It is a weird moment for the video games industry. September in particular has been, in my opinion, a before-and-after in the history of narrative games. Most of us have seen the disaster unfold and felt the shock, especially for the ones like me that have an undying love for narrative games.
And after a lot of questions about the genre, Life is Strange 2‘s first episode, “Roads” is a prime example why we need this kind of content to keep showing up in our library, what a powerful narrative can give us, and why the genre today is alive-and-kicking, no matter what the numbers may say.
We left Arcadia Bay behind – with all that implies – and even so, it still feels like coming home after a long day. With a different perspective, a different point of view, but with the same spirit.
It’s time for Sean and Daniel Diaz, two brothers with Mexican roots, to pick up the torch and show us their story, and they don’t disappoint. There has been a lot of questioning about this choice, but I couldn’t be happier about it. As much as I miss Max and Chloe like I’m sure most of us do, their story promises to be a hell of a trip, in more ways than one.
If you have younger siblings you will instantly relate to Sean. Younger siblings are like our shadow. They are always running behind us, trying to be part of our lives in an active sense and driving us a bit crazy if the age difference interferes with our already stormy teenager era. Yet, you would do anything to protect them. No matter what. And here is where I can relate to Sean the most. In the blink of an eye, he will be forced to leave all he knows behind and face grief and danger, mixed with the desperate and primal need to protect a younger brother that is certainly not ready to have his life turned upside down. Well, not like any of us actually is ever, but y’know. Older siblings have that unwritten responsibility.
Life is Strange 2: “Roads” actually has a beautiful way to portray this relationship, in addition to the usual supernatural twist we are used to from the prequel, which so far seems to be another question mark our characters will have to deal with. But it’s certainly not all that it offers. The road trip theme is very present, regardless of circumstances and I have to say, the landscapes and aesthetic are better than ever. Open spaces to explore give us this beautiful feeling, that we actually are indeed part of a bigger world. It makes me wonder how many different stories we will be part of in the future. And in this context, Life is Strange 2 proves to be sharp and, to my surprise, very political. It went there, folks in the incredible way Dontnod has us used to. Shamelessly addressing topics that not many other games dare even mention. It evokes empathy and certainly makes you think about it, see it from the center of the action. And I couldn’t love Dontnod more for it. Another example of why this content is so necessary in these complicated times worldwide.
Technically, the game is bigger, more ambitious and more complex than its prequel. The new engine certainly did wonders for the art style, that regardless of having the same old Life is Strange vibe that captivated us, feels more real. The places we will visit give us that feeling of a bigger world, as I mentioned before, and it certainly has me hooked.
The only thing I’ve found I can criticize is the very few moments the voice acting falls a bit flat, but it’s definitely not something that won’t improve in the next installments of the series. It’s the period of adjustment. Music is wonderful as usual, with some big names jumping on the licensed tracks such as Phoenix and Bloc Party.
To wrap it up, Life is Strange 2 starts with a high note, focusing on world-building and the relationship of the two brothers and how it affects them at the time of facing difficulty, challenge and grief. I can’t wait to see where Sean and Daniel end up, but I’m sure it’s gonna be a very real experience for many of us.
Here? I’m the punk queen of Arcadia Bay, of course.
In real life, I’m an artist, gamer, crappy musician, game dev and a wannabe writer. Oh, and I’m always running late. MaiQueti in a nutshell.