DONTNOD immediately took risks with Life is Strange 2 by announcing it wouldn’t focus on Max or Chloe but two brand new characters.
We should have known right then this was going to be as bold – if not more so – just as intense and impactful as its predecessor.
Turns out we weren’t prepared for Sean and Daniel’s journey even though it is exactly the story we needed to hear.
Set in Seattle in October 2016, just weeks before one of the most critical elections in US history, Sean Diaz is getting ready for a Halloween party. He’s promised to bring the booze, snacks, and blankets, hoping to finally get to hook up with the girl of his dreams.
Sean is a typical teenage boy, experimenting, finding his way and learning about the world. It starts out simple enough, but the thing is, life likes to dish out the unexpected, and that’s exactly what happens to Sean and his younger brother where an incident forces them to go on the run, changing their lives forever.
And that’s the big difference between the original game and this sequel, you’re immediately thrust into a difficult and challenging situation, watching these two young boys grow up over the course of a few hours, accelerating their lives into adulthood. It’s as heartwrenching as it is compelling and you just can’t look away.
But just like its predecessor, Life is Strange is unafraid to tackle the big issues in a political and prejudicially charged world. Teen issues, while still prominent, take a backseat to the problems found in the wider world and the narrative is all the stronger for that.
Mechanically, not much has really changed from Life is Strange 1. You still make spontaneous decisions, decide how to converse with other people, and how you act in the world. Whether you choose to steal, beg, scavenge, and what to comment on. It’s an episode that is filled with some big decisions, though you can tell it’s setting the scene for bigger moments to come.
That said, the game now has more free-flowing dialogue with ambient choices to make over the course of the episode, rarely holding up the action which makes the action more cinematic. This is as much a sensational and engrossing viewing experience as it is an enriching interactive one.
Roads is also unafraid to mix up interactive challenges to suit individual situations. At one point, you have to carefully decide what supplies to spend money on from a limited budget. This is actually trickier than you might first think and is likely to cause second-guessing more than it is certainty.
And it all ties beautifully into the story because each choice has greater longer-term consequences than it might first appear. What’s interesting about Life is Strange 2 and the recently cancelled / then un-cancelled Walking Dead S4 is that Daniel is always watching Sean’s actions just as AJ paid close attention to Clementine. You’re the example for the younger brother in everything you do and what you may initially think is the right course of action may end up hurting or aggravating him.
Life is Strange 2 has certainly evolved from the pastel-like aesthetic of the original game, now glistening and gleaming with the power of Unreal Engine 4 through gorgeous sunsets and individual branches on trees flapping in the wind.
The UI has also had an upgrade as Sean’s backpack now lets you view inventory items individually and in more detail. You can also cycle between phone messages which are worth perusing as they date way back and add more context to Sean’s relationships and his notepad where he jots down his musings and doodles.
Life is Strange 2 Roads starts this season off with high impact and intensity. Dontnod have established two formidable leads along with a tight hook to more than fill the void left behind by Chloe and Max.
From beginning to end, I was glued to my TV screen and cannot wait to see what happens next. Any fears you may have had this series can’t survive with Caulfield and co can most definitely be laid to rest.
+ A stunning, heart-wrenching story
+ Gorgeous environments
+ Compelling leads
+ Unafraid to tackle the big issues
– Pacing slow at points
Life is Strange 2: Roads
9 out of 10
Tested on Xbox One
Code provided by the publisher