8.0
Score

Pros

  • Lots of world building and character development
  • Chris from The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit fits in nicely
  • Choices are varied and feel grounded
  • This episode maintains a constant sense of dread of what'll happen at the end

Cons

  • Lots of technical issues
  • This episode is not above backing you into certain choices if you don't have enough money
  • No, really, I didn't want to steal that yo-yo
  • The ending feels a tad rushed

Final Verdict

I still enjoyed my time in the world of Life is Strange 2, even if this episode is somewhat of a different beast than the first. Hopefully future installments aren't as buggy, though.

TECHNICAL ISSUES MAR A SOLID SECOND CHAPTER

You’re a teenager. For reasons beyond your control, you’ve found yourself on the run from the law with your brother. You spend a month in the woods, surviving on your own longer than you expect. Some people help you along the way, while others waste no time to hurt you. You still have your long term goals to get to Mexico, as pie-in-the-sky as that seems, but you have a new problem: your brother is sick. He’s not getting any better, and it’s your responsibility to take care of him.

What do you do?

Ruling out a hospital visit, since that’ll get you caught, there’s likely one other option that comes to mind – finding family members who are willing to help and are good with secrets. Even if they’re your grandparents. Even if you haven’t seen them in a while. You don’t know if they’ll take you in, but no other choice makes sense. You can’t risk your brother getting worse. 

This is where the second episode of Life is Strange 2 finds Sean Diaz. Pleading for help in the early December snow works – his grandparents take the two in, while the littler Diaz recuperates. Living in a small country town isn’t exactly easy, especially since the boys are supposed to be laying low, but the new environment they encounter and the people they meet keeps the plot spinning until the end. 

The live action trailer that came out ahead of this episode needs to be seen to be believed.

Of course there’s more to the story, but what’s really impressive is how much is controlled by choices the player makes. There’s a general framework, and I’m willing to bet many players will guess where this chapter ends up before it gets there, but I was shocked by the variety of choices players are asked to make. Money management, for instance, is so important that some players may feel compelled to start over to save up and avoid the morally questionable choices the game thrusts onto players when they run out. There are also story events that appear to be scripted, but are really the end result of a complex chain of choices – reading through the other ways these events could turn out feels like getting spoiled, because I wasn’t always aware that there’s something to change until the chapter concluded.

Inventory can always be checked in the environment, or by pressing the touchpad.

An easy point of comparison is the final season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which shares Life is Strange 2‘s core concept of young adults raising children while struggling to survive in a strange and harmful world. In both games, the choices the player makes not only effect the player character, but also the child they’re taking care of. However, in the action setting of The Walking Dead where Walkers are an active threat and there’s no time to hang out at grandma’s house, these choices come down to issues of gun safety and taking responsibility for and justifying one’s actions in a cutthroat world. Because Life is Strange 2 is set in a more grounded setting, as steeped in magical realism as it is, I found the choices much easier to relate to and more interesting for me. It’s not as easy to predict what will happen next or what choice will present itself in Life is Strange 2, like it might be in The Walking Dead.

Grief continues to be an underlying theme in this series.

For example, despite the fact that I knew going in that Chris Eriksen, the protagonist of last year’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit would be in this episode, I was stunned by how central he was to the plot. His friendship with Daniel makes sense, as Chris thinks he has superpowers and Daniel actually has them, but there were opportunities for Sean to observe the questionable way Chris’ dad treats him and interject. I found it difficult to commit to these choices and get them both to open up to Sean, because I was concerned what repercussions there would be for Chris, but I appreciate that the option is there for braver people than myself.

Despite how much I enjoyed the story though, it’s impossible for me to ignore the technical issues that popped up. There are just so many, they make this episode feel unfinished. Whether it’s lines of dialogue that are poorly strung together (as if something had been edited out in between), scenes starting before all of the textures are loaded in, sound effects left out of cutscenes, or constant screen flickering, it was enough to take my enjoyment down a peg or two. There almost always seemed to be something wrong. The weirdest experience I had (which I managed to preserve in the clip below) involved me triggering a cinematic cutscene as the Diaz brothers were already talking, causing the two conversations to overlap, and for Daniel’s character model to suddenly pop into the cinematic twenty seconds in, once the other conversation was over. However, the audio mixing was so good I wasn’t entirely sure which conversation I was supposed to listen to until Daniel popped in.

Even without the technical issues, I don’t think this episode is up to par with the first. That’s not a huge issue though, as Episode 1 was my 2018 Game of the Year, and it’s hard to live up to that. What this episode does instead is take a left turn, slow down, and explore territory I never expected the game to cover. It may feel a bit breezy, and isn’t nearly as action packed, but I appreciated the chances to meet other people and explore the quiet, country life at a more relaxing pace. It would have been much better if Dontnod and Square Enix worked to iron out more of the kinks – but what’s here is pretty good. I just hope they patch it before the next episode comes out.

-8.0/10

The aforementioned cutscene glitch.

This review was conducted using a download from PSN I got through buying the Season Pass. It is also available on PC and Xbox One. Should you want to contact me at all, remember you’re always free to do so on Twitter, or by emailing me at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com.