Life Is Strange 2 sure is living up to its name, with the direct sequel to DONTNOD’s surprise episodic smash bumbling under-the-radar like it doesn’t even exist. Since the release of the follow-up’s debut, Roads, popular developer Telltale Games has shut down, and the third instalment in The Walking Dead: The Final Season has been resurrected and released by Skybound Games. In fact, it’s been four months since we last saw Sean and Daniel Diaz – the protagonists of the French developer’s all-new slice-of-life teen drama.
It’s clear that Episode 2: Rules was meant to release around Christmas, as the footprints of the festive period are all over this particular chapter. The politically charged plot sees the two siblings on the run after a misunderstanding ends in the death of a police office and the pair’s father. As was the case with Max in the original game, there’s a touch of sci-fi to the tale as Daniel is just beginning to learn that he has telekinesis powers. But with the brothers on the run from the police, this is as much a story about survival as it is superpowers.
Rules overlaps with the events of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, the free demo that DONTNOD released at the tail-end of last year. Sean and Daniel travel to Beaver Creek in order to seek refuge with their grandparents, and end up befriending the Eriksens who live next door. Each environment that you visit is densely detailed, and as has become a trademark of the franchise, there’s absolutely tons of story-telling in the items that you examine. Whether it’s a bossy wife or a selfish daughter, the developer leaves you to suss out its cast, rather than beat you over the head with exposition.
Clocking in at over four hours, though, this can be a glacial experience at times. While we appreciate that the French studio is still allowing the new cast to settle into their roles, there are moments of sheer tedium during Rules, as you wait for the plot to actually make meaningful progress. The art direction is excellent, and the whole game feels larger and more detailed than we’ve come to expect from episodic instalments, but given the limited amount of character development, it’s hard to argue that this was worth the epic four month wait. Future instalments simply need to come quicker.
There aren’t even that many meaningful choices to make. Yes, as Sean your actions do continue to influence the behaviour of your younger brother in interesting ways, but Life Is Strange has historically placed you in impossible situations, and there’s almost none of that in this particular episode. It is interesting to see how The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit overlaps, though, and if you’re a fan of intertwining narratives then you’ll definitely get a kick out of the crossover between the two episodes – and the cliffhanger that comes at the end of the chapter.
Life Is Strange 2 feels like it’s flying under-the-radar, which is unfortunate because this sequel has all of the hallmarks that made its predecessor a success. Episode 2: Rules is slow, but DONTNOD is still easing its new cast of characters in. There’s definitely something good brewing here, but for whatever reason we can’t shake the feeling that the developer has utterly failed to capture the imagination of Arcadia Bay’s biggest fans.