Video Game Review: Life Is Strange 2

The video game Life Is Strange 2 drew to a close with the release of its final episode last week. The way the story ends is dependent on the choices you have made throughout all 5-episodes of the game, similar to the original Life Is Strange. No matter which ending you get, it’s just about guaranteed you’ll be affected by it in some way and it’s a testament to how strong the writing and characterizations have been in this second outing.

Life Is Strange 2 centers around 16-year-old Sean Diaz and his younger brother Daniel, who live with their single father Esteban in Seattle. They are introduced as a very normal and loving Latino-American family with Sean and Daniel’s dad working as a mechanic to help support them. But because this is the world of Life Is Strange, you can expect to have their simple life turned upside down almost immediately.

When Daniel is harassed by their next door neighbor’s son, Sean runs out of the house to intervene and defend his brother. When the neighbor accidentally hits his head on a rock during a scuffle and is unresponsive, a passing police car sees the incident and pulls over. Things escalate, leading the police officer to pull out his gun and point it at the boys. Esteban, seeing the now volatile moment, rushes outside in an attempt to defuse the situation, only to get shot and killed by the officer. Distraught and traumatized by what just happened to Esteban, Daniel’s latent telekinetic powers awaken and unleashes it on the officer and everything around them.

Sean wakes up to find his brother unconscious, surveys the destruction on their block, and makes the snap decision to gather Daniel and some of their stuff to go on the run. It’s from here that it kick starts a very long and arduous journey towards Mexico, the place where their father came from.

Anyone who has played the first Life Is Strange knows that it isn’t the kind of game you play to escape from reality. It tackles pretty heavy subjects head on without sugar coating anything and giving no easy answers. If you thought following Max and Chloe down their road through teen angst to be difficult at times, Life Is Strange 2 goes out of its way to make sure you’re uncomfortable and uneasy with the scenarios facing the Diaz boys throughout their road trip. If you come into this game to be entertained, you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a game with an unforgettable story experience, this will be right up your alley.

From police brutality to racism to views on immigrants, the developers made sure the game’s story is reflective of the hot button issues currently happening in America’s sociopolitical landscape. While the game keeps the supernatural element from the first Life Is Strange, it takes a backseat for much of the game. The main focus is the relationship you build between Sean and Daniel, and how you choose to have them deal with some of the brutal encounters they have with the people they meet along the way.

This may sound like a depressing game to play, but there are moments of levity and deep empathy amidst the shocking cruelty you’ll experience as you continue with the game.

For example, Sean and Daniel will meet a man named Brody, a traveling blogger who befriends the boys at a gas station and later saves them from another harrowing incident involving the owner of the gas station. Playing as Sean, it’s up to you to decide whether to trust each person you interact with or stay on your guard. Not only does each decision you make as Sean matter, even the smaller, seemingly inconsequential ones, those choices will also affect how Daniel behaves and what lessons he takes away from your actions and responses.

After taking the time to engage with Brody as Sean at the gas station, I knew Brody was one of the good guys to let the Diaz brothers place their trust in. This actually offsets the bad dealings Sean has with the gas station owner, prior to Brody offering the brothers a quick getaway. What this reveals, and there are plenty of other moments like this one, is that just as there are bad people in the world, there are also good ones too.

Each episode is carefully constructed and paced in such a way that you begin to see the natural change and growth (or lack thereof) Sean and Daniel will undergo together. Placing the emphasis on the bond between two brothers rather than two best friends is deeply effecting and raises the stakes much higher than what Max and Chloe go through in their game. By adding the sociopolitical themes in Life Is Strange 2, there’s real danger and concern for what will happen to the Diaz brothers by the time you reach the end of the game. Will they make it to Mexico? Will they be detained by law enforcement? Will the brothers stay together or be separated? These were the main questions I had on my mind as I kept playing the game.

The final episode of Life Is Strange 2 answers the fate of the brothers in a way that is satisfying and logical for how you have played the game. As Sean, I made sure to play him as the responsible older brother who raises Daniel to be the kind of person their dad would have wanted him to become. The ending I wound up with is more or less what I expected it to be, but it’s no less painful. I was under no impression that it would be a full on happy ending. In fact, I already expected it to be bittersweet and it’s exactly what I got. After I had finished the game, I went on YouTube to see the other endings (there’s 7 in total) I could have gotten. Of the 7, there was one that was a truly devastating and shocking ending. The others were no less grim, but could be seen as a happy ending for some players.

What’s nice about the endings for Life Is Strange 2 is that it does go forward either 15 or 6 years into the future to see how a grown up Daniel turned out and what kind of life he led. If you raised Daniel the right way, you can take comfort in knowing that Sean’s little brother is doing just fine. I think that’s the biggest reward you can take away from the game and is probably the most satisfying payoffs I’ve ever seen. Sometimes endings in games can be huge letdowns, but not this one. I got everything I expected and more.

Life Is Strange 2 is a near perfect game and I would argue that it’s even better than the first Life Is Strange, though I liked that game just as much. The developers and writers in this second installment improved upon what made the first game weak in some areas and enhanced the strengths that made the Life Is Strange series standout in narrative storytelling.

This is a game not to miss if you enjoy good stories and choices that really do matter to how your playthrough ends.

Reviewer Rating: 9.5/10


3 thoughts on “Video Game Review: Life Is Strange 2

  1. I wasn’t sure if I would play this one soon, but your review won me over! I can’t wait to jump into this one now, sounds like an amazing story.

    1. Yes! I highly recommend playing this one next. The story and writing just feels better than the first. I really loved how the writers and developers treated all the themes and issues brought up in Life Is Strange 2. 🙂

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