Life is Strange was, for many, their introduction to adventure games. Unlike a generation of gamers who grew up on a hearty diet of Lucasfilm point-and-click masterpieces, many of Life is Strange's early fans hadn't grown up with similar titles, and thus found something completely new and exciting within the threads of Max Caulfield and Chloe Price's narratives. By the time the story had ended, players had grown quite fond of their always riveting, sometimes awkward, but always juicy tale of friendship, growing up, and love. The prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, fleshed out their story even further, giving us another side of the picture in the form of Chloe's friend and possible love interest Rachel Amber.
But with the series wrapped up and the missing pieces having fallen into place to help complete the story, Dontnod Entertainment decided to explore a different cast of characters with its follow-up, Life is Strange 2. Previously, a standalone prologue was released ahead of the game, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, to help bridge the two worlds and introduce a new set of characters. It was an excellent way to prep players for a whole new world and dilemma beyond Max's time-traveling abilities, but nothing could have prepared us for the heartbreaking journey and relatable characters we get to meet in Life is Strange 2.
Sean and Daniel Diaz are your typical brothers — sometimes they get along, sometimes they get into little scuffles. But one thing's for certain: they love each other. When you're introduced to the duo, you're taken straight into the world of Life is Strange 2 following a harrowing introduction, which sets the stage in a terrifying way – there's a scuffle involving police, and a squad car being overturned. Gunshots are fired, but we don't get to see what happens beyond that. The game shifts focus to the narrative at hand, and we're introduced to the Diaz family.
Sean is the older brother, who's your typical teenage boy. His best friend Lyla is goading him into telling his crush Jenn how he feels about her at an upcoming party as the two discuss what they're going to bring for the night. There's a familiar lilt to their interactions, especially with their series of text messages you can pore over that inject plenty of personality into their relationships. From the same set of messages from others, you can get an idea of how Sean and the rest of those in his life get along. It's a surprisingly realistic portrait of life among modern teenagers, and a sight less cringe-inducing than the way Chloe, Max, and the rest of the original Life is Strange cast spoke to one another.
Sean and Daniel live with their father Esteban, as their mother is no longer in the picture. The family dynamic is one that anyone would be lucky to have, with Esteban acting as the loving caregiver, Daniel the happy-go-lucky baby of the family, and Sean the reluctant but doting older brother. It's clear he's got his own priorities that he'd rather be putting time into, like planning to go to a party where there's going to be booze and marijuana, but he also tries to keep an eye on his kid brother whenever possible.
When he snaps at Daniel for running into his room unannounced while Sean is trying to Skype with his friend Lyla, he can choose to apologize or continue on as nothing happened. It's an interesting approximation of life with siblings, and an accurate portrait of it, at that. In this, Life is Strange 2 is a much more emotional ordeal in general, as it gives you far more ways to interact with and shape your brother Daniel than with the characters introduced in the previous games.
Unfortunately, as quickly as you get to know the Diaz family, things turn to hell just as fast. There's an altercation between Sean and his bigoted neighbor that quickly goes south. Without spoiling anything, it's the catalyst for a journey Sean and Daniel embark on after their lives are changed in the blink of an eye — and potential supernatural powers are introduced shortly after.
In the end, Sean takes Daniel away from the terrifying ordeal that's just unfolded around them and the two set out on a journey to a far-off destination: Mexico. Leaving home with just the backpack he packed for the party he had planned to attend with best friend Lyla, Sean has to act as his brother's sole caretaker for the duration of the trip.
Unlike in previous Life is Strange games, Daniel has a mind of his own and artificial intelligence that means he can wander off and do things that Sean may not approve of. For example, he spots some berries in a park and begs Sean to eat them, which Sean can either try first and determine if they're okay to eat or let Daniel chow down. Your choices in this manner can make a world of difference, even if it's not immediately obvious. For this reason, it's prudent to always ensure you're behaving in a manner that you want Daniel to emulate. Even if it doesn't seem important early on, you don't know what kind of ramifications it will have later on.
The first episode ends far too quickly, especially after setting the stage and introducing you to the memorable brothers who already established their own place in my heart reserved for acquaintances like Max and the rest of the original crew. But this story is a much more grounded, heartrending tale that anyone can relate to, with loss, love, family, and friends all wrapped up into one frustrating journey that you wish you could reach out and resolve for everyone involved.
It's proof that Dontnod's storytelling methods and gameplay have improved tremendously since setting out with the first game, and an excellent reason to come back to the series if you found the first season a little too faux-edgy or cringeworthy. The love here is real, and if you want to see how it feels to walk away from everything you've ever known after tragedy strikes, you'll find no better facsimile of the situation than in Life is Strange 2.