Two brothers forced to flee and find their way on a trip along the west coast of the United States. As we will see in the analysis of Life is Strange 2, Dontnod still has a special sensitivity, although with some pending tasks.
The narrative structure based on three acts is the most used in fiction; The simplest of all. It is said, in fact, about David Fincher’s version of Men who did not love women, that some viewers could not get into their plot since the film subverts this structure with five acts that expand subplots and encompasses more than one protagonist. The cinema has to compress information for the duration of the film, but the video game, given its longer duration, does not need it. And Life is Strange 2 is a perfect example of this, with an episodic structure that encompasses more than a simple approach, knot and outcome are capable of. Here, the protagonists are two brothers and a long trip on the road, facing a lot of different issues that have been wanted to bring to the screen. No, Life is Strange 2 has nothing simple.
The story of this sequel is not at all related to Max’s first video game. Here, number two refers more to a way of telling stories and personal conflicts rather than a continuation. The protagonists on this occasion are two brothers, Sean and Daniel, who after a series of dramatic circumstances in the first episode, will have to embark on a journey along the West Coast of the United States. As was the case in the first videogame, there is also a supernatural component, but this time will not cause us to rewind time but gives the little brother the power of telekinesis. The interesting thing about Life is Strange 2 is that we, like Sean, the older brother, don’t have this power, but that we must guide little Daniel to make responsible use of his powers.
Although it has its importance, as in the history of Max and Chloe, these special powers are a pretext to advance the plot to much more real issues. It is noted that here Dontnod has not wanted to walk with half measures and from the beginning has sought to address some of the most common problems and situations of our modern society. It is not going to cut hair in any of the chapters when talking about prejudices, sexuality, traditional family models, racism, drugs, religious fanaticism, child education, immigration, but also about ethical conflicts that flood each of our decisions.
It is quite surprising how the French study has not wanted to miss any opportunity to explore these evils of society and, in general, treats them correctly because good writers who know how to build situations and create hide behind their design adequate dialogues, while interpretations remain at an excellent level. But it is not without problems. There are so many and so varied conflicts that Sean and Daniel face that sometimes it can be somewhat unlikely that two protagonists go through so many calamities. At some times, this suspension of credulity is lost when we always move from an extreme situation to another equal or worse. We can assume that this is a video game and that, therefore, it is feasible that so many things happen, although it is more difficult to forgive some forced behaviors to achieve that famous script twist at the end of the chapter. Some of Daniel’s reactions have been unbelievable and forced, despite being a 9-year-old boy.
Life is Strange 2 is a new vision according to the original game, which seeks to appeal to emotions
Perhaps all these great themes are encompassed in one: the rules of a society that is not always fair. Human beings live between norms, sometimes we have to obey them; others, dictate them. Sometimes the rules save our lives and sometimes complicate it. And there is nothing better to illustrate this than the road. At one point, a character comments that, when you travel, everything is lived more intensely and you can meet the best and the worst of the human being. Perhaps that is the true superpower that the video game shows us, because it is on the road where we find all kinds of people, those who want to help us and many others who will only want to take advantage of us. Life is Strange 2 thus builds an eclectic worldview. Beautiful and sinister. Live and scary. Playing it, going through all the little ethical tests and temptations that he proposes, we are, for a moment, better able to see what kind of vision we have of the world ourselves.
Life is Strange 2, play live
The story is, therefore, the leitmotif to play Life is Strange 2. However, I think that Dontnod is not using all the tools provided by the medium. That little free episode called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit had more ideas and mechanics than this entire second season, even composing some puzzles and making better use of the inventory. In the first episode, it seemed that new ideas were going to be used, such as having more or less money according to the decisions we made, but beyond an unimportant moment, it is not so. The backpack that our protagonist carries contains many objects, but they are still reminders or letters that Sean keeps throughout the adventure, without any playable expression. This is even more evident in the talent for drawing that our protagonist has, which rarely manages to be a determining factor, and is also solved with a very poor control scheme.
I could understand the focus on Dontnod’s narration if it weren’t for the study itself that seems to want to include these mechanics and then leave them abandoned. But the form of expression of the player in the story is also confusing. In some moments it is not clear what the actions that appear on the screen mean. Hiding behind a curtain can trigger, for example, a violent scene, when you don’t always have all the clues of what will happen next. It also happens with the dialogues, which by trying to summarize too much the spirit of what Sean is going to say, can sometimes be misunderstood and provoke a response that is not what we are looking for as players.
Where I do see some more progress is in the audiovisual composition. Life is Strange 2 is a much more careful game in many aspects. The plans are better chosen, something very necessary to capture the landscape and its beautiful landscapes, the game is a journey from north to south. The animation with motion capture is also more realistic than in the first part of Life is Strange, but still have a lot to work within facial animations, which remain poor and fail to capture the range of emotions they go through Sean and Daniel throughout the five episodes. It is here where the great work of voices takes the real weight in the interpretation, breathes life into each of the various characters we know on the road. The music is just as important, with fewer vocal themes from those that penetrated Max and Chloe’s history, but always accompanied by strings that harmonize the scene.
History is the leitmotif to play Life is Strange 2
All in all, Life is Strange 2 is a new vision according to the original game, which seeks to appeal to emotions and in which Dontnod has wanted to face many of the current problems without avoiding them. The result is good and I would say that even necessary since there are not many games that seek to talk about so many topics and with such intensity, but it does not always achieve its goal. Either by some forced decisions, which take the player out of the plot or by adding a bit of morality to subjects that are too complex for the time they happen on the screen, some episodes are more successful than others. But with all said and done, the path of Sean and Daniel is one that is enjoyed and that you take good memories because get yourself involved with some situations and that makes you better know your point of view on conflicting issues. But I think in your game system Dontnod has to make a decision. Either completely eliminate their mechanics that work more as vague minigames than as true narrative contributions, or deepen them and achieve a better set that takes advantage of our environment. If something teaches you the adventure of Sean and Daniel, you can’t live between two worlds.
Life is Strange 2 is still a game very focused on history and emotions. On this occasion, he tells us a new story to address some of the most complex problems of our modern society. He usually does it with skill, because there are good feathers in the study, but some forced situations can make him somewhat unlikely at times. The interpretation work is again vital for the development of the adventure, but Dontnod still does not believe in his ability to tell stories through mechanics too, relegating these to small mini-games, and little else. Life is Strange 2 is intense and sometimes moving, but the studio has plenty of talent to take the idea further.
- An intense and well-written story.
- Some very well built characters.
- The interpretation of actors is very notorious.
- It deals with little explored themes in video games: racism, fanaticism, immigration, the traditional family, sexuality …
- The good soundtrack that still has a great role.
- Force some situations and behaviors too much to achieve your script turns.
- You need to reinforce the interpretation with better facial animations.
- He barely takes advantage of the game mechanics to reinforce his story, being practically relegated to mini-games.
- Sometimes it is not easy to understand where an action or a choice of dialogues takes us.