LIFE IS STRANGE 2
Welcome to the Wolf Pack
Dropping everything and starting afresh is never easy. Whether that be Dontnod closing the door on much-loved characters or this season’s tale of two brothers on the road after a traumatic event, it’s challenging to face such uncertainty. With Chloe, Max, and time travel left behind in Arcadia Bay, what has season two stuffed into its suitcase as it rushes out the door, and how well prepared is it for the road ahead?
Protagonist Sean isn’t super-powered himself but his young brother Daniel is, in possession of telekinetic powers he doesn’t have full control over. With no direct command of this force, Daniel’s powers are used to punctuate the drama rather than as tools for you to wield, forming part of the incident that puts the brothers on the road in the first place. Unfortunately Daniel’s memory of this event lacks crucial details that Sean simply can’t forget, and the gap between their recollections drives conflict this episode.
Much of the action revolves around how you interact with Daniel. Your AI sibling’s presence informs not just story decisions but also exploration; rather than passively observing the world around you both, you’ll have the option to engage with Daniel through it. For example, traipsing through woods, do you decide to point out the wildlife and teach your brother about trail blaze signs? Do you help him over a fallen trunk or leave him to trip and fall unaided? What lessons are you trying to impart about the world through your actions? In many ways, Sean’s superpower is responsibility, with tried-and-true choices given new life through the context of Daniel witnessing them; the question is no longer ‘is this the right thing to do’ but ‘what example am I setting for Daniel… and how will that come back to bite me?’
Daniel himself presents a complementary blend of moments that are scripted to varying levels, leaving him far from a frustrating AI partner. Your brother has a mind of his own, subtly guiding you through more open areas as he peels off to make his own observations about the world, even occasionally disappearing from view. You’re able to call him back to you, but we’d be lying if we said that we didn’t experience even a hint of panic the first time he went out of our sight, and we really started to worry the first time he didn’t respond to our call. This first episode’s major success is
“WHAT EXAMPLE AM I SETTING… AND WILL THAT COME BACK TO BITE ME?”
just how protective you become towards your new brother.
While Arcadia Bay is in the past, it’s far from a distant memory. Much of the series’ identity persists visually, tonally, and audibly… though the spectre of season one is something of a clumsy ghost. We won’t spoil it but there’s a key pit stop replete with musings about moving away from the past that feels not unlike a metatextual brick through your screen. But since we’re talking about season one, this follow-up’s first outing is notably more consistent and sure of itself than its predecessor. Even as it tries new things, it carries forward plenty of lessons learned.
Taking place just before the end of 2016, tensions are high and the characteristic tackling of weighty themes returns to add another recontextualising layer to your choices. Part of the way through, the brothers come across a shop. You can steal from it but then what will Daniel think? So we part with our measly funds for food and grab a somewhat decent bite to eat for the first time in two days on a bench just outside. We did the right thing but we’re accosted by the belligerent proprietor of the store, accusing us of stealing; you can do everything ‘right’ but there will still be racist gits. While an interesting refashioning of a limitation of the branching narrative into a strength of the story, it remains to be seen where this or any wider discussion of racism in America will ultimately lead.
It’s Sean and Daniel – and his unpredictable special abilities – against the world.
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Below Will you set a good example or teach Daniel a lesson?
Right Sean’s sketchbook gives you a compelling peek at his inner life.
Above left We’ll be keeping an eye on pup Mushroom and Daniel from now on.