The first episode of Life is Strange 2 starts off with older brother Sean heading home after school. Phoenix's Lisztomania is blasting, a French group taking on Americana through their own unique perspective, similarly to what Dontnod have been doing with Life is Strange and now Life is Strange 2.
It's a slow start. We learn a bit about Sean's love interest Jen from his conversation with best friend Layla. It's your typical teenage drama, but what we gather from it is that Sean isn't the most outgoing person, not a risktaker, at least not when it comes to matters of the heart. At his house, Sean knocks on his kid brother Daniel's door, and we're treated to a heartwarming scene as the young Daniel lives out a fantasy the way only a kid can. Sean's a bit too old for his antics, and that awkwardness as one brother is edging towards adulthood while the other is still some ways off adolescence is all too familiar.
There's a scene with Sean and his father, Esteban, in the garage where you get to learn something of their relationship. It shows some of the excellent touch Dontnod has when it comes to depicting actual human relationships in video games. It's easy to get a sense for how the two relate, and it feels grounded and believable.
Ultimately, Sean is tasked with collecting what he needs for the party, but before heading there he finds himself caught up in the sort of moment that defines Life is Strange. A neighbour picks on his little brother and Sean knocks him down, only for him to land onto a rock and fall unconscious. A police officer drives by and responds to the altercation, drawing his gun. Esteban inserts himself into the situation, and the policeman fires a shot, hitting him square in the chest. Then something happens, an outburst of energy sends the cop flying along with other nearby objects. Sean comes to, sees his father dead, the cop dead, his neighbour probably dead, and Daniel unconscious. Clearly, the situation is such that he'd find himself in prison and Daniel would be sent to foster care, and there and then he takes the decision to travel south from the outskirts of Seattle to Mexico, the country their father the mechanic originates from. He picks up Daniel and heads out.
This sets up a game with a very different structure to the first one. Here we're not tied to one location like Arcadia Bay and we'll come across different people along the way, even if the developer teased that some may appear more than once. The brothers are on a road trip, they're on the run, but they're also exploring their world and seeing places for the first time.
It is obvious that Dontnod has turned up the dial when it comes to the production values. The original Life is Strange was a bit of a surprise hit - sure there was hype, but not the to extent that anyone thought it would go on to sell more than three million copies. This time, thanks to Unreal Engine 4 and improve facial animations and foliage, Life is Strange 2 looks the part of a current gen project. While graphical fidelity isn't key to conveying the sort of experience Life is Strange 2 strives for it's certainly not something that hurts either.
Fast-forward to about half-way through the first episode (of five) and the two brothers find themselves walking along a road. They're heading south along the Pacific coast. While you control Sean, Daniel is something of an extension of you and your actions will mould his behaviour. This is one of the main themes of the game, and it's something that sets Life is Strange 2 apart from other narrative-focused experiences. Your Daniel will be the result of your choices and actions, and you'll most likely end up with a brother who behaves slightly differently from the one influenced by your friend.
The two walk by a car and Daniel notes there's a candy bar on the dashboard, his favourite kind. Sean is now faced with a decision, does he reach into the somewhat open window and grab the bar for his hungry brother, potentially teaching him that stealing is okay as long as you're not caught, or do you make him wait until they've got an opportunity to buy one? The two come across many points of interests as they search for a campsite, and you'll notice an option to involve Daniel as you choose how to interact with the various objects and situations. It's hard to predict just how much these choices and actions will affect how Daniel behaves, but he won't just follow Sean around like a passive NPC, but rather he'll run around, explore, and take action like you'd expect a 9-year old would do.
You may have played The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a free narrative bridge of sorts between Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2. Dontnod remains mute on just how young Chris will show up in Life is Strange 2, but it's safe to assume that Sean and Daniel will meet him along the way, and there's the possibility of connections with the first game as well, as three years have passed in the Life is Strange universe.
One interesting aspect of their relationship is that Sean keeps the truth from Daniel. His younger brother is not aware of what happened to their father, he doesn't know exactly what took place there on their front lawn, and ultimately Sean is going to have to make some tough choices with regards to what he'll tell his little brother. We could see this dilemma play out as a cliffhanger for the first episode or possibly weigh on Sean all the way to the end of the journey. With the first chapter set to arrive on September 27, we've little under a month to wait before we get a few of our questions answered. We can't wait.
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