30th Aug2019

‘Life is Strange 2 – Episode 4: Faith’ Review (PS4)

by Xenia Grounds

WARNING: The following review spoils the Life is Strange 2, Episode 3 ending.

lis-2-ep-4-screen

Let’s have a little recap on Episode 3: Wastelands ending. Daniel had a freak telekinetic outburst which injured multiple people. Once the dust had settled, the episode ended on a shot with Sean unconscious and bleeding. There was a glass shard embedded in his eye and Daniel had gone missing.

Faith picks up two months after that incident. Sean has recovered from being in a coma for a few weeks but is half-blind. He’s at his lowest point yet clouded in mental anguish and physically broken, under arrest in the hospital and desperately wanting to find his little brother. Upon breaking out and finding a lead as to where Daniel is, it’s a journey to find Daniel and that’s all I can say without spoiling many of the twists and turns along the way.

If Episode 3 was a small delve into who Sean is, Faith is a full-blown character study. Sean has become my favourite character in the whole Life is Strange series so far for a reason and this episode shows why. He’s an incredibly compelling and brilliantly written protagonist. The spotlight is on Sean for this entire episode because Daniel is heavily absent. He goes through a massive ordeal while dealing with self-reflection and confronting very raw emotions. There are a few reminders of who he once was through seeing his dreams. It’s quite eye-opening (no pun intended) and heartbreaking to see how much Sean has changed from Episode 1. It is such a far cry from the carefree suburban teen we first met. Back then, the biggest moral dilemma was stealing food for survival and by Episode 4, Sean steals a car without thinking twice about it. Without Daniel around, Sean can show a ruthless edge to his personality which is believable even though it wasn’t seen that much before depending on choice. He’s handicapped now but it does very little to stop his potentially dangerous but mostly admirable determination to find Daniel. Sean does suffer through many things, but he keeps pushing forward as best he can. For better or worse, these experiences on the road have changed him. It’s matured and damaged Sean in equal measure but it’s up to you if he crosses lines that are genuinely shocking. As the trailer asks: ‘How far are you willing to go?’ This all comes to a head in an incredibly profound, empowering and emotionally charged scene near the end where Sean endures hit after hit while taking a stand for what he strongly believes he must do and proving he’ll do and risk absolutely anything for his brother’s sake. As a younger sibling myself, it’s very moving to see and Daniel is really blessed to have someone like Sean as his older brother.

From the beginning of Faith, it is made apparent that Sean is the most vulnerable that he has ever been. One of the first things is dealing with Sean’s missing eye. You don’t get a clear shot of what he looks like when his left eye is uncovered but you do experience the tragic impact this injury has had on Sean and the consistent medical attention it needs. Trying to draw is painful for him to do because his depth perception is gone and focusing too hard gives him a migraine so the sketching mini-game has a more bittersweet tone to it and when it does switch to first person, you can’t see anything on the left side anymore.

It’s difficult to watch what Sean must go through as it’s both emotionally and physically punishing. One scene involves an unfortunate encounter with a pair of racists. You can either choose to follow the demands that one of them makes which is massively humiliating for Sean or you can refuse but Sean gets badly beaten up as a result. Either way, the emotional reaction from Sean afterwards is legitimately painful. Much of the credit for this episode’s successfully compelling and dramatic high points goes to Gonzalo Martin’s incredible voice acting. He had to carry this episode with Sean being the focus of Faith and Martin performs brilliantly throughout. There is another character who would be great to talk about as well but that’s a walking spoiler for this episode but just know, it’s a greatly written scene between her and Sean which is filled with raw emotion and will hit very close to home if you’ve been through something similar.

There is a heavy religious theme in Episode 4. It does tackle the darker sides of religious thinking and its extremes through the antagonist, Lisbeth Fischer. She preaches and quotes the Bible to appear wise and kind but it’s clear within minutes that she has ulterior motives of her own and manipulates people through religion to make them do what she wants. Lisbeth is a person Sean describes as pure evil. It’s immediately recognised how clever and dangerous she can be as Lisbeth goads Sean into falling for a trap that makes him look like the villain. For anyone who is concerned, the writing doesn’t suggest that religion itself is bad but rather demonstrates what happens if it’s twisted by the wrong people through Lisbeth and expanding further on a returning character’s backstory.

Usually the music in the episode would be mentioned but this is different because there’s very little use of music in Faith. The lack of tracks captures the loneliness Sean is feeling and it serves as a good storytelling mechanic. The music in Wastelands minus Milk and Bone’s ‘Natalie’ was pretty light-hearted and mellow to capture how happy and free Sean was feeling in the California backwoods. In a way, the lack of it in Faith reflects the dark and unsettling place (metaphorically and sometimes literally) that Sean is now in.

Most of this episode focuses on dialogue, choices and character given its emotionally heavy story and themes which means minimal gameplay but it’s far from boring to watch. The pacing of Faith is great because there is no filler content as Sean is so dead set on finding his brother. It moves across a lot of locations and you get to bust out of a hospital, hike the Nevada highways, explore a rustic motel and religious community to name a few.

For all the hardships that Sean experiences, Faith did leave me with a smile on my face because the ending to this chapter felt very earned. Many loose ends and plot threads are addressed in this penultimate episode. There isn’t a cliff-hanger like Wastelands so Episode 5’s focus should be to provide the fitting ending (or endings) for Sean and Daniel. Hopefully there’ll be a happy one but knowing this series, it may not happen. Sean is forever scarred but by the end of Faith, he transforms from damaged teen to hardened young adult as we get closer to the end of his and Daniel’s journey. The momentum is fully charged for a climatic and emotional finale for Life is Strange 2 in December. One thing is for sure, Christmas will come early if you’re a fan of this story.

The Life is Strange 2 finale will be released on December 3rd.

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