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Something’s strange about ‘Life is Strange 2: Episode 3’

Image from Steam
Image from Steam

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

Image from Steam

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. 

Image from Steam

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

Image from Steam

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.

Images: Steam

Featured Image: Steam

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