Review: Life is Strange 2 (2018) – Episode 1

Life is Strange 2 delivers a sweet story of brotherhood while touching on political subjects directly affecting the Hispanic community.

The sequel to Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange (2015) is finally here and introduces us to a story that is bigger and more relatable than what we saw in the first game and its prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm (2017). Life is Strange 2 not only tells a touching story of brotherly love but also not so subtly touches upon serious subject matters relative to modern day America in the typical Life is Strange aesthetic that we all know and love.

Life is Strange 2’s story is told over the course of five episodes and takes us away from Arcadia Bay, Oregon, leaving behind beloved characters and dropping us into Washington state and the lives of 16-year-old Sean Diaz and his younger brother Daniel, both of whom we very briefly met in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (2018). Sean is a relatable high school teenager who when we first meet him is preparing to go to a party where he hopes to talk to the girl he likes, and Daniel is your typical fun-loving 9-year-old kid. Both these characters feel very authentic and from the very first instance of meeting them they become likeable.

The game begins with Sean preparing to go to a party, with your first task requiring you to collect a number of items from around the house. We all know that Life is Strange is all about player choice and consequence, but this time around it is taken to a new level with everything you do having an impact, even the menial task of collecting items for a party. As Sean is about the leave home, he sees Daniel being picked on outside so rushes to his brother’s aid. After a racially charged insult is thrown at Sean a fight breaks out resulting in an incident involving the law that forces the two brothers to go on the run.

The pair quickly leave town with plans of going to Mexico but first they must figure out how to survive. Food and shelter are the main concerns at this point and playing as Sean you must use your instincts as to what the best course of action will be. The relationship between Sean and Daniel grows very organically especially since Sean has suddenly become his younger brother’s protector. Daniel has not had much attention so far but once the brothers are on the run Daniel becomes the focus and everything you do must be done with him in mind.

Since Daniel is only 9 years old he is very impressionable and Sean’s choices affect him directly as well as the overall narrative. How Sean interacts with the world leaves an imprint on Daniel’s behaviour which can manifest into Daniel making some potentially bad choices.  Daniel often replicates the choices that Sean makes and knowing that Daniel is watching can make those choices harder.

Like the previous titles in the Life is Strange series, the sequel isn’t afraid to tackle controversial and difficult subjects. The underlying tone of Life is Strange 2’s narrative is a political one that directly reflects current racial tensions in the USA. The story takes place in late 2016 against the backdrop of the US presidential election, and while Donald Trump is never mentioned by name, there are clear references to his campaign. This political undertone is what drives the story and Trump’s influence can be felt all across the first episode. At one point in the episode, Sean is accused of shoplifting by a man who talks of the “need to build that wall”, suggesting that he’s targeting an innocent Sean for nothing other than his Mexican descent. In situations like these the wrong choice can end up being the only choice since Sean has already been judged and punished for his skin colour. This is an interesting concept that makes Sean and Daniel’s life all the more difficult and seems like it will follow into the remaining four episodes.

Life is Strange 2 is a story first and foremost about brotherhood and it’s already clear that Sean and Daniel’s relationship will continue to grow and will no doubt touch us all. While episode one is a bit slow at times, we have had a brilliant introduction to Sean and Daniel as characters and that the hardships that are still to come.

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