Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 – Roads (Xbox One Review)
Given the current climate surrounding adventure games and the loss of Telltale Games, it feels odd to say that we are privileged to bear witness to another excellent addition to the genre and applaud its delivery, but here we are. Life is Strange was one of the first games in the current generation to show that you didn’t need a big, well known franchise to push the medium and that you can recover from the missteps of poor spin-offs – yes, Before the Storm is pretty bad and I won’t hear otherwise – with a title like Life is Strange 2.
Instead of following the typical route of continuing the previous games’ narrative, Life is Strange 2 chooses to expand on the universe with a new story to tell. There’s no Max, no Chloe, and no Arcadia Bay. Life is Strange 2 starts with Sean Diaz navigating the usual intricacies of teenhood. There’s girls, beer, and parties on the horizon, but there’s also the hangover is adolescence. Sean’s family are tightly knit, even with the absence of Sean’s mother. Sean’s brother, Daniel, lives in adoration of his brother and wants to be part of his world while Sean’s dad tries his best to help the paid find a middle ground. They are your typical family, but Life is Strange 2 isn’t your typical slice of life experience.
Within the opening third Sean and Daniel’s world is turned upside down, shaken until all that is loose falls apart, and then tossed aside by fate. In the following moments there are fight or flight decisions that will be made, and more importantly remembered, with no chance to turn back. From there on, Life is Strange 2 becomes about the bonds of family and how far Sean is willing to go to protect his brother. It’s endearing, heart wrenching, and at times poignant. Much like its predecessor, Life is Strange 2 knocks it out of the park in tone and goes as far to improve on the dialogue to the point that Sean and Daniel are instantly relatable to anyone with siblings. There’s also an unbelievable amount of effort put in to creating a backdrop of cherished relationships that may or not blossom in episodes to come that really compliment the sentiment of the episode.
Just as striking as the relationships are the decisions made. While they aren’t as clear in the offset as the initial episode, the repercussions of you actions slowly surface as you progress. As Daniel idolises his brother, Sean, you’ll find that he doesn’t miss a trick and may even imitate your every move if you’re not careful. It adds another depth to Life is Strange 2 that we haven’t really seen before, not only are you responsible for your own actions, but your also responsible for Daniel’s and that may have dire consequences. Even though these decisions still fall under the usual tropes of a narrative adventure game, they go far beyond “X will remember this”.
On top of your usual branching paths and decisions, there’s also the ability to engage with Daniel and talk about the events that transpired as you meet some equally as interesting comrades. You can even capture the moment by finding a quiet spot to sit down and sketch out what Sean is seeing at controlled intervals. There aren’t any big gimmicks in controlling time in this outing, but there’s potential for the mechanics to expand dramatically beyond the first episode that are mysterious enough to linger long after the episode is done.
While Life is Strange 2 isn’t the most exciting game in terms of mechanics, it absolutely nails the feel it so clearly aimed for. It’s kitsch, yet it manages to fly subtly under the radar of obnoxiousness. Distinct in presentation and human in delivery, there’s very little that you can complain about. We might not know what the future holds for Sean and Daniel, but it’s very clear that it lies in our hands.