Life Is Strange 2

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Life Is Strange 2
Life Is Strange 2 cover.jpg
Developer(s)Dontnod Entertainment
Feral Interactive (macOS & Linux)
Publisher(s)Square Enix
Feral Interactive (macOS & Linux)
Director(s)
  • Michel Koch
  • Raoul Barbet
Writer(s)
  • Christian Divine
  • Jean-Luc Cano
Composer(s)Jonathan Morali
EngineUnreal Engine 4
Platform(s)
Release
  • Episode 1: Roads
  • 27 September 2018
  • Episode 2: Rules
  • 24 January 2019
  • Episode 3: Wastelands
  • 9 May 2019
  • Episode 4: Faith
  • 22 August 2019
  • Episode 5: Wolves
  • 3 December 2019
Genre(s)Graphic adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

Life Is Strange 2 is an episodic graphic adventure game developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix. It is the second main entry of the Life Is Strange series, and was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A free game serving as an introduction to Life Is Strange 2, entitled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, was released in June 2018. The first episode of Life Is Strange 2 was released in September 2018, and the fifth and final episode was released in December 2019. macOS and Linux versions were released shortly after the release of the final episode, developed and published by Feral Interactive.

Gameplay[edit]

The decision-making mechanic showing two actions, each with an outcome that affects later parts of the story

Life Is Strange 2 is a graphic adventure game played from a third-person view. The player takes control of Sean Diaz, a Mexican-American teenager. Sean can interact with the environment, obtain objects, and talk with non-player characters via dialogue trees.[1] Choices made in Life Is Strange 2 lead to different branches in the storyline and affect the behaviour of his brother Daniel and other characters.[2][3] In addition, some decisions that were made in the game demo The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit carry over into Life Is Strange 2.[4][5]

Plot[edit]

In 2016, 16-year-old Sean Diaz lives with his 9-year-old brother Daniel and father Esteban in Seattle, after Sean's mother Karen left them following Daniel's birth. One day, Sean intervenes when their neighbor Brett harasses Daniel, inadvertently injuring Brett as a police officer passes by. Esteban arrives at the scene and is shot and killed by the officer. A sudden explosion damages the house, and Sean flees with Daniel before more police arrive. Now fugitives, Sean decides to take Daniel to their father's Mexican hometown of Puerto Lobos, and begins to influence Daniel's morality.[6] Near Mount Rainier, the brothers are recognized by the owner of a gas station, but escape with the help of travel blogger Brody Holloway. They find Daniel took a puppy from the store, who he names Mushroom. Brody arranges the brothers a motel room, where Daniel learns of Esteban's death and becomes angry, revealing he has latent telekinetic abilities and was the cause of the explosion in Seattle.

The brothers then spend a month at an abandoned cabin, where Sean helps train Daniel's ability. After Daniel falls ill, Sean takes him to their maternal grandparents Claire and Stephen Reynolds in nearby Beaver Creek, Oregon. Daniel is further devastated as Mushroom is killed by a cougar. At Beaver Creek, Claire and Stephen accept the brothers despite Karen's abandonment, and Daniel befriends Chris, an imaginative boy that lives next door, after using his powers to save him from falling from his tree house; Chris comes to think he has superpowers. Daniel coerces Sean into breaking into Karen's old room to learn more about her, where they discover a letter from Karen asking her parents to take care of her sons following the Seattle incident, along with her contact information. The police soon arrive on word that Sean and Daniel had been sighted in public. Claire, Stephen, and Chris help the brothers to escape.

Sean and Daniel join with freighthoppers Finn and Cassidy traveling to California, and the four secure paying jobs at a marijuana farm in Humboldt County, California for a cultivator named Merrill. Sean spends more time with their new friends, leaving Daniel frustrated with being unable to show his powers. One payday, Merrill discovers Daniel snooping around and refuses to pay the group, resulting in Daniel revealing his powers to the others. Finn secretly coerces Daniel to use his powers to steal money from Merrill; regardless of whether Sean takes part or not, the heist fails as Merrill is alerted. In a rage, Daniel destroys Merrill's house with his powers, knocking out everyone else and causing Sean's left eye to be impaled.

Sean wakes from a coma two months later under FBI custody. He finds a letter from Jacob, one of the farm workers, which states Jacob found Daniel after the accident and took him to his hometown of Haven Point, Nevada. Sean escapes from custody and travels to Haven Point. There, he finds Daniel has been taken in by Lisbeth, the leader of a religious cult who is presenting Daniel's powers as a divine gift to convert her followers. After an initial attempt to recover Daniel, Sean is met by Karen, whom Jacob had also contacted for help. Sean and Karen begin to reconnect and establish a plan with Jacob to save both Daniel and Jacob's younger sister Sarah-Lee. They find files proving Lisbeth had used conversion therapy on Jacob and refuses to take Sarah-Lee to a doctor for her pneumonia, and use this to convince Daniel to come with them, accidentally burning down the church in the process.

