Hey dudes, hope you’ve had a fantastic week – I certainly did, because between sections of my dissertation and the resultant sobbing, I managed to get some time to sit down and play ‘Life is Strange 2’, the sequel to the 2015 masterpiece that literally changed the course of my life, taught me my sense of self, made me grow up into a young adult, et cetera et cetera.
My first Respawning article was all about it, check it out here if you want. It’s old work, bear that in mind.
So with that background out of the way, I think it should be pretty clear why I was HYPED UP when Life Is Strange 2 was announced last year. September rolled around, the game launched, and I didn’t touch it. Like, at all. Not even the free side-story ‘The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’ did it for me; I simply didn’t want to touch it.
Why? At first, I just thought I was just busy. 3rd year is the most important part of your degree, after all, and I was oh so busy with my eSports module and planning my dissertation, now was not the time to be digesting new stories. But then, as I passed my 50th hour of Hearthstone that week, I realised that I was straight-up lying.
No, the real reason was that I was frightened. Frightened that the magic of Max and Chloe wouldn’t be matched, that Season 2 wouldn’t be the same, that it’d ruin the magic and I’d lose that emotional core I’d spent so long building by pulling the rug out from under it. Max and Chloe, as American teenage girls, were relatable without being analogous to my own life. That wasn’t the case with Season 2. Season 2 is all about brothers Sean and David Diaz; specifically, it’s about Sean’s challenges being an older brother – a substitute father, even – in the face of a crisis. And that premise hits me right at home. I’m the eldest of two brothers, and something that spoke so directly to my life situation seemed so alien, and with the ‘Life is Strange’ branding attached, would I even be emotionally ready for it? I’m usually a very resilient person, but this game spoke directly to my weak spot.
Screw it, I said, let’s do it before we overthink things.
And holy shit, I was wrong – I love this game. This is fantastic. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, and used it as a source in an essay I handed in and got marked on. My career will forever be built, in some tiny way, on an essay about the differences between Sean Diaz and Kratos. Yes, really.
LiS 2 stands, even after only 2 (And a bit?) episodes, as one of the most touching pieces of media I’ve come across. It depicts a side to masculinity we rarely see in media, nevermind in video games – That quiet, controlled kind of masculinity that forms the basis of brotherly love. It shows a creative, sensitive, and caring male character who isn’t emasculated by those things. He’s unsure of himself but not a wimp, inexperienced around girls but not such a social outcast that he can find emotional and personal advice in a platonic female friend. He’s creative but not because he’s some tortured soul, that’s just the person he is. In fact, despite his shortcomings – mainly just the fact he smokes – Sean Diaz reminds me of the person I wish I was as a teenager. Deadass.
The gameplay is much the same as Life is Strange 1, with your character exploring environments, giving their thoughts at the time, and then getting into conversations with choices that then influence details of the story later on. Without the gimmick of Max’s time-rewinding powers, Life is Strange 2 has managed to find its heart – It’s not about superpowers, it’s about people and their own unique struggles. It’s about characters, dialogue, and touching thematic deep-dives, all wrapped up in a world that feels real, like it’s one and the same with the one I live in. From the genuine and believable situations, the characters face to the references to real-world pop culture that make the story feel like something I myself could hear about. It’s not just a work of fiction, it’s a beautiful set of characters that crawl out of the monitor and feel like they could sit beside you and you’d scarcely tell they’re fictional. And it didn’t frighten me – the parallels with my own life – instead, it just made me root for Sean all the more.
And while I’d love to talk about ‘The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’, that experience is both short and free – So I’ll just go ahead and tell you to download it and play through if you have a few hours spare. It’ll whet your appetite, I promise.
And so I’m finally back on board with the franchise. 3 episodes down, 3 left: let’s a-go.