|And this is how the adventure begins...|
|Reviewed by:||Mark Goninon|
|Release Date:||27 Sep 2018|
|Time played:||17.5 hours|
A French Take on Telltale Adventures
Ever since the release of Telltale's The Walking Dead in 2012, adventure games have made a comeback of sorts. The newer generation of adventure games don't tend to have fiendish puzzles like those of the golden era back in the 80s and 90s, and they tend to have more of a cinematic feel to them which has made them accessible to a wider audience. While the original Telltale would go on to develop a dozen more adventure games before closing in 2018 (the new Telltale is owned by LCG Entertainment), they wouldn't be the only developer to deliver these newer cinematic adventure game experiences. French developer Dontnod (now known as Don't Nod) released Life is Strange in 2015, an adventure where you play the role of a teenager called Max Caulfield who finds she has the strange ability to reverse time. The game was a critical and commercial success, and changed Dontnod's fortunes. A prequel developed by American studio Deck Nine would be released in 2017 and Dontnod would develop a short free-to-play title called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit in mid-2018. It wasn't until later in 2018 that a sequel for Life is Strange would be released.
The aptly named Life is Strange 2 is set in the same universe as the previous game but it focuses on entirely different characters. In Life is Strange 2 you play the role of a resident from Seattle called Sean Diaz who along with his younger brother Daniel, is on the run from the police after being accused of murder.
The game has a Metascore of 70 indicating "mixed or average reviews". Critics enjoyed the dynamic between the two brothers Sean and Daniel but criticised the shallow supporting characters and the lack of agency compared to previous games. Opinions were also mixed with respect to how believable scenarios were that explored the game's themes and politics. It fared better on Steam with a Very Positive rating based on 85% of the user reviews being positive (although the game was review bombed at one point due to users unhappy about not being able to pay for the game by episode).
|You'll get to pass by Arcadia Bay as early as the first episode|
Adult Themes Galore
When I played Life is Strange 2 I binged on it, and finished the game within a matter of nights. It's quite a feat considering it took around 17 hours to get through all five episodes. As you guide Sean and Daniel down through the United States towards Mexico, you'll experience a variety of settings whether it's suburban Seattle, the forests of the Pacific Northwest or the unforgiving deserts of the American Southwest. Each of these areas in the game are beautifully crafted, so much so I now have a yearning to go on a road trip along the western coast of the United States - it's just a shame about the gun-toting rednecks.
Sean and Daniel meet all sorts of people along their way to Mexico, some help the brothers on their quest and others hinder them. The game explores many themes, especially racism as the brothers, being half-Mexican, have to contend with unfair and harsh judgements. The game even explores subtle forms of racism where well-meaning White folk naively think the authorities will treat minorities fairly. By letting players step into the shoes of Sean it may open their minds to what it feels like to be unwelcome in your own country and potentially foster compassion as well as a toning down of existing prejudices. For me, the game opened some old wounds as I had experienced some very similar scenarios to Sean in my youth which I think is a testament to how effective this medium is at conveying some of the everyday challenges of minorities or being bullied in general.
Many other themes are also explored in the game including gaslighting, emotional trauma, and love in all its different forms. In fact there's a particular episode full of sex, nudity and recreational drug use which makes it much more "adult" than the previous Life is Strange and probably why it received an R18+ rating here in Australia.
|The game takes you to many places in the US including Arizona|
Crash Course at Being a Father Figure
Life is Strange 2 takes a big gamble in that while there is a character that has special powers in this game (as it was in the first Life is Strange) that character is not you. Instead you have to use your influence as an elder brother in order to guide Daniel through the various challenges along the way but more importantly, act as a moral compass that will mould his values in the long-term. The game ends up sharing a lot of similarities to the first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead since in that game, you're also responsible for taking care of and mentoring a young Clementine, not only protecting her from the wilderness but also from people that wish to do her harm. Lee acts as a father figure for Clementine in The Walking Dead and Sean falls into a similar predicament in this game.
Some might find this lack of power, the lack of complete control over solving puzzles somewhat frustrating, but I found the game intriguing and found myself on the edge of my seat because despite telling Daniel what I wanted him to do, there wasn't any certainty he would go through with the plan, which makes the game more realistic to me: it feels a lot like parenting. In fact, a good chunk of the game involves parenting dilemmas, especially choosing when to fight your battles: reprimanding Daniel too much will only push him further away but not reprimanding him enough might get you in trouble with those who are in power.
|You'll meet characters from existing Life is Strange games|
One last thing to mention is that I like how this game has managed to show it's linked to the rest of the Life is Strange universe and that your decisions in previous games actually have a minor impact on this one. Those that played the free adventure The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit will recognise the house and its inhabitants in Life is Strange 2's second episode and some of the choices you made will result in visual and dialogue changes. You'll also come across a character from Arcadia Bay but they are a shadow of their former self. Their backstory changes depending on how events unfolded in Life is Strange.
Life is Strange 2 risks alienating its original fanbase by making your character lack any superpowers and placing you in the role of raising a frightened young boy who does. However, the way this boy reacts to how you talk and how you handle the racial discrimination, sex, drugs and other challenges you will face as you make your way down south through the United States, makes it all worthwhile. Although the game might become too cynical, overbearing, even triggering at times, it's an epic adventure that deserves to be experienced.
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