STAFF REVIEW of Life is Strange 2 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018.
by Jennifer Dingle

Life is Strange 2 Box art ***PLEASE NOTE - There are some spoilers in this review. If you want an overall idea of the reviewers opinion without spoiling the games story, head down to the final paragraph which is the overall summary***

I never played publisher Square Enix’s Life is Strange. It’s been sitting in my backlog on my Xbox One for months. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great narrative game, but I could never bring myself to play the much beloved story of Max and Chloe. I believe this is a good thing, as I have an advantage playing Life is Strange 2. The devs want to leave behind the stories established in the original game and introduce new characters and themes in the same universe as the first, and I can fully embrace and accept them without comparing to the previous game.

Meet Sean and Daniel Diaz. Two Hispanic brothers being raised by their father in the suburbs of Seattle. Sean is 16 and is pretty much your typical teenager. He indulges in things his dad would frown upon. He has a crush on a girl and practices his moves in front of the mirror. He’s a track star, loves to draw, likes loud music and has a delightfully badass friend in Lyla who may not be the greatest influence on him (she’s very likable and I do hope we see more of her in future episodes!). He’s generally a great kid with a good head on his shoulders.

And then there is Daniel, his yournger brother who is 10 years old. He is big-hearted and a bit reckless. He loves to talk and is a bit naive in thinking that everyone is good. Daniel truly dotes on his brother and watches Sean’s every move. He strives so desperately to impress his older brother and will stop at nothing to grab his attention.

Their life was torn apart when Daniel was just a baby. Their mother left, and Sean was forced to take responsibility for Daniel at a very young age. You sense his reluctance in being a role model, and while he obviously loves his brother, being the teenager that he is, he sometimes pushes him away when he gets annoying. But he is very protective of his brother, and he will stop at nothing to make sure he is safe.

There is an incident with their neighbor, after Daniel accidentally spills his “zombie blood” concoction on his shirt. It starts an outbreak of violence, and Sean accidentally severely injures the young boy. That’s when all hell breaks loose. A young officer reports to the scene and shakily points his gun at the Diaz brothers, which brings their father to their defense. Unfortunately, the inexperienced cop is trigger happy, and kills him. It is here that we get a glimpse of a what will be Daniel’s extremely powerful supernatural power, one which leaves utter chaos around him and the police officer dead.

And so begins their long journey on the run to Mexico to the place of their father’s birth, a place that promises hope for the young Diaz brothers. They find themselves on the road in the midst of Washington’s wildness, seeking shelter and a way to survive on their own.

Much like any narrative game, your earlier actions and dialogue play a large role in the outcome of the game’s narrative. Your interactions with other people, and the choices you make, truly impact and weave the intricate story. I think of when Lyla gave Sean the task of gathering supplies for a party later that night. Little did I know that the decisions made here would affect their survival later. Instead of grabbing a 6 pack or beer, I decided to grab pop instead, which provided a little sugar for Daniel when out in the forest. I stole a little money from the change jar, which gave me additional money for camping supplies at a gas station.

The most important impact on the narrative is how Daniel reacts to Sean’s behavior. The effects of the choices you make are not always apparent, but no doubt they will affect the story down the road. You are often faced with complex decisions. Do you do something that may not be the right thing but will help you survive, or do you do the right thing and your brother goes hungry. There’s no wrong or right why to act, because ultimately, your brothers survival is a stake.

A great example of this was when I stole a much-loved chocolate bar for Daniel out of a car. I know it was the thing to wrong, but Daniel was starving and could use the sugar. But he was watching closely, and later on I thought nothing of taking a trinket from a friendly benefactor at the end of the episode. I suppose it’s all about finding the right balance, taking care of your survival while trying to be a good role model for Daniel.

DONTNOD hasn’t shied away from including real world concerns into the storyline, which some may consider too political as it takes place in the days before the current president was elected. There is talk of “the wall” and there is police violence against minorities. But I think it was an important addition to the story, the Diaz brothers not only have to face being on the run and the loss of their father, but they also unfairly faced with being racially profiled which adds extra tension to their already difficult journey.

The dialogue can be a bit stiff and unnatural at times, and to be honest, Daniel’s whining irritated me (but perhaps it was meant to!), but generally the voice acting was extremely well done. The soundtrack choice was perfect! It truly captured the emotion of the story which is best summed up as Sean’s youth and the loneliness of life on the road. Visually stunning, DONTNOD truly captures the beauty of Washington’s wilderness and the environments immersed the player in the Diaz home, and the locations on their epic road trip.

I know some may struggle leaving the story of Max and Chloe behind, but I encourage players to get to know the Diaz brothers. There is a great tale to be told, and I can’t wait to find out the fate of Sean and Daniel. I want them to them to reach Mexico. I want to find out more about Daniel’s powers, which for now for seem like out of control telekinesis (also stay tuned for a little something regarding this after the credits role!). Future episodes promise new towns and settings and a great road trip story. Despite a bit of a pacing issue, the first episode of Life is Strange 2 has captured my attention, and should capture yours, and I eagerly await the entire season. For those who enjoy narrative games, this is one you will definitely want to add to your collection.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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