Note: This review will focus on the story developments Life Is Strange as the gameplay mechanics have already been covered in the review of Episode 1. You can read that here.
This review contains SPOILERS of events from Episode 1.
After an unexpected delay, the second episode of Life Is Strange is finally released. Following the reveal at the end of the first episode I was really looking forward to seeing how the story would develop. Episode 1 started off slow, but ended on a high note that pushed the story in a new direction. Sadly, Episode 2 did not turn out to be quite what I was hoping for.
I’m With Stupid
One episode in Life Is Strange spans over one day in Max’ life. Episode 2 starts as she gets up the morning after the events in Episode 1, still confused about the seemingly supernatural events she has experienced. For everyone else, the day is just a normal weekday at Blackwell High. As Max gets ready for her day, you witness more of life in the Girls’ dorm. There are budding romances, intrigues and, of course, bullying of the cruelest kind. Characters we were introduced for during the first episode make their return and you get a chance to get to know a few of them a bit better. As I mentioned in the previous review, most of these characters are stereotypes you will have seen in many films and TV series before. Despite this, I find myself growing a bit attached to some of them. This is especially true for Kate, the depressed classmate who is currently the main target of the gang of bullies currently ruling the dorm.
However, it is my personal attachment to characters that becomes a problem with the immersion. For example, the game lets me interact with an emotionally devastated Kate. Personally, I would have never left a person alone in such a state. The game, however, forces you to leave her while you go to enjoy lunch with a different friend. I felt like the worst person in the world as I left Kate crying in her room, while Max was more concerned about making it to the diner in time.
Furthermore, the major storylines presented in the first episode have been pushed into the background to make room for more high school drama and bonding with friends. While I appreciate the effort Dontnod is putting into making these characters and relationships really matter, it should not be at the expense of everything else. During Episode 1 we were introduced to the disappearance of Rachel Amber. This is barely mentioned in Episode 2. It is always lurking in the background and it seems like it will become relevant later in the story, but for now it doesn’t seem to bother any of the characters much. I would like to have seen more focus on this instead of lurking around in the rooms of my classmates and reading their e-mails for some gossip.
At the very end of the first episode there is also a big reveal, as Max has a vision about a tornado that will destroy her hometown in a few days. While I was hoping for a more intense second episode where she was desperately trying to find some way to avoid this disaster, she is instead hanging out with her childhood friend. This friend is also ripe with bad advice, like using the powers to get ‘consequence free’ sex, and pushing Max to her limits despite knowing about her headaches and nosebleeds from the previous episode. It’s one thing to be carefree and rebellious. It’s another thing to be completely stupid. I got really annoyed by this development as I’m sure that focus on the tornado and Rachel’s disappearance would make for very interesting storylines.
The Butterfly Effect
The first episode had the player making a lot of choices. Every choice can be reviewed later in the Main Menu. While it is fun to see how your choice compares to everyone else in the world, I was more interested in seeing how they would affect events in the second episode. While some smaller consequences were showing early on, I didn’t feel like they affected my interactions with any characters. Sure, I got some rude texts, but Max never mentioned them to anyone. They might be prelude for bigger events happening later, but as of now they don’t seem significant.
The feeling of few consequences was completely turned around at the end of the episode. Again, the ending makes the slow build up worth it. The event will differ slightly depending on a series of choices and character interactions you have made through both episodes. To me, the last couple of events in the episode rivals anything I have experienced in a Telltale game. I feel like Dontnod were showing us just how big a consequence our choices can have, and how differently scenes can play out because of it. I have a feeling that the following episodes can play out in some interesting ways if they are as clear about the consequences of your choices as this ending. I was left with a strong desire to make a new save with different choices to see how I could have done things differently.
Life Is Strange – Episode 2 was, unfortunately, not the chapter I had hoped it would be. The big reveals and interesting storylines from the first episode are mostly ignored to make room for more high school drama and spending time with friends. Consequences of your previous choices don’t really matter until the very end of the chapter. I would have really liked to see Max investigate the impending tornado or the disappearance of her fellow student instead of taking some personal time. While I believe that these storylines will come more into focus later, it is a limit to how much Dontnod can continue with this pacing and still keep the game interesting (unless you are into high school life simulations). Once again, I hope that the next episode will be better. I hope that the harsh choices you have had to make will have big consequences. Most of all, I hope Max will get her stuff together and focus on important things, instead of using her powers to get into a party for the ‘cool kids’. There’s a tornado coming to destroy everything you love, remember?