Sean and Daniel travel with Karen to the hermit town of Away, Arizona, where Sean makes the last arrangements to cross into Mexico. Sean befriends David Madsen, a former security officer from Arcadia Bay, Oregon,[a] who suggests that Sean turn himself over to the authorities for a better outcome for him and Daniel. They learn authorities have tracked Karen down for her role in burning down the Haven Point church. Karen allows her sons to escape by staying behind to be arrested. They arrive at the Mexico–United States barrier, which Daniel breaks open with his powers. Before they can cross, Daniel is wounded by a bullet from two vigilantes and the group is soon captured by the local police. Daniel breaks Sean out of interrogation and the two flee to a Mexican port of entry, but find it blockaded by FBI and United States Border Patrol agents.

Sean must decide whether to surrender or attempt to cross the border, with the outcome depending on whether he raised Daniel with high or low morality through his past choices.[8] If Sean chooses to surrender, he is either taken into custody while Daniel lives with Claire and Stephen before a reunion fifteen years later after Sean is released from prison, or is killed when Daniel forces them to cross the border which causes Daniel to grow up in Puerto Lobos alone and become a career criminal. If Sean chooses to cross the border, he will cross into Mexico with help from Daniel, who then either surrenders to the FBI and lives with Claire and Stephen while Sean lives in Puerto Lobos either alone or with Cassidy or Finn, or stays with Sean in crossing the border where the brothers open a garage as their father did in Puerto Lobos and use Daniel's powers to become career criminals.

Development[edit]

Following the success of Life Is Strange, developer Dontnod Entertainment announced a sequel. It was decided early on that the follow-up would feature new characters and locations to the original,[9][10] with the developers believing Max and Chloe's story to be complete. Director Raoul Barbet explained "It’s a question we asked ourselves at the beginning. Is it Max and Chloe, Arcadia Bay? No, it’s about everyday characters, relatable characters with stories you can involve yourself in, because it reflects your own experiences. With some supernatural stuff on the top.” Michel Koch added that “Everyone loved Max, Chloe, Rachel... But [their story]...it's done. We have nothing more to tell. We don't want to. Other people will do it, and it's okay... But for us, we have nothing more to do. Take [them] and do whatever you want."[11] They did bring one character, David, from the first game back. While one key facet of David was that he survived in either ending to Life Is Strange, Dontnod felt it was necessary to show some redemption and change in character from the events of the game. Further, while David helped to provide hints of the fate of Max and Chloe, a new player starting with Life Is Strange 2 would not be confused by his introduction, rather than if they had used Max or Chloe.[12]

Development began in early 2016 as Life Is Strange shipped its retail edition.[13][14] Michel Koch and Raoul Barbet returned to direct the sequel,[15] with Christian Divine, Jean-Luc Cano and Jonathan Morali reprising their roles as co-writers and composer respectively.[2][16][17] The concept was influenced by the photography of Mike Brodie, who would freighthop across the United States and take pictures of drifters.[18] The game is structured like a road movie, inspired by the film Into the Wild and novella Of Mice and Men. Dontnod conducted field research on the West Coast of the United States, meeting people and taking pictures there.[16][19] The two primary themes of the game are education and brotherhood.[20] Using the Unreal Engine 4, they upgraded the animation system, physics, and shaders.[19] According to Dontnod, one of the biggest challenges of development was the artificial intelligence of the character Daniel.[16] The music contains both original and licensed tracks.[16] Licensed tracks include, among others, songs from Phoenix, The Streets,[21] Sufjan Stevens, First Aid Kit,[22] and Gorillaz.[23]

Release[edit]

The first of five total episodes, Roads (formerly called Seattle),[24][25] was released on 27 September 2018 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[26][27] The second episode, Rules, was released on 24 January 2019.[28] The third episode, Wastelands, was released on 9 May 2019. The fourth episode, Faith, was released on 22 August 2019. The fifth episode, Wolves, was released on 3 December 2019.[29] In reference to the long development and release window between episodes, Dontnod issued a statement, saying "The Life is Strange series is a project close to all of our hearts and one for which we do not want to rush development and thereby fail to meet the benchmark of quality and emotional impact that you, our players, deserve".[30] A live action trailer was released to promote Rules.[31]

Boxed editions of the game were released in Europe on 3 December 2019 and in North America on 4 February 2020.[32] Feral Interactive released the entire series for macOS and Linux on 19 December 2019.[33] A Japanese translation was released 26 March 2020 on PlayStation 4, with a Language Pack DLC also released globally for free for all platforms. [34]

Reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
Game Metacritic
Complete Season PC: 70/100[35]
PS4: 78/100[36]
XONE: 79/100[37]
Episode 1: Roads PC: 80/100[38]
PS4: 81/100[39]
XONE: 80/100[40]
Episode 2: Rules PC: 79/100[41]
PS4: 73/100[42]
XONE: 74/100[43]
Episode 3: Wastelands PC: 78/100[44]
PS4: 75/100[45]
XONE: 73/100[46]
Episode 4: Faith PC: 82/100[47]
PS4: 77/100[48]
XONE: 74/100[49]
Episode 5: Wolves PC: 83/100[50]
PS4: 82/100[51]
XONE: 83/100[52]

The Verge said in their review that the game "wades into more political, timely topics", with the first episode set in October 2016, right before the 2016 United States presidential election. The characters yell about "building walls" and worry what will happen if Donald Trump wins the election, and that it felt like a "powerful statement about American politics during a very tense time". They also said the "dialogue is awkward and feels like it was run through a teen translator, but there are moments that feel authentic...and it’s also filled with lots of beautiful, quiet moments". Overall though, they stated you can still enjoy the game even if you haven't played previous entries in the series.[53]

In their verdict, IGN also opined about the underlying political atmosphere of the game. They saw the first episode of the game as a "bigger, more complex story than told by its predecessor, charting a cross-country road trip across Donald Trump’s America", going on to say that "though its social criticisms feel broad and rather clumsy, its core story of brotherhood and fraternity between two believable characters is enormously touching," concluding that "it makes time for small details and quiet moments, and when it does it’s capable of a beauty we rarely see in video games".[54]

GamesRadar+ was disappointed with the first episode, saying it was a "slow start" to the new season, and while "the story has some incredibly powerful and well-constructed moments, it doesn’t hang together particularly well". They were also worried about the "lack of actual gameplay, combined with inconsistent consequences and choices". However, they complimented the settings and the overall mood as being "wonderfully crafted, and the soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful as ever". They ended their review stating that fans of the game "will undoubtedly enjoy what’s here, but most will expect much more from forthcoming episodes...this one is very much a work-in-progress.[55] By the release of Episode 5, they said the game "...is able to trap your heart in a vice grip thanks to how well it explores human connections and the relationship between the brothers" and that "The finale takes you an emotional ride filled with tension and heartfelt moments that are hard to forget".[56]

Game Informer lauded the political aspects, the vulnerability from being scrutinized by others "brings dimension to the characters and connected me to their plight, without it feeling shoehorned in" and the political storyline is being "dealt with care and detail here that feels genuine enough to work". They concluded by saying the season starts on a "good foot, giving us interesting new characters, locales, and an engaging storyline about brotherhood".[57]

Following the release of the full season, PC Gamer was critical of the main gameplay feature being effectively out of the player's hands, calling it "a fascinating concept, rarely explored outside the idea of rogue AI, but in a series that supposedly holds player choice in such high regard, it’s deeply misplaced". Furthermore, they criticized the release schedule of the individual episodes, stating that "it was difficult to stay engaged between chapters" due to them debuting up to four months apart from one another, and described the game's story as moving "from vignette to vignette" rather than committing to a direct portrayal of a 1,500 mile journey.[58]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Reference
2018 Gamescom Best Casual Game Nominated [59][60]
Best Family Game Nominated
Best PC Game Nominated
Ping Awards Best Console Game Nominated [61][62]
Best Graphics Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Soundtrack Nominated
Special Jury Prize Won
Golden Joystick Awards Best Audio Design Nominated [63][64]
The Game Awards 2018 Best Narrative (Episode 1) Nominated [65][66]
Games for Impact (Episode 1) Nominated
2019 New York Game Awards 2019 Herman Melville Award for Best Writing (Episode 1) Nominated [67]
15th British Academy Games Awards Game Beyond Entertainment Nominated [68]
Italian Video Game Awards Best Narrative Nominated [69]
Titanium Awards Best Narrative Design Nominated [70]
The Game Awards 2019 Games for Impact Nominated [71]
2020 New York Game Awards 2020 Herman Melville Award for Best Writing Nominated [72]
Pégases Awards 2020 Best Game Nominated [73][74]
Best Message-Bearer Game Nominated
Best Sound Design Nominated
Best Narrative Design Won
Best Game Setting Nominated
Best Character Nominated
16th British Academy Games Awards Game Beyond Entertainment (Episodes 2-5) Nominated [75][76]
Narrative (Episodes 2-5) Nominated
Performer in a Leading Role (Gonzalo Martin as "Sean Diaz") (Episodes 2-5) Won
Performer in a Supporting Role (Jolene Andersen as "Karen Reynolds") (Episodes 2-5) Nominated
Performer in a Supporting Role (Sarah Bartholomew as "Cassidy (Lucy Rose Jones)") (Episodes 2-5) Nominated

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ David first appeared in Life Is Strange as the step-father of Chloe Price, one of the main characters of the game. The player is asked which of the two endings of Life Is Strange they opted for, which is reflected in Sean's discussion with David.[7]

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External links[edit]