Life is Strange 2 Review — A Riveting Adventure
Video game developers don’t tackle social issues often because it’s challenging to talk about sensitive subjects. Dontnod Entertainment boldly accepted the challenge by creating Life is Strange 2. The result is a compelling choice-based game that explores how Mexicans experience racism in America.
Life is Strange 2’s plot is the most fascinating part of the game. It’s centered around two brothers, Sean and Daniel Diaz, whose world is turned upside down when their father, Esteban, is wrongfully murdered by a cop. To make matters worse, Daniel’s newfound telekinetic powers accidentally kill the cop. The kids decide to flee America and seek refuge in Puerto Lobos, Mexico to avoid being separated.
The bravery of the developers is admirable since they centralized the plot around racism. When the cop shoots Esteban, the game’s central theme becomes crystal clear. It focuses on how some perceive certain ethnic groups as inherently dangerous. In other words, some people are guilty before being proven innocent. Furthermore, the Diaz brothers encounter many consumed by bigotry and hatred while traveling, forcing them to face the harsh reality of being a minority in America.
There are several racially-charged subtopics to dissect in the game. The topics range from police brutality against minorities to the idea that Mexicans are not truly American. For instance, Sean is constantly told that America isn’t his country because of his Mexican heritage, leaving him feeling alone and rejected. Unfortunately, these situations mirror the real-life experiences that many minorities have in America. We should have conversations about why people deem particular ethnic groups as “less American” so that these topics can be brought to light.
Although the developers of Life is Strange 2 introduced heavy topics, they could have discussed the issues above in more detail. For example, after the Diaz brothers have a dangerous racial encounter, Brody, a helpful stranger, gives them a ride to a motel and chats with Sean about the situation. However, Brody simply states that there are “messed-up people in the world” and doesn’t go beyond that. Unfortunately, this superficial understanding of racism shows in many of the game’s scenes. Therefore, there isn’t much conversational development about the subject.
This scene with Sean and Brody would be more impactful if the characters discussed how racist ideologies formed and how they are sustained. Since the main driver of the storyline is racial injustice, it makes more sense to incorporate comments about the systemic issues that cause racism rather than introducing random racist people throughout the game. The latter storytelling method diminishes the complexity of racism, while the former attempts to explain the intricacies of the problem.
Nonetheless, I became attached to the two main characters, Sean and Daniel. The siblings are a couple of regular boys at the beginning. They tease each other, have crushes, play video games, etc. After their father dies, they are forced to grow up and take on the world themselves. The unexpected twists and turns of their journey made me sympathize with them and come back for more gameplay.
Although it’s farfetched for two kids to escape a country themselves, I couldn’t help but root for them to reach Puerto Lobos, Mexico. This journey is not only about two characters seeking salvation from a country that wronged them, but it’s also about brotherhood. Both siblings are utterly dependent on each other, so you see how they bond on their travels. Daniel’s moral compass changes depending on Sean’s choices as well. If Sean makes decisions that taint Daniel, you’ll see how badly things turn out in one of the possible endings. Spoiler alert — things get really bad.
Another thing I like is how simple the gameplay is. There are no complicated mechanics since the game is choice-based. That’s why Life is Strange 2 would be great for people new to gaming. Interacting with objects can be tricky though. Sometimes, I’d have to position Sean at the perfect angle to interact with an object. I didn’t have to do that too often, but adjusting the character’s position four times to open a door is frustrating.
The music and art style are some of the game’s best assets. The art style distinguishes the Life is Strange franchise from other story-based games. I was blown away by the beauty of the title screens themselves.
The music is gorgeous as well. The songs fit perfectly with each scenario in the game. I reacted similarly to the music in Life is Strange, so I’m not surprised!
Life is Strange 2 is not about playing it safe with political conversations. That’s what makes it unique and admirable! The creators are not afraid to show you the ugliest sides of those who can’t see past their unreasonable prejudices. Again, the developers should have dived deeper into the social issues of the game. Despite that, traveling alongside Sean and Daniel makes you invested in their journey and welfare. The game took me on an emotional rollercoaster, and I enjoyed the ride.