Life Is Strange 2: Episode One 'Roads' Review
Life Is Strange 2: Episode One 'Roads' Review
by Dylan Blight (PS4 Pro)
Two brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, are forced to run away from home after a tragic incident in Seattle. In fear of the police, Sean & Daniel head to Mexico while attempting to conceal a sudden & mysterious supernatural power.
The first Life Is Strange which starred Max Caulfield was about mental health and growing your identity as a teenager (among other things), the sequel, however, is a politically charged story about America that puts you in the shoes of Sean Diaz that hits hard with its themes even in the premiere episode.
Sean has a pretty normal teenage life. As we are introduced to him his biggest problem is what he's supposed to be texting to a girl he likes, his best-friend Lyla jumps in and teases as well as attempting to help him. The the two organise details over what they need for a party they're going to that night. Who's got booze? Who's got weed? Any other miscellaneous items we need? Once organized Sean enters his home, his Father is calling him over to have him play Judge in a court deciding who should get the last chocolate bar. Sean's brother, Daniel is 9 and his biggest worry seems to be A.) getting this chocolate bar and B.) what his Halloween costume is going to be. Sean's father is very chill. When you talk to him about the party he's not trying to talk you out of drinking, he's just trying to make sure you're safe. Sean's life seems fine, but life is strange and things take a turn for the worse in due time.
If you look through Sean's phone you can read a long roll of text's he's had with Lyra recently where they've quite obviously gotten upset about what's been on the news lately when it comes to the Presidential Race. October 2016 -- which is where Life is Strange 2 begins -- was one of the most interesting months in the Trump race for the presidency. It's the month the infamous "grab 'em by the pussy" tape leaked among many Women coming forward accusing Trump of sexual assaults. So when reading a text from Lyra saying "seriously tho. He's not actually going to win, right?" it makes sense given the climate. Also, given Sean's family is Latino it makes the tension presumably a lot tighter. We're in the time of "we'll make them build the wall" here.
You can also find a letter on the kitchen bench from the families neighbour who is accusing Sean's Dad of overstepping the property line and as the neighbour, Mr Foster write's, "I know my rights as a U.S citizen, maybe you don't." This letter and general tone might explain why sometime after being home Daniel accidentally gets into an altercation with Mr Foster's son outside. Sean, of course, rushes outside to stick up for and protect his little brother who had accidentally got fake blood on the older kid as he was setting up his Halloween costume. Of course, when a Police Officer pulls over and sees a white boy covered in blood with two Latino's the situation escalates into a devastating and sad ending. Sean & Daniel have to run. They're now on the road. Fugitives.
On the run Sean has been put into a position of now trying to be the leader for his younger brother, trying to keep him fed and safe, while also still attempting to keep his brother what he is: a kid.
The premiere episode took me roughly three hours to finish, but you could do it in less without the exploring and meandering I did. The Road isn't an action-packed kick-start to the new season but it has enough emotion put into its characters and writing to feel like a power-punch at times.
Life is Strange 1 was relatable to me to a degree as some of Max's problems I could find similar occurrences in my life. With Sean and Daniel, I have no bearing. I'm never going to be afraid to turn to the Police because they won't be able to see past my skin colour. I'm never going to have random strangers accuse me of stealing simply because of my skin colour either. At one point in ‘Road’, a character says "you're the reason we need to build the wall" and I could feel my face turn to anguish and the anger in my belly boil up.
Sean and Daniel's relationship is going to grow a lot different to Max & Chloe's from the first season. Their relationship is much more akin to a Joel & Ellie from The Last of Us with Sean serving as the mentor on a road journey trying to teach the young and impressionable Sean what is right and wrong in a world trying to tell them they're doing so much wrong by just being in the country. Of course, throw in the supernatural powers element -- which isn't really touched on much in the premiere -- and you potentially have Sean grooming a supervillain or hero in-making.
Visually Life is Strange has come some way since the first season but most of the improvements in presentation and in gameplay you would have seen if you played The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit a couple months ago. Characters feel more alive with improved animation and in subtle details such as an eye-roll. Colours are very rich and one of the earliest scenes in a forest that's on a river's edge was quite stunning.
As you would have experienced in Captain Spirit also, the gameplay has been improved in subtle ways that make for a much more flowing gameplay experience. You can interact with characters as you're moving around now and there was a total of one quick time event this entire episode. A nice touch is also the ability the put a number of the collectables you find on your backpack. For instance one of the collectables in this first episode was a birds feather so I could activate that and visually now I have a feather sticking out of my backpack. It's a small feature but adds a lot of character and reason to even be picking up weird things like a feather in the first place.
Max in the first season was a photographer, so the games collectables were photos. In the second season, the collectables are just random things to find, but Sean is a bit of an artist so there are moments you can sit down and sketch out what's in front of you. As an idea, it's cool and the pictures do turn out well when you complete them, however, the way you do it by fiddling the left analog stick around was cumbersome and confusing.
Life is Strange 2 is a brave choice for DontNod who had a hit with the first season. They could have done much of the same again here but chose to do something very different with the story of Sean & Daniel. I applaud it. Judging from the premiere episode their story is going be an interesting, hard and emotional one in ways I may not be prepared for and yet, I can't wait for the next episode.
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One, Windows PC