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Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4)

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz are forced to flee their home in Seattle. As two wanted fugitives on the run from the law, the brothers have only each other as they make the longest journey of their lives to Mexico.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4)

Introduction

Life is Strange 2’s second episode, Rules, was released on the 24th January by Dontnod Entertainment. With the first episode having such a promising start to the series, the second episode had a lot to live up to. Despite it taking four months to finally drop after the first episode, Rules is another impressive installment to Life is Strange 2.

The first episode, Roads, focused more on political and social issues, notably the prejudice Sean and Daniel face due to their race. This created an emotional and intriguing beginning to the series. Episode 2 seems to take a small step away from this and serves as a kind of ‘breather’ episode. The brothers’ characters are more fleshed out, and there are less action and more heart-warming moments. And, of course, there’s even more heart-wrench. This is Life is Strange though, so what did you expect?

Life is Strange 2 – Episode 2 Launch Trailer | PS4


Life is Strange 2 is available for purchase on the PlayStation 4 store for $32.99.

Story

The second episode of Life is Strange 2 takes place sometime after the events of the previous episode. The brothers are staying in an abandoned cabin in the woods, and Sean is helping Daniel with gaining more control with his power. Unfortunately, Daniel becomes unwell with no signs of improvement. A worried Sean decides to track down his grandparents’ house so they can help his brother get back on his feet. When you initially meet the brothers' grandparents, they are cagey due to the fact they have heard about the boys' crimes on the news. It doesn’t take long for them to warm up to their grandchildren, however, and they do their best to keep Sean and Daniel safe and concealed from prying eyes.

A large premise in the episode is Sean and Daniel readjusting to ordinary life again, and they are given rules to abide by, much to the brothers’ dismay. It’s a breath of fresh air, and a more calming and mellow experience than the last episode. It’s warming to see Daniel act like a kid again, like his enthusiasm in playing with his grandfather’s elaborate train set. There’s also a particular instance when his grandmother tells him to keep his feet off the sofa, in which he responds by huffing petulantly and muttering something under his breath. This playfulness is further heightened when Chris from the Life is Strange 2 demo, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is introduced.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4) - Best friends for life.
The friendship between Daniel and Chris is the highpoint of the episode. After being in solitude for a while now, Daniel becomes fast friends with Chris. In turn, Chris, whose father is an abusive alcoholic, finally gets to share his vivid imagination with someone with the exact same interests as him. Both boys love superheroes, and Daniel, wanting to impress his new friend, decides to show off his super cool power.

When Sean finds the pair playing with flying toys surrounding their heads, he’s obviously not too happy. Daniel reassures him by telling him that Chris thinks he’s the one with the superpower. It seems like an innocent enough motive made with Chris’s best interest at heart, but is it unfair to mislead him? You are given the option to either let Chris know he doesn’t have powers or to continue to deceive him. These actions also go in hand with how you’ve been playing Sean up until this point. If you’ve been telling Daniel to conceal his telekinesis, then you’ll be in for a nasty surprise if you also lie to Chris about his ‘power’. Dontnod doesn’t like you to be too content for too long, after all.

Gameplay 

Your actions and consequences continue to have a huge impact on how the episode plays out, and it seems your decisions will further affect the outcome of later episodes. This was a major flaw in the original Life is Strange as your choices didn’t matter in the end. It’s nice to see Dontnod have rectified this in Life is Strange 2. There are a lot of times in Rules when you are greeted with the ‘choices screen’ and have to decide whether you should allow Daniel to use his power or not. It makes you question whether being overly cautious and firm is actually the right decision. The episode constantly puts you in this difficult position. Sean is still only sixteen-years-old, but he has had to grow up quickly since the events of the first episode in order to look after Daniel. It’s up to you whether you play him as the protective brother or the juvenile teen. Either way, you’ll probably end up regretting your decision.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4) - Daniel gains more power over his power.
Although the segments with Chris are enjoyable, they do seem underutilised. It was revealed that the choices you made in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit would be present in the second episode of Life is Strange 2. However, the only reference to my The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit save was Chris’s dad mentioning that I’d cleared the snow off the steps to the back door. I completed all the objectives in Chris’s story, so it was disappointing to see that they didn’t have as big an impact in the second episode as I thought they would have. I also got the impression that Chris wouldn’t be in any future episodes, aside from the occasional mention. Chris’s backstory is seemingly more developed than Sean’s and Daniel’s, so it would be odd if he wasn’t an occurring character and only had one appearance in the series. The end of the second episode, regardless of your outcome, sadly appears to point this way.

The ending of the second episode puts Sean and Daniel back into their initial position of life on the run. Although this could be seen as negative as not much drives the plot forward in this episode, the increased backstory and character development of the two brothers has been pleasant.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4) - Wolf brothers.
Another disappointing factor of the second episode is how long it took to get released. Although more development time generally makes for a better game, it can be counterproductive in the long run. Episodes for the original Life is Strange were typically released around every six weeks, except for Episode 5, which came out three months after the fourth episode. If a four-month wait is to be expected for future episodes of Life is Strange 2, then the final episode would release around Spring 2020. This is over eighteen months after the first episode. These excessive wait times could generate less hype and cause people to lose interest.

Graphics and Audio

Life is Strange 2 uses the Unreal Engine 4 and its visuals are an upgrade to its predecessor. The original Life is Strange had a few graphical issues, notably in lip-syncing and characters’ facial expressions. These problems have been mostly diminished in the second series, and the game looks great. The environments are vibrant and detailed, particularly the snowy woods in the opening of the second area. The characters also look better and have more realistic and smoother expressions. Occasionally a character’s mouth won’t quite match the dialogue, but this is mostly seen in minor characters that don’t have a big role in the game. Overall, Life is Strange 2 looks very pretty.

The soundtrack in Life is Strange 2 is fantastic. The songs choices match the intended emotion of cutscenes, and the licensed tracks feature artists like First Aid Kit, Phoenix and Bloc Party. French composer, Johnathan Morali, who worked on the original Life is Strange has also created original pieces for the game. I did notice a slight sound issue in the second episode where audio kept cutting out. Sometimes the dialogue would cut out before a character had finished speaking, and there were a few moments when cutscenes didn’t have any sound effects at all. These technical problems were frustrating, but they didn’t detract from my experience with the game too much.

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 Review (PS4) - Characters' facial expressions are much better.

Conclusion

Life is Strange 2, Episode 2 is another great instalment to the Life is Strange 2 series despite its long development process. The first episode was very action heavy, so the more relaxed and slower pace of the second episode has been mostly successful. The growth of Sean’s and Daniel’s characters has been enjoyable to witness. However, the plot has been more stagnant as a result, and further references to The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit could have been implemented. The lengthy waiting times between episodes have made for a better game overall, but it could be problematic. If a four-month wait for future episodes is to be expected, then audiences could lose interest eventually. Hopefully, it won’t come to this.

PROSCONS
+ Engrossing and emotional plot– Poor implementation of Chris's story
+ Well-developed characters– Long waiting times between episodes
+ Lots of choices and different outcomes– Audio issues
7.5
Good

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