Title: Life is Strange 2: Episode 1
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: September 26, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
When Life is Strange 2 was first announced I was excited to see the growth of the Life is Strange franchise. The series has pushed the narrative adventure genre in various ways by offering unique systems that changed the outcome of a character’s life.
Life is Strange 2 aims to continue the focus on the young coming of age characters, but instead of focusing mostly on your own success, players will now need to worry about another character’s fate as they make choices throughout the game. I was eager to see how Dotnod balanced these characters and the unusual, sometimes supernatural, events that surround them throughout the episodic story.
The game opens to a scene we’ve seen so many times in this generation, a dash cam of a police officer’s cruiser. Following a hectic encounter between the police and a suspect, we meet Sean, a normal high schooler who’s only focus is on girls, friends, and parties. We find out that Sean faces many temptations throughout his day that I’m sure anyone can relate to, this includes drugs and talking about sex. Being a guy myself, I could relate to Sean’s inner brain battling out how to go about making these daily choices.
Soon we meet the game’s other main protagonist, Sean’s younger brother Daniel, a smart and impressionable kid who isn’t afraid to speak up. After a tragic incident, it’s these two characters who are forced to survive against all odds. This journey requires them to work together and puts Sean in the ultimate older brother role to keep his brother safe and teach him important life skills along the way.
This dynamic between the brothers works well. As I was becoming familiar with the interactive options with Daniel, there was an interesting occurrence when I was not paying attention to him as he followed me over steep drops. When I realized there was an option to help him, I felt bad that I didn’t offer him help sooner. It was as if I was his actual older brother. I was also impressed with the visual improvements that Dontnod has brought to the series. I felt that the character models and the environment have more refined textures, movements, and realistic lighting effects. This translate into facial and body animations having more expression and have a much better presentation to the game’s cutscenes.
Though some of the game’s presentation is lost when clipping and texture popping occur between scene transitions. As a camera’s frame cuts to the next or pans closer to subjects, textures snap and distract for tender moments. This is likely a technique used to save on resources while loading appropriate assets before jumping frames. The biggest blow to the game’s presentations is the lack of impactful audio effects during important scenes. During certain moments, I felt scenes lose all of their punch to the point of it being jarring, similar to symptoms of audio loss glitches.
Lastly, most choices in the one episode mostly have you tending to the bond between the brothers. These casual choices felt as though I was just moving the story forward, not so much altering the events. Even during the more tense decisions that usually are meat for more consequential outcomes. However, Dontnod understands when and where to include the more important decisions which had me feeling pretty emotional a few times.
In the end, at times Dontnod successfully received my full attention by twisting my emotional arm and having me pondering the possibilities of the next episode. Life is Strange 2 has opened up a story about brothers having nothing but each other to rely on. A story that I would like to see push that brotherly bond to its limits while also mending the issues that bring the overall presentation down
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