Episode 3 of Life is Strange 2 brings us to over halfway through Sean and Daniel Diaz’s journey from Seattle to their new life in Mexico. We rejoin the brothers who are now camping in the Redwood Forests of California as part of a community of drifters and runaways.
Life is Strange 2 is a coming-of-age story, and in this episode the transitions that both Sean and Daniel are taking as they are forced into independence forms an important thread throughout. We see Sean having opportunities to socialise with people his own age and have glimpses of what his life would have been like if things had not taken a turn for the worse. As a player, being able to make his decisions, to either be a carefree teenager or a responsible guardian of a child, brings a new dimension to the game. Daniel is growing up, and testing the boundaries of Sean’s authority. In fact, Daniel turns into a bit of a brat in this episode and it is evident from the start that the tension between the two brothers is going to play a big role in the story.
That’s the overview of the story progression in this episode, but what about the details? In my review of the previous episode my main gripe was that things didn’t move quick enough and it was obviously a bit of a ‘filler’ episode before things got moving. Well, my hopes were quashed as I starting playing this episode – it got even slower. In the first hour of playing I spent a significant amount of time either working (snipping cannabis buds in the illegal farm where the campers are working) or doing chores. I forgoed my normal impulse to explore every object, and talk to every person, just to speed things along and get to a bit of gameplay that quickened my heart rate just a little. This episode just seems stuck; we only get to see two new places: the camp and the farm, and the new people we meet don’t add much to move things along. We do thankfully get glimpses into how Daniel’s telekinesis powers are developing but as the only source of real interest in the series I would have liked it to play a more prominent role.
The Co-Creative Directors of Life is Strange 2 say ”The key themes in this episode are community, relationships, and finding your own identity”. The problem is that I don’t want to spend precious hours of my own, real, life to explore the relationships of virtual characters that don’t have many endearing characteristics. I want to play a game that is exciting, interesting, frightening…This game is called Life is Strange but maybe, at this current state of play, Life is Mundane would be more appropriate.
As with all Life is Strange episodes, the choices you make in the game influence the outcomes and there are multiple story pathways. I may have missed a few of the more interesting storylines due to my decisions, however if you are worried this also happened to you, after you have completed the episode there is the opportunity to replay the game chapters in ‘standard mode’ where you can skip straight to the choices and see the consequences of choosing an alternative option. As in the previous episode, you can also play in ‘collectible mode’ and search for collectible items. These two options allow you to stretch out the gameplay a little longer, if you should so wish.
So far this is a rather a scathing review. However, the episode has a few redeeming features. Again, the voice acting and music are superb and do a great job of drawing you in to the story. In fact, visually I’m pretty sure the series looks better with each unfolding episode. There is a cut-scene by the lake where Daniel shows his brother just how powerful he has become which is as cinematic as anything you will see.
And then we make it to the end – of both this review and the episode – and this is by far the best bit of Life is Strange 2 Episode 3 – Wastelands on Xbox One. It is what I had been waiting for the whole time – it is exciting, intense, frightening, and the way this segment of the story concludes just about ensures that there is enough to keep anyone interested for Episode 4. Let’s just hope it’s a sign of things to come.