A few months back Dontnod released a prequel demo game (Captain Spirit) onto the internet and it did exactly what it set out to do. It got me intrigued about what to expect from Life is Strange 2. The difficult second season, Telltale Games showed how it could be a struggle to release a follow up episodic season to an existing game of the year nominee. What Dontnod decided to do differently though is realise that Max and Chloe’s story is done, and to start a new series with new protagonists, a new setting, and a new mystery.

You control Sean, a Mexican American 16-year-old who after a tragic event at his home finds himself on the run with his younger brother Daniel. Finding yourself with limited resources to survive you will need to make choices on whether to steal or pay with the small amount of cash you have left. Then there are the characters you meet along the way, and whether you should trust them or not. It’s hard to tell from the first episode how much these choices will impact later events, but in the moment they come across as difficult and important, often needing a couple of minutes for myself to finally make a decision (which I then sometimes regret).

The relationship between the two brothers is really what makes the game work.

Life is Strange 2 also doesn’t shy away from getting political. In the game, being part of a Mexican American family they are  the target of racism. One rather unsavoury individual even utters the words, “this is why we need to build a wall”. It never feels preachy or hammered home with the grace of a David Cage special, it feels natural to the story that Dontnod are telling and all the better for it.

If there’s one downside to Life is Strange 2 it’s the same problem I had with the beginning of the first season and it’s that some dialogue can definitely sound like what an adult thinks a teen would sound like. It’s only during the opening scene with Sean and his best friend, and never goes as far as uttering words like “hella” as Chloe used to do, but it’s still present. So there’s still an element of cringe left that has yet to be fully excised from the series.

In fact, if the indie music, art style or general presentation of the first Life is Strange put you off then there is nothing here for you. It doesn’t differ greatly from what came before, a good thing for someone like me, but if the thought of that visual style complete with unknown indie guitar band playing over the top of scenic views of a forest turns your stomach then maybe you should give it a miss. But for someone like myself who found the twee nature of the presentation coupled with the dramatic and sometimes intense story hard to put down, it’s a delight.

Some choices appear more important than others.

As you’d come to expect from an opening episode of any episodic series, it’s all about setup, and while it does tease some supernatural elements it doesn’t develop that aspect just yet. But it gives you enough that you will be intrigued as to where the story is heading, at least it did for me. And with the core of the story being the relationship between the brothers, the game would ultimately fail if it didn’t work, but thankfully it does. They’re both voiced brilliantly, so much so that I liked to explore the environment and interact with pretty much everything because I liked the back and forth between the two leads.

A highly successful first episode then with some nice new characters, intriguing plot developments and a style that feels unique. The only downside now is the wait for the next episode.

 

Life is Strange 2 Episode 1 is out now. Find out more at lifeisstrange.square-enix-games.com or follow @LifeIsStrange.