious charm that we saw in the first series. However, what we have instead is a disappointing linear story, where impactful choices mean very little.
The first episode of Life is Strange 2 was notably slow. We were being introduced to two new characters, the bond that they have, as well as the difficulties they face in today’s society – or at least in the United States – as discrimination and racism is becoming more common. I found Episode 1 alone to be pretty difficult to get through. The story didn’t progress, the material at hand was uncomfortable, and overall it was just a bit of a bore.
I did, however, give the series the benefit of the doubt. I love this series, the first and its prequel “Before the Storm” was fantastic and I had hopes that Life is Strange 2 would be much of the same. But after playing Episode 2 I have to say that I’m a little disappointed.
Life is Strange 2 – Episode 2 begins a little while after the boys spend the night in a motel. It looks like they continued their travels and have stumbled across an abandoned cabin. I didn’t realize so much time had passed until I took a moment to look through Sean’s journal in which he’d doodled some of the things that had happened.
Things begin pretty excitingly as we get to witness Daniel’s powers first hand. Turns out the boys had been “training” and Daniel was learning to use his power more precisely, being able to pick up huge rocks. However, one thing I quickly learned was that unlike Life is Strange 1, you’re not in control of this power. You passively ask Daniel to do this, lift that, or to simply stop using his power in stupid places.
This is where things started to get a little rocky for me. Sean is adamant that Daniel must abide by three rules, hide his power, don’t talk about his power, and run from danger. However, throughout the entire episode, Daniel is defiant of these rules and he knows it. While Daniel is young and excited by his new power – which is totally understandable for a nine-year-old – this naivety comes across more obnoxious than anything and Daniel quickly became a very unlikable character.
As for the story, it begins off – once again – pretty slow, as you do humdrum activities to progress the night. There is a moment where you play a dice game together which I did enjoy, that was until Daniel started once again abusing his power to cheat and win. Thankfully you can call him out on it, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. During this time Sean notices Daniel’s cough is getting worse and he’s becoming a little more tired than usual, so he makes the decision for the two to make the trip to his grandparents – on their mother’s side.
This is where things begin to get a little more interesting. It seems the brothers have found salvation at their grandparents, though it feels more like pity as their grandparents still feel guilty for their daughter (the boys’ mother) abandoning them eight years ago. We learn a little more about their mother at this point, but it’s all being kept so hush-hush it quickly becomes more of a bore than a story you really want to get to the bottom of.
In this episode we also get to meet Chris once again – for those who have played the standalone title, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, they’ll instantly recognize this character. What’s a nice touch is that the outfit players choose for Chris during Captain Spirit, is brought over to Life is Strange 2. Not to give away too many spoilers for both this season and Captain Spirit, we get to learn first-hand how the end of Captain Spirit actually plays out, but from the brothers’ perspective.
Now it wouldn’t be a Life is Strange story without some impactful and shocking moments, and yes, there are some. However they don’t floor you as much as they did in Life is Strange 1 – in fact, I forgot about one of these moments once I’d initially played through the game. And this is where I feel the game falls on its face the most. Due to you passively using Daniel’s power, it seems your choices don’t really matter as the outcome is largely the same. It’s more of a “Yes” or “No” decision, however, the story will progress almost the same regardless.
This is the most disappointing part of Life is Strange 2. Your choices. Throughout Episode 2 I only came across one really difficult choice, one of which didn’t really seem to affect the outcome of the story anyway, sure it may have damaged a relationship, but due to the nature of the story itself, it’s not like it would matter too much anyway.
Much like the first episode, we’re meeting people who have some influence on the brothers’ journey, however, because the two on the lamb, these characters and relationships they build are disposable. Perhaps that’s the point of the Life is Strange 2, we’re perhaps experiencing the same feeling of loss, loneliness, and helplessness as Sean and Daniel. I suppose as a story, or even as a movie, this would work, but as a video game, it becomes a bit of a drag.
Story aside, Life is Strange has always been spot on with its visuals. This time around, however, there were a few technical issues which plagued this episode. A number of times characters would warp to new locations, during scenes where Daniel would use his power, items would collide with the character models and just be absorbed into their bodies. It was really odd to see and completely messed with the immersion of the game.
Adding to that, the game’s dialogue became a mess at times, this is mostly due to the use of idle chit chat. During the game, the brothers and some of the other characters in the game would have idle dialogue in an effort to make it seem more natural, however, more often than not, this idle dialogue would continue when, say, Sean interacts with an object. You’d often have Sean talking over himself, or whoever is talking at that time and it’d just be a clutter of conversation.
Overall, as much as I hate to admit it, DONTNOD dropped the ball with Life is Strange 2. Not to mention the hubbub that people are having due to the final four episodes being sold as a bundle rather than individually. But perhaps that says a lot about the game itself and what we can expect from the future of the title. I’m personally not left wanting more – unlike Life is Strange 1 – and that’s what disappoints me the most about this game.