*Featured Image from Life is Strange 2: Episode One – Roads, Dontnod Entertainment (2018)*
The time has finally come… Life is Strange 2 is here and Episode One has been released. In fact, I’ve already played it and wow, do I ever have feels, thoughts and opinions.
For those new to this blog, I’ve written a post about the very first game, Life is Strange. I suggest taking a quick glance of it to understand this post if you want to read on. I’m not really a gamer (other than The Sims 4 lol), but the story of Life is Strange captivated me right from the get-go and I’ve been hooked ever since. The first episode of the highly anticipated sequel was released this past Thursday (September 27th 2018) and there’s already buzz all over the Internet of what’s possibly to come in the upcoming episodes and the ambitious and relevant storyline this particular game possesses.
So without further ado, here are a few summaries of the episode and my take on Life is Strange 2: Episode One – Roads.
*WARNING: THE SECTION BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
The Beginning of Episode One
Sean Diaz, 16, gets off the school bus with his friend and discusses Friday night party plans, like any other Friday night he lives while at home in Seattle. He gets home and has a casual conversation with his father, Esteban, and his younger brother Daniel, who is 9 years old.
As Sean is getting ready for the party, he hears an altercation between Daniel and their neighbour. Sean peeps out the window and finds the neighbour handling Daniel and bullying him and immediately goes outside to deal with the situation. Sean sees fake blood splattered all over his neighbour’s T-shirt, which Daniel claims to have accidentally spilled as it is part of his Halloween costume.
You get to make the first choice here as the player: confront Daniel of his actions, or confront the neighbour for putting his hands on Daniel and handling the situation poorly (I chose the latter). This choice results in a fist fight between Sean and the neighbour, where the neighbour tells Sean and his brother to “go back to their own country.” A cop drives by and stops in front of the yard. As soon as the cop gets out, the neighbour falls from the impact of Sean’s punch and impales himself on a sharp rock.
The cop, shaking and terrified, yells at Sean and Daniel to get down with their hands up. Sean and Daniel try to explain calmly to the cop what just unfolded, but the cop keeps yelling over them to get down. As soon as the boys obey, their father runs out of the house to soothe the situation, but instead of peace, the cop chooses to see Esteban as a threat and shoots him point blank in the chest.
Suddenly, Sean’s vision is blurred by a roaring scream and an explosion. He wakes up a few minutes later to his neighbour dead on the rock, the cop dead and nearly dismembered from the impact, and his father dead beside him from the gunshot wound. Sirens blaze in the distance and Sean quickly gathers up his unconscious brother and his backpack from the house and they flee the scene. The boys are now on the run with nowhere to go.
First Thoughts and Reactions
I really had no idea where this game was going. I knew that there would be some supernatural features as the first game dealt with that, but I was not expecting a dark, heart breaking, and political story.
The story is relevant as a lot of places around the world are suffering from police brutality. Now, it is not known whether or not the cop treated the boys poorly by the colour of the skin, or shot their father because he was a Mexican man, or he did what he did out of fear. Either way, these stories are reported so often these days that it is interesting to see a take on police violence and brutality in a video game.
In the first Life is Strange game, Max Caulfield saves Chloe Price from a gunshot wound and the story doesn’t really start off on such a dark twist. Life is Strange 2 on the other hand made my jaw drop from the intensity of the story, and how the boys were just living a normal Friday night in their lives when it suddenly turned into their own personal hell. They had everything and they suddenly had nothing.
My heart actually broke as I watched everything unfold. If you have played these games before, you would know that they almost play out as movies. There isn’t much to do during certain scenes other than press a button here or there to make choices. Half the time my eyes are glued to the screen, hooked onto the episode and wondering what’s going to happen next.
The detail in this game is also a huge step up from Life is Strange. Granted, a few years have passed from the first game’s release and technology has advanced. Everything looks so lifelike, which makes the game feel even more like a movie than something I was playing on the PS4.
*WARNING: THE SECTION BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Boys On The Run
Sean and Daniel walk for two days straight after the incident in Seattle, and this is when you get to play again. You have to find shelter and a place to camp out on a hiking trail. Sean and Daniel bond, but Daniel has no idea what happened back home and Sean doesn’t tell him. He does not have the heart to tell him that their father died, and he doesn’t understand what happened after that.
The boys create a fort under a rock overhang and set off the next morning. After awhile, they stumble upon a MiniMart and stock up on food and other items that they will need on their travels with whatever money Sean has left in his wallet. They meet a kind man, Brody, who is a traveling journalist, a sweet lady behind the counter at the store, and a puppy for sale. Before they set off, they sit at one of the benches to eat.
A truck comes barrelling into the parking lot and a man gets out and interrogates Sean and Daniel. He accuses them of shoplifting and you get to make another choice: fight him off, run away, or calmly addresses the situation (I chose the latter again). This results in the man fighting Sean and Daniel running away. Sean then wakes up zip-tied to a pipe in the back room of the corner store.
Here is where you have to escape and it gets intense from here. You have to race against the clock and communicate with Daniel who is on the other side of a wall vent. Once you untie yourself from the pipe, you hear an argument between Daniel and the man who kidnapped Sean. Suddenly, you hear a loud scream again and a big boom. Sean runs out of the back room to find the man on the floor and everything in the shop all over the place. Daniel looks petrified and confused. You get to make another choice as the man wakes up from unconsciousness and grabs Sean by the leg: Kick him in the face and steal some camping equipment or quickly run away (I chose the former).
Once you race out of the corner store, the boys find Brody in his station wagon and he comes to the rescue by quickly providing them a ride out of town. Before Daniel falls asleep, he reveals he stole the puppy from the MiniMart and names the dog Mushroom. Brody admits that he heard about their incident in Seattle and he wants to do anything he can to help them. He puts them up in a motel and has a chat with Sean about telling Daniel about their father’s death. (In my game, they stop at Arcadia Bay and Brody and Sean have a chat where Sean mentions he wants to go to Puerto Lobos in Mexico, their father’s hometown).
Once Brody leaves the boys, they hide up in their motel room and Sean wants to sit down with Daniel to reveal the true details behind their current “adventure.” Before you get to talk to Daniel, Daniel begs for a soda and you have to go out to the vending machine. There’s a strange noise coming from the motel room, and as Sean, you quickly run back and find Daniel screaming and crying, and everything in the room swirling and levitating around him. The camera cuts to the TV screen where there is a news report playing of Esteban’s death. Sean, in awe of what he is seeing in front of him, has to calm down his brother and stop the madness from happening around them. Once Sean explains to Daniel what happened, Daniel makes you promise to never lie to him again.
Final Thoughts and Reactions
This story is about brotherhood and education, according to the game creators, and these themes are perfectly displayed throughout the entire episode. As Sean, you have to teach Daniel how to do numerous things, since Sean is now the father-figure in Daniel’s life. The boys have to work together to save themselves and get out of bad situations; Sean has to teach Daniel how to survive on their own; and most importantly, Sean has to learn how to be a man quickly, in order to keep his brother safe.
I love how the game isn’t afraid to touch on certain topics like racism, police brutality, and how to talk about death to a young family member. These topics are highly controversial and deserve to be discussed, especially through creative mediums such as a video game. As a player, you get to see these topics unfold right in front of you, first hand, and you have to use your moral compass to guide you to choose what you believe is the right decision.
I am already in love with this new generation of Life is Strange and I can’t wait for Episode 2. I will be writing another recap once that episode is released.
Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far! This was definitely not a regular lifestyle post that I would write, but this game is so awesome, I couldn’t resist. Look out for my Episode 2 recap!