Title: Life Is Strange 2 Episode 4 - Faith
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: August 22, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Narrative Adventure
For me, the best part of playing an episodic video game is the feeling of taking a break from all of the shooter and action games and checking in on some characters that I’ve have grown attached to — such is the case with my experience with Life Is Strange 2, which is entering the latter half of its season.
Looking forward to the familiar and expected world that Dontnod has created can be a dangerous mindset though, as anything following the opening scenes could potentially have the ability to hinder any excitement for the remainder of what’s to come. Episode 4 – Faith serves as a setup of the next and final episode, Episode 5, and because of this, players may end up having mixed feelings about it, potentially having many of the same unanswered questions they had from previous episodes.
The following review contains spoilers for the previous episodes of Life Is Strange 2.
Episode 4 – Faith begins two months after Daniel loses control over his powers and delivers a strong concussive blast, leaving older brother Sean in the hospital under police custody. Between police questioning and his brother missing, Sean is angry and finds it hard to trust most people. After a friendly nurse helps him discover a clue to Daniel’s whereabouts, Sean escapes the hospital and heads to Nevada to reunite with his brother. Throughout this journey, many people test Sean’s faith in people as he has seen what others are capable of. At the peak of the episode, Daniel is found under dark circumstances, and it is up to Sean to help his younger brother come to his senses and take him along to Mexico.
While the story breaks the monotony of Sean taking care of Daniel, it was this series’ biggest strength. Choices you made in previous episodes were in this gray area of what was best for either you or Daniel, especially when it involved Daniel’s telekinetic abilities. With that stripped away, the plot of Episode 4 is much more linear. It is now Sean getting to Daniel and the choices you make on the way that determine whether or not you can get your brother out in one piece. There are no choices of whether or not a friend could become an enemy or get you into grave danger. Because of this, I feel this is what this episode is greatly lacking in choice-focused gameplay when compared to the previous episodes.
Back on the subject of linearity, much of this episode was going to the next destination and selecting the next person to talk to. You hear a lot about a person’s origin or someone else’s side of the story. There’s a lot of contexts given to why people are in the situation they’re in or to fill out some of the potholes created in Episode 3. For a narrative-driven game, this is appreciated, but what’s lost are dramatic choices or the option to confront different people. An example of this from another episode is when I wouldn’t have known how strongly Daniel felt about Sean’s fixation to go to Mexico if I hadn’t talked to a specific person. An optional yet necessary context that could be used to make a better choice for when I spoke to him next. Episode 4 takes the option of context and trades it for a lot of catching up storywise.
In short, there’s just a lot less variety in the game. Where before you were able to walk through multiple rooms and find some clues to progress or various ways to tackle a problem, Episode 4 doesn’t have any of that. It is only at the beginning in the episode when you’re tasked to escape the hospital. There are many ways to exit, but for me, I felt like the “good way” was a bit too obvious. The episode just came off more like a sit back and watch type of experience.
It also doesn’t help that I felt like the presentation itself was lacking. Before I felt like Dontnod was finding their stride in creating this episodic adventure and the polish was progressively getting better, but in Episode 4, I saw a lot more of stiff animations in both the character models and facial expressions. I didn’t find the time in my review to do any side by side comparisons to previous episodes, though I will say that the facial animations felt like a noticeable step backward. Gestures and emotionless characters did not fit the scenes at times, and the impact of the dramatic situations was underwhelming when I saw that the characters had no sort of reaction at all.
This was unfortunate to see since, as I mentioned before, the lack of polish takes away from a game that’s focused on so much on deep storytelling. This notion makes you aware that you’re playing a video game and pulls you out of the experience.
When taking the game as it is, I still found it to be a great story to experience from beginning to end. Watching Sean completely lose the one person he wanted to keep safe and having to come up with a way to solve that problem was something I wanted to see unfold. Also, find out the reasons why Sean is having difficulty trusting people is a compelling plot point, and it did have the ability to influence my decisions.
Because of this, all I wanted to do was cause the least amount of trouble possible and keep people at arm’s length while searching for Daniel. At one point in the story, there is an opportunity to take an offer from a stranger, which I surprisingly didn’t even consider as an option — it wasn’t part of my goal, so I didn’t trust it. But when I finally found Daniel, I felt compelled to get him out no matter how he felt about it.
While Life Is Strange 2: Episode 4 – Faith felt like a step backward from what I am used to seeing from the series, I still wanted to see this chapter play out until the end. That said, it does concern me what this means for the season finale following Faith.
Life is Strange 2 has come so far, and up until now, I’ve been nothing but happy with the story and its presentation. However, my only redemption for Episode 4- Faith it is more of a setup for Episode 5. Seeing Dontnod continue to test the two brothers’ relationship was missed, and it is hopefully something that the developer will double down on in the finale to make Episode 4 more meaningful. To see the brothers on the verge of hating each other was something I felt could have been explored in Episode 4, yet instead, Daniel was absent for more than half of this chapter. I’m not sure how the next episode will come back from that issue, and hopefully, that is a good thing. I feel Episode 4 leaves plenty of room to go in any direction; otherwise, it is too bad they used an entire episode to set that up.
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