Review: Life is Strange 2 – Episode 3: Wastelands

Life is Strange 2 returns with another episode that gives us a look into the new life of the Diaz brothers

In episode one of life is Strange 2 we were given the impression that Sean and Daniel’s journey would be politically charged and would deal with some tough real-life issues but unfortunately, we have yet to see much of that. For the most part episode three is about getting to know other characters and puts Sean and Daniel’s situation on hold. This doesn’t last long however, as what could possibly be a huge story changing decision has to be made.

Episode three of Life is Strange 2 opens with a quick look at what life was like for the Diaz brothers prior to the tragic event that sent them on their journey. Showing Sean to be the stereotypical moody teenager and Daniel the annoying little brother, this is the first time we have seen the home life of Sean and Daniel since episode one which is a very nice touch considering we haven’t seen much of their life in Seattle. The events of episode three takes place in Humboldt County, California where Sean and Daniel are now illegally working on a marijuana farm, and introduces us to a whole new cast of characters. The Diaz brothers have reunited with Cassidy and Finn, who we met in episode 2, and their friends who are all living together in a make shift camp. This small camp is the main exploration area of the game and is where you will spend most of your time.

The first encounter between Sean and Daniel in this episode clearly shows that there is a lot of tension between the pair. With Sean spending a lot of time with his fellow campmates, Daniel feels left out and latches onto Finn who gives him all the time in the world. While you have the choice on how to react to Finn, the game clearly wants you to go down the route of considering him a bad influence on Daniel, which seems very strange since there has yet to be an interaction with him that suggests he’s a bad guy.

Throughout the whole episode Daniel behaves like a brat and constantly challenges Sean’s authority which makes him unlikeable as there is no real basis for his reasoning. He feels left out and doesn’t like that Sean has made new friends and is getting close to Cassidy, yet he took a huge risk in revealing his power to Chris in Episode 2. There’s nothing really major in the game that suggests that Daniel is being ignored. He gets on well with the other campmates and Sean isn’t being hostile towards him, so the friction between the brothers does come as a surprise.

In each episode of Life is Strange 2 Sean and Daniel have met and bacame close to different characters, and episode 3 is no exception. Being able to interact with so many new characters takes a lot of the focus off Sean and Daniel’s situation, but does make for some great storytelling. All of these new characters feel real and even though their own personal stories don’t add much to the overall story, it’s the little intimate moments that you share with them that make the Life is Strange series what it is.

Out of the secondary characters that you meet, Cassidy and Finn are the ones you become closest to and as expected Cassidy becomes a potential love interest for Sean. Cassidy is a great character in her own right but if you choose to pursue her romantically, you’ll be met with scenes that feel awkward and forced. Saying that, it’s easy to forget that Sean is only 16 so this awkwardness fits in well with his character. Finn is also an optional love interest but there isn’t even a hint of chemistry between him and Sean. The attraction makes no sense when you go down the ‘Finn is a bad influence’ route and it seems like the LGBT aspect is being explored simply because it can be done.

The brief moments that are spent away from the campsite take place on the farm where Sean, Daniel, and the others spend their day working. Most of the work is shown through cutscenes but there is one interactive section which is spent playing a quick time event mini-game. In this scene the other characters constantly complain about how bored they are and this feeling is intentionally mirrored in the slow paced, dull, and repetitive mini-game.

With so many people around the campsite Daniel’s power takes a bit of a backseat during this episode, but in the one short training session that does take place we see that he has become significantly more powerful and has more control. The moral dilemma of the game is whether to encourage or discourage Daniel to use his power which also comes into play in this episode. So far, the game seems to naturally go down the route of discouragement, however certain player choices contradict that. This makes for some inconsistent storytelling and Daniel will call Sean out on not being consistent with his rules.

Life is Strange does a perfect job of forging an appreciation for the mundane, and much like the previous episodes there is a lot of time spent in episode three not really doing anything meaningful. It’s not until we reach the final chapter that things pick up and we become faced with real story changing decisions, before being left with a huge cliffhanger.

This episode was more about character development than anything else. A quick preview of the next episode suggests that Sean is now travelling alone, so we will have to wait and see how much episode 3 impacts the game overall. Gameplay is slow for the most part but the interaction with other characters and the unbelievable tense ending more than makes up for it and gives us a lot of excitement for the rest of the series.

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