Life is Strange 2 Made the Right Decision by Focusing on Entirely New Characters
Despite changing the focus to be on that of two brothers, Life is Strange 2 still seems to be hitting all of the right beats that players have come to want and expect from this franchise.
Despite having enjoyed the first season of Life is Strange, I never got around to playing Before the Storm or this summer’s standalone release, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. This wasn’t necessarily on purpose on my behalf, I just found myself kind of un-intrigued by the new projects in this universe that were being made. Upon the announcement of Life is Strange 2, I again didn’t feel an overwhelming desire to jump back into this world for one reason or another.
That all changed recently when I saw an early preview of Life is Strange 2 at PAX West. In total, I was able to play through the opening of this new series to see how the story is set in motion, while also getting to see a short scene from later on in the first episode. This new season seems to be hitting on all of the right notes that those who adore this series would be wanting more of, but I think what makes it even more enticing to me personally is the addition of two new protagonists.
Much to the chagrin of (I’m sure) many, gone are Max and Chloe from the original Life is Strange, as our focus now shifts to brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz. Sean is the eldest brother, age 16, and is the character that we will control while Daniel, age 9, is the pesky younger brother that Sean has to end up caring for after tragedy strikes and they’re forced into running away.
Of the portion of Life is Strange 2 that I was able to play, Sean was preparing for a night of partying with his friends, while Daniel was busy working on his secretive Halloween costume. As Sean, I was able to walk around my house and interact with Daniel, pick up supplies for the night’s party with Sean’s friends, and also speak to Sean’s dad. It was a simple opening, but one that brought with it a lot of valuable characterization that will contextualize these new faces quickly.
As an older brother myself, I found the dynamic between Sean and Daniel to be pretty spot-on. It’s clear that Sean cannot stand Daniel because of how much he tries to be around him–something I could relate to when I was younger–but he’s also simultaneously very protective of him. There’s this weird unspoken bond between brothers, and no matter how much you may fight with one another, you always have one another’s backs when push comes to shove. This relationship between Sean and Daniel is one I could relate to much more than that of Max and Chloe, and I think it could lead to Life is Strange 2 being that much more impactful to me on a personal level.
What I came away so impressed by with Life is Strange 2 is just how quickly it gets its hooks into you. In not even half-an-hour, I went from being completely unfamiliar with the Diaz family and having no connection to any of the characters to being fully-invested and heartbroken by the end of the demo. I think this is the quickest that a game has hooked me in these opening moments since The Last of Us.
The backbone of what makes Life is Strange 2 so powerful is that of the writing. While it can come off as being hella tacky at times, there’s always this sense of realness and genuine power behind the characters and their words. Not only does this power come through in the writing though, but also the silence. Life is Strange 2 does a great job of knowing when to input dialogue and when to allow players to reflect on what’s happening by giving you a few beats to process what is going on. Dontnod’s writers deserve so much credit for knowing how to perfectly connect you with each character that they craft, and even more so for knowing when to allow silence to take over.
Above all else, though, I think the one aspect of Life is Strange 2 that I’m most interested in seeing how Dontnod handles deals with that of social commentary. In the small twenty-minute or-so demo that I played, there were a variety of topics presented that have been prevalent in America these past few years. Some of these dealt with racism, police brutality, and immigration to name a few. There were also some vague references to the 2016–the year in which the game takes place–Presidential Election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that I found buried within a few text message exchanges on Sean’s phone. While neither of these electees were mentioned by name, it was apparent what the messages were referring to.
I’m not sure exactly what Dontnod plans to say about these topics but knowing their track record, I think whatever comes about from Life is Strange 2 in these areas will be handled with care. What I think the first Life is Strange game did so well was that it made me empathize with characters who had issues that I don’t personally deal with. I expect this to again be the case in Life is Strange 2, and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.
Even though the advent of Sean and Daniel into the spotlight for Life is Strange 2 might make things feel drastically different, this more or less seems like exactly what fans have been wanting from this much-anticipated sequel. This is a universe ripe with many interesting stories to tell and from what I’ve seen so far, Sean and Daniel’s journey looks like it could be every bit as impactful as Chloe and Max’s.
Life is Strange 2 is set to begin later this month, with Episode 1 releasing on September 27 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. In the meantime, I should probably get around to seeing what Captain Spirit is all about.