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 the utter debacle that was Life is Strange 2: Episode 3, I must admit that I didn’t approach the long-awaited fourth installment with very high expectations, despite my high opinion of the previous Life is Strange series and its related content. If anything, when I was downloading it, I felt like it was something that I had to do as a reviewer and loyal fan of Life is Strange rather than just a fun game that I really wanted to play.
However, within the first few minutes of gameplay, I found myself enraptured more deeply than I had ever been in Episode 3. This episode has proven to be easily the greatest Life is Strange 2 episode thus far, and perhaps one of the best episodes of anything set in the Life is Strange universe at all.
Life is Strange 2: Episode 4 starts off three months after the explosion at Merrill’s farm that ended the last episode. Our protagonist, Sean, is in the hospital, recovering from injuries sustained in the explosion. With his younger brother Daniel still missing after the blast, and the inevitability of being thrown in juvie after his recovery is complete, Sean knows he has to find a way to escape the hospital and find Daniel. However, in doing so, he finds a lot more than he originally bargained for.
The wrongs have been righted
The first thing to note is that everything that made Episode 3 so unenjoyable is essentially fixed, or at least much better, in this episode. The most glaring example of this is that the number of fetch quests and “walking simulators” dropped astronomically, although the few minutes of simply walking in the desert were quite unexciting. Aside from that one example, though, there are really no significantly annoying tasks to be found in this episode, which is an absolute delight (especially after Episode 3).
Additionally, the choice mechanisms seem to be back on track with this episode. The choices are difficult without being too strenuous, and it seems like how you react to other characters actually affects your relationships. As choice and consequence are one of the key components of any Life is Strange game, this is extremely important and, honestly, a huge relief after being frustratingly unable to affect Sean’s relationship with Daniel in the last episode.
But DONTNOD didn’t stop at just fixing the glaring issues that popped up in Episode 3, no; they fixed issues that had been plaguing the story since day one. In this episode, the sequence of events finally fit together and made perfect sense; it didn’t feel like writers were just randomly throwing obstacles at Sean and his brother. But perhaps most importantly, the themes in this episode were handled beautifully. While in the past, certain themes, particularly political ones, seemed overstated, almost to the point of feeling preachy. In this episode, the themes really just are what they are. They exist in the game and are important in ways that resonate with the player emotionally rather than just being tossed towards the player’s intellectual brain to log as a theme. Themes like forgiveness, family, racial tension, and faith are handled beautifully and simply in a way where judgment rests in the hands of the player rather than the developers or anyone else.
Beautiful emotional roller coaster
As this is the penultimate episode, it is pretty much guaranteed to be the climax of the story… and of course, as in any good Life is Strange story, the climax of the story comes with plenty of emotions. However, beyond that, I was impressed by how well the game appealed to not only my emotional brain but also my aesthetic brain. The game itself looked lovelier than ever, and the way the visuals combined with music and emotional pull to create something magnificent was indescribably beautiful. This aesthetic beauty led to the singular best atmospheric moment in any Life is Strange game (when Sean is sitting outside the motel with Karen).
What made this episode different emotionally, though, was that you could tell that it was rooted in love for everyone who was involved. From the writers, to the developers, to the voice actors, it was clear that creating this episode was a labor of love. The player not only could feel like they were inthe Life is Strange universe, but also feel like they were welcome there.
Throughout the whole episode, I found myself feeling for Sean more than I ever had before, and even taking pride in his growth as a character as I played. The progression of his maturity throughout these episodes and the journey he takes are amazing. Additionally, having Sean reconnect with Karen was incredibly emotionally satisfying and spoke to the idea that even if a family is broken and torn apart, they are still family and they still love each other.
How perfect is it?
Obviously, no game is perfect, and Life is Strange 2: Episode 4is no exception. However, there really aren’t that many points to critique; for instance, issues with graphics were minimal. The only time I really noticed was when Lisbeth’s scarf would clip in and out of her arms. Additionally, Sean’s flashback to being in the car with his dad felt a bit like a copycat of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but considering that the emotional power of the scene made me cry, I’ll easily forgive that.
The only really notable grudge I have against this episode is that there are occasions where it feels like the player goes just a little too long without getting to talk or being given a choice, particularly in the final church scene. However, this was honestly an issue that only really felt present once or twice in the entirety of the episode.
Overall, this episode leaves us at a perfect point: where everything is starting to just slightly come together, but there is still plenty left unresolved for the final episode. DONTNOD did a fantastic job of leaving the player satisfied, but still eager to know what will happen next.
Featured Image: Steam
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