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Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 Review


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On 01/17/2019 at 09:53 PM by Joe Step

While seemingly more political than its predecessors, this entry in the series still does a good job of focusing on the personal and providing a satisfying, if not particularly new, narrative gameplay experience.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you like the Life is Strange formula and don't mind a political bent, this is a no-brainer and you should pick it up. If you're sick of either of those things, you won't find much new here in terms of gameplay.

One thing you should know about Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 is: It’s political. And that’s going to affect how much you enjoy it, because politics are woven more deeply into the game’s main narrative than in previous entries.

Yes, the first entry in the series and its prequel, Beyond the Storm, had political takes on global warming, LGBTQ+ youth, mental illness, and modern suburban parenting (so much modern suburban parenting). No, it’s not a surprise at this point that DONTNOD Entertainment developers are inserting their politics into this series. But something about the way police brutality, race, and immigration are tackled here just makes the political bent seem a little more in-your-face, and it felt that way when I played it the first time, in early December 2018. 

The game even starts with the song “Lisztomania” by Phoenix, which Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was shown dancing to in a viral video recently, retroactively making one of the least political things in the game kind of political. Granted, that dancing video itself used to be apolitical, so … welcome to the future, I guess?

If what I’ve said about the game so far is sounding like a huge turn-off for you, it probably will be. If it sounds stimulating to you, it probably will be. The rest of this review is for those still deciding whether to pick this up after everything I just said. While I know this review is late, coming closer to the release of Episode 2 than Episode 1, I’m going to be vague in order to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t gotten a chance to play Episode 1 yet.

The good news is the main characters and some side characters are immediately likeable, the voice acting is mostly well-done, and everything from scripting to gameplay is pretty much on par with previous entries in the series. The bad news is there’s not much new here in terms of game mechanics or even refinement of what existed in previous games.

That’s not to say this entry feels like a step backwards for the series. Longtime fans will likely appreciate the familiar gameplay and story structure, and the interactions of the two brothers will feel authentic to anyone who’s been one of those siblings. Dialogue options can still affect the story in subtle and interesting ways, even if it’s sometimes disappointing that what seem like wildly different choices on different playthroughs don’t always wildly change the core narrative within an episode.

Then again, this is only Episode 1, so it’s too early to tell exactly how much your choices will change things once the game is released in full. While this episode has you playing exclusively as the older brother, the game seems to hint you might switch off at some point, given that certain dialogue options and choices affect only one of the two main characters. Plus, we’ll apparently see how the free-download prequel Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit ties into Life is Strange 2 when Episode 2 releases on January 24, 2019.  Maybe some new mechanics will be introduced then?

The only thing in Episode 1 I can think of as a new mechanic is the fact your dialogue and character options can change how much money you have at any given time, where I don’t recall this being something you worried about in past games. Ultimately, this doesn’t feel like a new mechanic so much as an extra thing to consider when making dialogue and character choices, but it definitely seems like it’ll be a bigger part of the narrative and gameplay going forward.

In keeping with somewhat of a tradition in the series, you can collect optional sketches by making the older brother Sean sit down to draw them, a la Max’ photographs and Chloe’s graffiti art in past games. What was a little confusing to me about this is that the game introduces you to Sean’s sketchbook in a very similar fashion to how previous games taught you about Max’s camera and Chloe’s marker, but the sketches don’t net you any achievements. You’ll have to collect badges and keychains for your backpack to get those. This doesn’t really hurt anything, and it’s neat to have a couple different things you can collect in the game, but I wish which collectibles count for achievements had been made clear early on. I didn’t find out about the keychains until little brother Daniel asked for one in a convenience store in the second act. It is neat you can see these collectibles in-game on your character’s backpack though. I just don’t get why you can’t put more of them on there at once? There’s plenty of space on that backpack.

All in all, if you’re a Life is Strange fan, this episode does its job of making you want to play the next episode and find out what happens, but you should know going in not to expect anything new in terms of gameplay or narrative structure. Having said that, I definitely recommend checking it out, and I’ll be nabbing Episode 2 as soon as it’s available.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

KnightDriver

01/18/2019 at 07:48 PM

Might be a game I try out, especially if it's on Game Pass. 

Super Step Contributing Writer

01/19/2019 at 02:11 AM

It's good at making the political personal, so while I've seen you say you want less political options (understandable!), it might be a good one for you.

Definitely start with 1 or before the storm though, which arev more likely to be free/discounted if you're on the fence. 

KnightDriver

01/19/2019 at 08:43 PM

Just heard today on Major Nelson's podcast it's on Game Pass. Whoopie!

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/18/2019 at 08:42 PM

I gotta finish the first one still, but I really liked it. This one looks good too.

Super Step Contributing Writer

01/19/2019 at 02:17 AM

You should definitely finish the first one and I should definitely mention that this sequel asks you what decision you made at the end of Life is Strange 1 when I'm in a position to edit this review. 

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