16th Jan2019

‘Life is Strange 2 – Episode 1: Roads’ Review (PS4)

by Xenia Grounds


If I had to sum up my experiences with the previous Life is Strange installments. I would say that I liked it but I didn’t love it. I went into the second main entry with the same expectations and by the end of Roads, I ended up thinking that this was the experience the internet told me I would have with the first game: Hard-hitting, touching and something to fall in love with.

As said in my Captain Spirit review, you do not need to play the original Life is Strange in order to play this. You can jump right into Life is Strange 2 without any knowledge of previous games in the series.

In Life is Strange 2, you play as sixteen-year-old Sean Diaz. At the start of Roads, Sean’s life is pretty normal. He goes to parties, he stresses about how to talk to his crush and is rather directionless about his future. Sean also finds his little brother, Daniel, a little annoying but for the most part, he is the cool big brother…well, depending on how you play him anyway. However, life for the two siblings is completely turned upside down after a horrific altercation with an antagonistic neighbor ends with Sean and Daniel on the run.

The game really shines with the relationship between Sean and Daniel. The player has to be invested in these two or otherwise, you would not care about anything in this installment. You feel how much responsibility weighs on Sean’s shoulders. He goes from having to be the cool big brother to being Daniel’s parental figure, protector and role model while Daniel is unaware of why they’re on the road since he doesn’t remember the circumstances. This episode does have several moments to emphasize Sean’s pain and how hard he is trying not to break down over the situation while Daniel innocently only sees it as a camping trip.

There are fun sides to this with the conversations they have as the dialogue feels very natural and believable. I am a younger sibling and the age gap between my brother and I is close to Sean and Daniel’s. This game nails what it is like to have that type of bond. You will smile, laugh, go ‘aww’ and probably cry at least a few times in this episode because they go through so many emotions and all of them are handled brilliantly. Yes, it’s not always perfect. There are a few lines which don’t have the best delivery but the teen slang is really downplayed this time and that is something to be grateful for.

As far as the choices go, Life is Strange 2 is very similar to the Lee and Clementine dynamic in TellTale’s The Walking Dead. Daniel can be a moral compass to you. Daniel looks up to Sean so he is watching his older brother’s every move and will emulate what he does as a result. You don’t have time travel anymore to bail you out if you make the wrong choice on your first go. As the game says, choose wisely. If you tell Daniel scary stories, he’ll have nightmares and if you aren’t paying attention with him, there can be accidents. You’ll always be conscious of the choices you are making and chances are, Daniel will influence how you play the game. I know that if he wasn’t around, I would not have been as lenient or taken the moral high ground as much as I did.

Some of your choices will come from what you deem necessary. Sean doesn’t have much money so you may have to do things that are morally grey like steal but there are consequences to that as well. If you steal food too often, then Daniel will think it’s okay to steal. He’s also pretty inquisitive so he’ll question Sean if you send him to beg for food. Overall, I can’t say the choices had massive impacts but ‘Roads’ takes place at the very beginning of their life on the run and this story is meant to span over a year for them. It’s a safe assumption that we’ll see how Sean’s choices affect Daniel’s behavior in the long run.

I don’t like to go into politics in my reviews unless I have to but Life is Strange 2 does not shy away from racist themes. The brothers are of Mexican descent and they live in Trump’s America so they deal with being judged by the colour of their skin. There are encounters with racist characters and they are not subtle about what they think at all. Some have complained about that but personally speaking, you’d be surprised at how accurate it can be.

The gameplay itself is pretty standard for the series. It’s still a point and click game for the most part. There isn’t much challenge in Roads for the player. There’s only one action sequence which is fairly easy to get through. Like the previous Life is Strange, there is a supernatural element. However, Sean isn’t the one with the powers so that mechanic is stripped away from the player. This could potentially change in later episodes but I don’t see Sean developing powers of his own. As Sean is an artist, there is a sketching mini-game which basically consists of awkwardly moving the direction pad around waiting for something to appear on the page. The drawings are good and how much detail you want in them is entirely up to the player but the mechanics to get them are so awkward that it won’t be a mini game to look forward to.

The last things to talk about are the sound and graphics. The engine for Life is Strange 2 has had a considerable upgrade so it is much more appealing than its predecessor which looked like an oil painting most of the time. Life is Strange 2 looks more naturalistic although there are moments where it falls back into old habits of looking a little uncanny. The soundtrack in Roads is great and there are many great uses of original tracks and licensed music. I never thought Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ would nearly drive me to tears. Without spoiling too much, it involves the two brothers dancing to that song and in that scene, you wish it could go on forever given the heartbreaking circumstances they are in. My favourite track is ‘Into the Woods’ which is beautiful and relaxing but has a sense of sadness and contemplation to it.

Life is Strange 2 is not pulling its punches. It’ll break your heart with how brutal it can get but you can’t help but want to protect Sean and Daniel and do everything in your power to help them get their happy ending. It waits to be seen if they’ll get one given where they are but it’ll be an emotional journey finding out and I’m completely onboard to see the rest of it. This story of brotherhood and family has the potential to be one of the best in gaming if it keeps the momentum going after this incredibly powerful start.

Life is Strange 2 – Episode 1: Roads is available now. Life is Strange 2 – Episode 2: Rules comes out on January 24th.


Comments are closed.