Life is Strange was an unexpected hit back in 2015. As DONTNOD’s first foray into the episodic genre the game cemented itself as one of the best in recent years, thanks to a well-developed cast of characters, fun storytelling, and an interesting time manipulation mechanic. Of course, the game wasn’t perfect by any means. Lip syncing issues in earlier episodes could break the immersion at times, and while the story was enjoyable, the writers could have toned down the teenage lingo just a touch.
It all added to the charm of Life is Strange though, a charm that is sorely absent from Life is Strange 2.
With Chloe and Max’s story wrapped up, Life is Strange 2 follows Sean and Daniel Diaz – two kids on the run after an incident resulting in the death of their father and a policeman. While you control Sean, it’s Daniel with the powers this time. Daniel’s able to use telekinetic abilities to manipulate objects. Sean and Daniel are on the run from the police, and are hoping to reach Mexico to avoid capture. On their journey they pass through a number of locations, making new friends and dealing with trouble on their way.
The premise of Life is Strange 2 is undoubtedly an interesting one, but it also acts as a catalyst for the most significant flaw in the game – the lack of established characters. In Life is Strange, even minor characters were fleshed out significantly, largely due to the fact that they were present throughout the game. In between scenes I could wander around Blackwell and interact with a character throughout the entirety of my playthrough, learning more about them through each episode.
In Life is Strange 2, this simply isn’t possible. Key supporting characters rarely last more than an episode before Sean and Daniel move on. What makes matters worse is that Sean and Daniel themselves aren’t very likable either. Daniel is a constant annoyance, frequently complaining or acting as a liability to their overall plan. Sure, you can find some understanding in the fact that it must be hard for a child to be in the situation that he’s in, yet at no point in the game did it ever feel like Daniel was growing as a character. Admittedly, many could say the same about Chloe Price, but at least Life is Strange had a better cast of supporting characters to fall back on.
The game does succeed in other aspects. Graphically the game is a clear improvement over Life is Strange, and the lip syncing issues are non-existent this time around. The overarching storyline is also quite interesting, and I appreciate DONTNOD’s continued efforts to incorporate sensitive subjects into their storylines, despite not always nailing the landing.
On its own, Life is Strange 2 is a decent enough game, but it’s hard not to compare it to its much more enjoyable predecessor. It feels like in their attempt to tell a different story, DONTNOD ultimately shot themselves in the foot by preventing themselves from building upon one of Life is Strange’s greatest strengths; it’s diverse and significantly developed characters. Instead, we see a story with a supporting cast that barely has enough time to grow before they’re swapped out for a new group of fresh faces.