REVIEW – After Telltale and Big Bad Wolf, it’s now Dontnod’s turn to shine so that we can decide which of the three episodic games’ latest chapter this week can take the victory. Each had mistakes in a separate subject, and each had different strengths, making it hard to compare the three titles.
Still, after Dontnod finishing the first Life is Strange, they made Vampyr, which, in my opinion, wasn’t a successful title, which means Deck Nine made the Before the Storm series with its four episodes. Dontnod has returned to their series, and they have done so in style – it feels like something amazing is brewing in the upcoming episodes.
Dontnod has touched a critical subject in my opinion: the two protagonists, called Sean and Daniel Diaz (and we’ll control the one without the supernatural powers!), are Mexican immigrants. They have to leave Seattle, Washington, and their single father has to go into hiding as well, because Daniel, the younger sibling, caused trouble with his powers. This is already a change: we won’t be locked into Arcadia Bay – instead, we will be on a long road from Washington state possibly all the way to Mexico. The sequel, however, did not show characters from the first game (yet?), but the siblings’ trip brings up both negative and positive points.
It’s a positive how the brothers try to help each other, and our decisions/comments will influence Daniel’s future, which is somewhat similar to what Clementine and AJ could be or could have been (because Telltale’s current situation doesn’t make my life any easier as the story could continue, which, at the moment, is unlikely…). It’s a negative because the Washington state citizens – perhaps due to the problematic script – feel a little too farfetched with their racism when it comes to their interactions to the Mexican duo. However, if I think about it, it could also be a positive as the French developers are putting a mirror in front of the American players who might have similar experiences.
The first episode, dubbed Roads, has us in a situation where we have to escape from racism, and find some house and home, even if for only a temporary period. There’s less action per se in Life is Strange 2‘s first chapter than in The Walking Dead, but on the other hand, we have a bigger region than in The Council, and there’s also the length I have to bring up. This episode takes about three hours (maybe a bit more) to complete, and that’s more than what Telltale’s and Big Bad Wolf’s game could provide. Also, as is the trend with Life is Strange titles, we will have to make some tough decisions, and, for the first time in the franchise, we will also have a choice where we will get three options. This improvement means we might get even more branching out in the story in the future episodes.
I have also noticed improvements in the audiovisuals. I don’t mean the music and the audio, though (those are usually good). The graphics got updated since the first Life is Strange. Dontnod has made a jump from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4, which resulted in improved visuals, although the facial animations are still below par. The silent moments – if you played Life is Strange before, you know what I mean here – are also present, which is heartwarming. The controls and the gameplay are also okay – these also never were a significant issue in the previous game.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the rating. I’ve been considering a seven-and-a-half and an eight out of ten as well, but if I compared Life is Strange 2‘s first episode with the first game, there is an improvement. That wasn’t the case with the first (and last…?) two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season and The Council managed to slip up on a banana peel of its dumb mistakes. Thus, Roads gets an eight out of ten. Clementine’s (current) finale got the same number, but I think Dontnod has stepped up to take the throne with the start of Life is Strange 2. There will be dramatic scenes towards Mexico, I’m sure. So, in the end, Dontnod has beaten Telltale by the skin of its teeth. Life is Strange is back, and instead of hipster teenagers, we get two social outcasts with a sociocultural critique represent in the game. If we get „flash” moments (such as in the fifth episode of the first game, as well as the dream sequences in Before the Storm), then we’ll be in the mighty heights of 9/10 at the end.
+ A critique towards the American society
+ The classic Life is Strange ambience
+ It’s not tied to one location
– The script should be improved
– The facial animations should also be improved
– We have to wait about two months for the next episode!
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: episodic, adventure
Release date: September 26/27, 2018