NERD OUT FIRST OUT: Life is Strange 2 (First Impressions)
Updated: Aug 22
Find out - spoiler free - if this game is worth your time
Something that I’ve talked about before on this site is my Life is Strange and University parallels. With the release of Life is Strange 2 and the start of my final year at University, the tradition of playing a Life is Strange game for the first time during my first few months of a University year, continues. The highly anticipated game has been theorised ever since the last main instalment of the game was released back in 2015. Although 2017’s prequel: Life is Strange: Before The Storm and a taster game The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit were released during this time and gave fans something to tide them over, they have still been anxiously waiting to see what will happen to their favourite time manipulating duo, Max and Chloe.
As players of the first instalment will know, it was difficult to figure out where the story would pick up from in this sequel due to the 2 majorly different outcomes that came from a pivotal decision that players were forced to make at the end of the first game. However, I assume to save themselves a headache and to breathe new life into the series, developers Dontnod Entertainment decided to go for a new set of characters, in a new location with a new storyline. In Life is Strange 2 series regulars 18 year old Max Caulfield and 19 year old Chloe Price have been swapped out for 16 year old Sean Diaz and his 9-year-old brother Daniel Diaz, the location has also been swapped from Arcadia Bay – Oregon to Seattle instead. The first episode of this five-part series was released on the 26th September in most territories and to Australia on the 27th September 2018. A new set of characters doesn’t necessarily mean that past instalments have been forgotten about though with plenty of homages and references scattered about in the first episode with potentially so many more left to come. This inclusion was alluded to as early on as the start up menu; when players select to start a new game, they were asked 2 questions regarding their previous experience with the franchise. 1) Did they play the original game? if the answer was yes, the player is then asked a following question regarding the final decision that they made at the end of the first game (I’m keeping this vague aka spoiler free on purpose) which many believe decides what each player will experience throughout the game reference wise.
If you read my first impressions of Life is Strange: Before The Storm, you’ll know that there were many differences between the original Life is Strange game and it’s 2017 prequel which mainly came down to the switch in developers from Dontnod Entertainment to Deck Nine. Since Life is Strange 2 is back on home soil at Dontnod, a lot of the gameplay is recognisable from the first game. You still do a lot of investigating and a lot of decision making. There are a few new abilities though including an ‘interacting with Daniel’ option popping up occasionally where you can influence the NPC’s emotions and reactions depending on whether you choose to use said button. There are also a few changes aesthetically as well as new randomly timed decision-making moments which weren’t featured in the previous games. With the jump to Unreal Engine 4, visually things look much better. The game still maintains its hand painted look however, characters look much shinier and less dead behind the eyes - something I believe that Max in particular had an occasional problem with in Life is Strange. The character’s movements also flow much more naturally and camera angles – to me – seem more filmic.
The last thing that I believe has changed is the maturity level of the game series. Although the last few games had some dark, serious moments to it; overall it contained themes which weren’t necessarily as hard hitting as the themes found in Life is Strange 2. The story follows a Mexican family living in 2016 America which as I’m sure you can imagine has plenty of instances of the kids being threatened with being sent “back to your own country” by angry neighbours and mentions of a notorious wall which "should be built". The game has had it’s age rating upped since the last instalments which now receives an 18+ rating compared to it’s previous 16+. A pleasant outcome of this though is as mentioned before, it has slightly less teenage drama in it, so less cheesy dialogue and more real-life fears. You could even say that Life is Strange 2 plays more similarly to the likes of Heavy Rain or Until Dawn.
After playing only episode 1 for which felt like countless hours – in a good way – and much like many other fans out there, I’m hooked. I’m excited to see how Chris from The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit will factor into this story as mentioned at the end of the free game, he will be making an appearance in Life is Strange 2. I am also looking forward to seeing all the other nods to the previous games which could be included and to see if any of the previous characters are set to make a comeback as well. I think the game (so far!) is a fantastic follow up to the 2015 hit, one which dedicated fans will enjoy but also to those of you who perhaps had no interest in the original game however want to give the latest instalment a try. As I mentioned at the start you are asked if you have played the previous game meaning that this Life is Strange 2 can in fact stand on it’s own, story wise. That isn’t to say that it won’t include more previous story lines in later episodes though.
If you wish to get into the series before diving into Life is Strange 2, you can currently pick up all 4 complete games on the PlayStation Store for around the price of a brand-new triple A release. If that still isn’t enough to convince you to give this a try, episode 1 of the original Life is Strange game is free and for a taster of how Life is Strange 2 plays: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is also free. All games are also available on Steam and the Microsoft Store.
For more on Life is Strange 2 and similar titles, take a look at what else we have to offer here on nerdoutwordout.com as well as on my own blog hopeelizab.co.uk.