I’ve now played the first two episode of ‘Life is Strange 2’ along with the companion episode ‘The Adventure of Captain Spirit’. And I have FEELINGS.
SPOILERS AHEAD! I want to talk about this game and I will try to be vague, but there are certain things that will need to be revealed to really discuss so…if you haven’t played it, don’t read this yet!
I played Life is Strange last month and while it is a huge touchstone for many people, I didn’t find myself enamored with any of the characters. I know this is a personal problem, I think I have a low tolerance for the kind of teen drama that both Max and Chloe represented. By the last episode of the game, I was definitely invested in the story, but I never felt like I connected with either of the main characters.
It’s very different with ‘Life is Strange 2’. Maybe it is because I have a little brother, but I immediately felt invested in Sean and Daniel’s story, and how you try to be a good influence on your younger siblings. Maybe because of the news I read every day about cops shooting people made the opening moments of this 2018 game feel relevant. Either way, the story of these two brothers on the run hit harder for me than the world of Arcadia Bay every did.
In a “choices matter” style game, controlling the older brother and how he reacts to his younger brother made me think of Geralt and Ciri from Witcher 3 – a game where I got the “bad Dad” ending and I am still upset about it. With Sean and Daniel, I’m trying to react in the most realistic way possible. I really don’t see Sean as drawing a hard line about anything. He may tell Daniel to hide his powers and avoid using them at all costs, but when someone is in danger, Sean is going to say yes to saving lives over staying safe.
I am a little salty about Mushroom, the puppy that Daniel rescues in the first episode. Her brief appearance in the game is the only time I’ve Googled to see if I should have done something different but, from what I can tell, it was done in service of helping the game design because having the dog was going to create a distraction in the story.
Before I started the second episode, the game popped up and told me to play the ‘Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’ – a free download on Steam. Wanting to get the most out of the game, I turned it on. The game art showed a young kid with a superhero outfit on. Silly me, thinking this would be some kind of reprieve from the sadness of Sean and Daniel’s story. NOPE!
We meet Chris, whose mother died and now his father has turned to alcohol to dull the pain. Chris dreams of being a superhero and you spend the game running around the house, doing chores and putting together his costume, all the while we are getting hints about what will happen in the next chapter of the main story. The episode ends with him falling out of a tree after having a fight with his Dad. It looks like he has powers too, but when you play the next episode, you find out that Daniel stopped him from falling.
I really like Chris and Daniel’s story, playing together and just being kids again, not realizing the danger both of them are in at all times because of their circumstances. And how Sean and even Chris’ Dad just want them to be happy, despite them both failing at times because of selfish actions – the Dad’s drinking and, honestly, Sean dragging his brother away after the murder of their father and not staying behind.
There have been a few “face choices” in the game that frustrated me. Sean tells Daniel no when he asks to go to the Christmas Market with Chris but the game makes you go because that is the story, even though I don’t understand why Sean would agree to such a huge risk – except so that the end of the episode can happen with the cops finding them. He has been so careful up until now, I’m not sure where the false sense of security comes from, except maybe the peer pressure from Chris’ Dad?
There was also the whole argument with Daniel about going into their mother’s old room. Sean told him no, Claire told him no, but Daniel insists. The game has Sean just give in eventually and you play a section trying to find a key to the room. Just little things like that annoyed me because they felt careless and Sean seems to have his act together most of the time. I do enjoy the mystery of their Mom, how we don’t know yet where she is or why she left her sons…I’m guessing she will eventually be part of the story, but that these two lone wolf cubs won’t stay with her long.
My second episode ended without a huge climax – the cops came to the house but Daniel and Sean were able to sneak out the back door while Claire distracted them and Chris pointed the two towards the path in the woods. It wasn’t until I got to the game statistics that I found out about the two darker timelines – one where the cops actively chase the boys and another where they hit Chris with their car! I’m not sure what triggers those interactions, but I’m glad that was NOT the ending I got. I felt bad enough having Daniel tell Chris his powers weren’t real.
Sean and Daniel were nice to Cassidy at the Christmas Market so I assume they will meet up with her and her friends in the third chapter – hopefully the choice to listen to her entire song will pay off (I did NOT let Daniel prank the jerk from the market who harassed them, that felt too dangerous – but was he the guy who ratted us out to the cops? If I had let Daniel prank him and drawn attention to us, that ending would have made more sense but I am unclear on who alerted the cops).
Not sure if these questions will be answered but I am looking forward to continuing the game. I am giving myself a few days between episodes to digest what happened. I feel like I played the first game on a speed run, just trying to figure out what the big deal was, and eventually trying to solve the mystery. I’m enjoying taking it slower with Sean and Daniel’s journey. Many times in the game, when a choice pops up, I find myself trying to figure out how I would react in the same situation and try to guide Sean that way. I try to be as honest with myself as I can be – that Sean might get angry or he might be too scared to tell Daniel the truth.
So far, the supernatural element isn’t as front and center to the story as it was in the first game. Max’s powers were not only a big game mechanic, letting your rewind and manipulate time, but they also hurt her and posed a risk to her life and the world around her. We played as Max and felt those consequences. It’s very different playing as Sean and watching Daniel learn his powers. Trying to help him understand something that Sean barely understands. Perhaps that is why I am identifying with this story so much more, because while Daniel has telekinesis, Sean is just a good older sibling, trying his best, without any magic. And that I can understand.