‘Life is Strange 2: Episode 2’ crafts an increasingly heart-wrenching story
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Intel Core i7-6700, 16 GBs of RAM. This review contains spoilers for the game Life is Strange 2.
After playing both The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit and Life is Strange 2: Episode 1, I was counting down the days until the release of the next installment of Life is Strange 2, which is where developers revealed that the two stories would finally intertwine. As much as I enjoyed both of the previous games mentioned, I found myself worrying that the developers would make some kind of wild and contrived stretch to combine these completely different stories. However, DONTNOD had obviously thought through exactly how they wanted to put these different characters together, and by introducing not only Chris and Charles from The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, but also the lovely characters of Claire and Stephen, who are Sean and Daniel’s grandparents, the developers create a lovable and believable ensemble for a beautiful and heart-wrenching story.
Believable characters with realistic relationships
The number one thing that stuck out to me was how much effort the writers had obviously put in to craft strong character relationships. The most important character relationship, of course, belongs to Sean and Daniel, the two brothers who are on the run together. This episode really fleshed out the relationship between the two and made their interactions much more similar to the way siblings actually act. This was a large improvement from the first installment, where a lot of the dialogue was just going back and forth between being nice to your brother and then snapping at him two seconds later in an attempt to show the love-hate side of the sibling relationship. Daniel’s character itself, too, feels more realistic in this episode, as you get more insight into his rebellious and spunky personality and his feelings about the situation and the world around him to the point where you really feel like his older brother and protector. This makes the game much more interesting because the player ends up feeling torn between wanting to be nice to Daniel and giving him what he wants, but also wanting to take care of him and do what’s best in the long run, which often requires a bit of tough love.
However, Sean and Daniel’s relationship isn’t the only one that deserves highlighting in this episode. The relationships of Claire, Stephen, Sean and Daniel together beautifully build from an initial mutual mistrust to an eventual loving (but still realistically uneasy) family unit. Claire is the perfect picture of a strict but caring grandmother, while Stephen complements her wonderfully with his goofier and less authoritative personality. Watching the pair grow closer and more at home with their grandchildren each day made the end of the episode, when they are split up by an unfortunate turn of events, even more tragic.
And of course, Chris and Daniel form the perfect dynamic duo after hitting it off when they first meet. This relationship is so important because the player gets to see Daniel just being an ordinary kid again, which makes it that much harder to have to take him on the run again.
Noticeable technical problems
Unfortunately, there are rather glaring technical issues with this game that detract from the story–some that come into effect before the gameplay has even begun. One such problem was that DONTNOD had only made the episode available as part of a bundle that included episodes 2-5, rather than allowing the player to purchase episodes individually. This sparked outcry from fans, particularly since DONTNOD had made no mention of this fact prior to the episode release. Upon purchasing the game, I discovered yet another undisclosed issue: the game would not launch if your PC did not have a video adapter that supports DirectX 11. This was frustrating to discover after waiting half an hour for the game to download; luckily, I had other PC options available for me, but if I hadn’t, I would have dropped about $30 on a game I couldn’t play. Unfortunately, these startup problems are only the tip of the iceberg on the game’s overall glitchiness.
As you can see from this novel-length tech support page, this game is unfortunately VERY buggy. I initially blamed the issues I was experiencing on my own PC, but after looking through this thread, I saw every glitch I experienced (and more) mentioned at least once. To me, the least forgivable of these were the glitches in which characters were invisible during cutscenes and the ever-so-irritating constant running water noise. While I was able to fix these bugs by restarting the game, it still meant that I had to take myself out of the story and the game world for several minutes, which was both bothersome and a major interruption to the natural flow of the plot. There were smaller glitches, too: sometimes the camera would cut back to you at a strange and disorienting angle, or characters would say two different things at the same time, but if it was only these small glitches, it would have been much more forgivable. It’s a shame that the developers created such a wonderful story but seemingly put so little effort into making it accessible and playable.
If there’s one area where this episode improves upon the first one, it’s certainly its handling of themes. Most of the overstated political commentary is gone, except for a few moments with the grandparents (lines like “America is your home!” and “Esteban was very… different from us” made me gag a little). Instead, several characters still act suspicious towards Sean and Daniel, but the player is left to wonder if it’s just general suspicion or if it has to do with race and the political climate, which is much truer to real life.
Additionally, the theme of grief comes into play heavily in this episode: while Sean and Daniel are mourning the loss of their father, Claire has refused to move on and is still mourning her daughter, who left several years ago. In one cutscene, the brothers talk openly about missing their dad, sharing fond memories of him and affirming in one another that it’s okay to miss him. This was a really touching moment in the game and sets a wonderful example for games that deal with difficult subject matters like grief and loss of loved ones.
Featured Image: Steam
For more entertainment related content, visit us Byte BSU!