This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PS4 and PC.
The graphic adventure genre is one that I’ve always dipped my toes into but never fully enjoyed. Whether it be Telltale’s outings or otherwise, I never got into them as much as I’d liked. Although, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, with Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands being among my favourite recent games. One game I couldn’t finish however was the original Life is Strange, as its horrible and cringe worthy dialogue took me out of the story way to often for my liking. Does the first episode of its newly released sequel fix this problem and become an enjoyable adventure? Let’s find out.
Life is Strange as a series has always had a unique graphical style to it, with a mix of realism and cartoonish aesthetic. I liked the graphical style it went for, and here is no exception. What’s great is that it seems to have been refined and polished heavily in Life is Strange 2 making it the best-looking game in the series so far with great character models and some solid texture work. It also has some pretty solid atmospheric lighting, with sunsets looking really well done.
Life is Strange 2 is a graphic adventure, and if you’ve played any Telltale game or the previous entry in the series you’ll know what to expect. The gist is that you go through a rather linear story and have plenty of opportunities to make choices, which (in theory) impact the story in a variety of ways. Thankfully though, LiS 2 gives plenty of opportunities to explore the areas around you, so you’re not just watching an interactive movie. These exploratory sections are very well done, giving you plenty of things to look at, interact with and even a few secrets along the way. A good example is in the woods chapter, where you can go right to your objective straight away, or go left and explore the picnic area. If you explore the picnic area you can play a hidden game of hide and seek with Daniel, which is a nice touch.
Despite there actually being some actual gameplay here, story is the main focus without a doubt, so it pays to actually have it be decent. Thankfully LiS 2 delivers. It focuses on two brothers: Sean and Daniel, as they go on the road after a tragic incident at their home. The relationship between the siblings is at the forefront and is done very well. The love-hate aspect of their relationship is very well done, and feels genuine coming from someone who has three younger brothers. Early in the game, I was worried that the game was going to suffer the same fate as the original, where a good concept would become unplayable due to the absolutely cringe worthy dialogue, and I believed that would be the case early on due to the dialogue between Sean and his best friend Lyla being a bit cringe-worthy. Thankfully, this is phased out once you and Daniel hit the road, allowing you to experience the story without being taken out of it by poor dialogue. Some story elements also bleed into the gameplay too, as Sean can sketch various aspects of the environment he’s in, and there’s plenty of interactivity with your brother which affects how he likes you, which is a nice touch.
My main gripe with the story is the same gripe I have with every game like this: your choices don’t really matter. If this is anything like the last game or any Telltale game, you’ll probably get a reference to one of your choices in one of the later episodes when they get released, but as it stands in Episode 1, your big story decisions have no effect on what happens in Episode 1. A huge example of this comes at the gas station segment, where you can choose to use your limited funds to buy food and drink, or have Daniel distract the shopkeeper so you can shoplift. Even if you buy all your items like I did, you still get accused of shoplifting anyway, and no matter what you pick to defuse the situation (Discuss/Flee/Attack), they all end the same way. Considering that ‘choice’ is a huge part of games like this, it always sucks to see your choices not really matter in the big picture. I just hope that we get more than just a passing reference in future episodes.
The sound design overall in Life is Strange 2 is very well done. Voice acting is solid for the most part, especially with Daniel and Sean, who have real chemistry. You can also hear the nervousness and uncertainty in Sean’s voice as he tries to protect Daniel from what happened. The music is also fantastic, with the score for the game matching the atmosphere very well. There’s also a few surprise licensed songs thrown in for good measure, such as Bloc Party playing near the episode’s end, which is nice.
Even at its first episode, Life is Strange 2 is a massive improvement over its predecessor. With a solid story, a genuine relationship between the two siblings and a great concept, there’s a solid adventure that sets up future episodes well, and there’s no cringe worthy dialogue to put you off like in the first game. There’s a decent amount of exploration and interactivity in the game world too, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just playing a long cutscene. However, the game’s choices don’t matter like many games in the same genre, as the main story beats happen no matter what. Maybe we’ll get more than just a passing reference in later episodes, but that remains to be seen.