Disclaimer: This review is based on the PC version of the game and was played on a PC with Intel Core i5-8250U, 8 GBs of RAM.
As I have stated in previous reviews, I am an avid fan of everything Life is Strange. From the original game itself, to Before the Storm and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, to the first two episodes of the sequel, I have happily consumed any media DONTNOD Entertainment releases that is even remotely Life is Strange related.
And then came the third episode of Life is Strange 2.
After waiting about three months for a new installment, I’d had plenty of time to build up my hopes. When it finally came out, I settled down in front of my computer, ready to spend the next three to four hours living in the universe that I had come to know and love.
But that wasn’t what happened. I found myself only briefly living in the beautiful Life is Strange world before being thrown into what felt like a mediocre replica. Everything just felt ever-so-slightly off, to the point where it wasn’t a complete disappointment, but it certainly didn’t feel like I was spending time in my favorite video game world anymore. Compared to the episodes before it, Life is Strange 2: Episode 3 is clearly a weak link in the story as a whole.
Boring gameplay and slow plot
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, the gameplay in this episode, even including the choice mechanics that Life is Strange is known for, was just flat-out boring. Obviously, no one expects particularly intense gameplay in a Life is Strange game, where controls are often simplified in order to allow players to focus more on the story and characters rather than worrying about complex gameplay. However, most of this episode genuinely felt like just walking from one cutscene to another. And when not walking from cutscene to cutscene, most of the gameplay was just fetch quests: everything from doing chores in the tent community to trimming weed at a pot farm for a good ten minutes each.
Despite plenty of walking to-and-from cutscenes, the plot in this episode was incredibly slow-moving. About 95% of the episode was just sitting around talking to other characters, which is obviously important, as the characters drive the story in Life is Strange games, but at this point, it was so much talking that the story was hardly even there for the characters to support. There were several moments where there was literally nothing to do except sit and listen to other characters talk. One might argue that this was an attempt to replicate the boredom that Sean and Daniel feel with their daily lives, which is fair, but that’s not why people play video games. And it’s obviously not that the developers at DONTNOD are incapable of replicating feelings of boredom or apathy without causing the player to become bored with the game, because they have done a beautiful job of it in the past. Yet, in this episode, something in the equation didn’t quite click, which led to a disappointingly dull episode.
While the new characters are interesting and (for the most part) well fleshed out, sitting around a campfire listening to them talk about their lives for about 20 minutes was not the most engaging thing in the world. It would be better to see who these people are through their actions than basically sit the player down and give them a crash course on each character’s backstory.
Choices, worldbuilding is clunkier than ever before
While the story moved at a decent pace and felt like part of the Life is Strange world in previous episodes, the entirety of this episode just felt forced. It seemed more like the writers were having to make things happen to Sean and Daniel rather than letting things just naturally occur in the world of the characters. This took the player out of the story and took away a lot of the emotional draw that makes Life is Strange games so unique and keeps people playing them.
Additionally, the choices in this episode were just frustrating in general. A lot of them felt like they really didn’t matter, particularly the ones involving Daniel, because the relationship between Sean and his brother in this episode seemed to have suddenly shifted to another level of hostility. While there were always moments of sibling rivalry and annoyance between them, most of the time in this episode, it seemed like they genuinely didn’t like each other, and that the choices a player made did not matter because Daniel would just act angry with Sean anyway. I get that the game wanted to replicate the frustration that Sean felt dealing with his younger brother’s antics, but even slight changes would have made the player feel like they can actually make progress with the brothers’ relationship and give them something to work towards instead of just giving their choices little to no significance.
Several of the choices are also very mutually exclusive. For instance, there are options to pursue romances that a single choice automatically cancels out, along with some hidden options that you can’t get unless you follow a certain path. While I personally find having some hidden options cool and unique, there were just too many choices that had a broader impact on the rest of the episode than they should have. The choices in this episode just felt very restricted in comparison to those before it. And one additional warning to those planning to play it: some choices that are timed are not indicated as such. In one instance, lacking the information that a choice was timed made my story take a turn that I had not intended it to take at all, which was frustrating, considering the situation could have been remedied if I had known I only had a few seconds to decide.
In addition to the choices in this episode feeling off, the world of the game itself just seemed strange. The most glaring example of this, in my opinion, was the music. While Life is Strange games are known for mellow indie soundtracks, this episode contained mostly pop music, including “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice, which felt completely out of place and pulled me out of the world for a good three to four minutes. Honestly, the only song in this episode that really made sense in the Life is Strange universe was Cassidy’s song at the campfire. This inconsistency in the world-building just added to the aforementioned problems, which will certainly throw off players who are familiar with this game series.
It’s not all bad
This episode really was not entirely bad. Was it underwhelming? Yes. Was it as good as the first two episodes? No. But certain things in this episode are done really well, like the opening flashback, which was a perfect and emotional way to get the player back into the story of Sean and Daniel. The inclusion of both same-sex and opposite-sex potential romances was lovely and integrated well into the story. Even the jealousy Sean felt when Daniel started hanging out with Finn more translated really well and felt real to the player.
This is not the best Life is Strange 2 episode, but it still has its moments. Hopefully, this is a necessary lull that will only make the action of episodes four and five feel more exciting and dramatic, but standing on its own, this episode does not live up to the high standards DONTNOD has created for Life is Strange.
Featured Image: Steam
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