It’s been a bit of a longer wait for the second episode of Life is Strange 2, but it was definitely worth it. It’s called Rules and — you guessed it — that’s a theme that runs throughout the episode. Taking the character development and plot sophistication from the first episode and rounding it out with some more gameplay made Rules all the better; it’s easily one of the best episodes in the franchise so far.
It starts out with a summary of the first episode, along with what happened between then and now. It’s told in quite a charming way, with Sean telling the story as something like a bedtime story about two wolf brothers. Not only does it refresh your memory of the previous episode well, but it also serves to set the tone for a large part of the episode. If you didn’t quite pay enough attention, you’ll find a good summary in the journal, too.
Next thing you know, it cuts to Sean teaching Daniel how to use his powers. Although Sean has no powers of his own, he seems to be using the same basic structure you use for training sports to train Daniel’s powers, and they work fairly well. Start off with the small stuff and then progressively get bigger. Daniel loves using his powers, even though he admits later that they exhaust him. Not to mention, Daniel has been sick for the last few days, with no sign of stopping.
Sean has three rules for Daniel, and these are the framework for most of the decisions you have to make throughout the episode, too. “Hide your power”, “Don’t talk about your power”, and “Run from danger.” Although Daniel knows these rules, both your smaller dialogue decisions and your bigger action decisions will affect how he chooses to interpret this set of rules.
The decisions in Life is Strange 2 are generally on a much lower scale than in the first game; this episode is where the decisions really shine through. It’s up to you to find a balance between being strict and “fun”. Daniel blames himself for the death of his father, and he knows that the police are after them. With decisions often only affecting one or two characters, you really start to appreciate your choices. In fact, it’s the main reason why Life is Strange 2 is better than the first game so far. It’s an antithesis to the common belief that a sequel always has to have bigger stakes than the original to make you care.
The design choice to not have you control the character with powers puts more weight on the powers themselves — a smart choice for a point and click game. By doing so, it gives you a different struggle, and the people involved can be characterized more accurately this way. It’s normal that a kid with telekinesis would want to play pranks with it, have fun, be a superhero.
You have to make sure that he doesn’t get hurt or found out along the way, which is the more difficult task, especially since it means you have to choose when to lie to him. It’s the little lies and this choice between being strict and “fun” that are a perfect fit for Sean’s character. His built up aggression and anger from the death of his father, racial discrimination, and general teenage angst can be channelled into his strictness — it also means that it’s likely that Daniel will eventually get hurt.
Rules are a general theme throughout this episode, as the title might hint. From the very moment where Sean explain the rules about Daniel using his powers (probably for the umpteenth time) onwards, Life Is Strange 2 uses rules to show a lot of different things, from the rules they set up for their pirate-based dice game to the strict, traditional rules at their grandparents’ house. The most interesting use of the theme is found at their grandparents’ house, where the coast is clear for the time being, and they feel safe. When Daniel starts listing the three rules, Sean cuts him off before the third rule, “run from danger.” It’s not something they need to heed as much anymore.
Another theme that appears consistently is the act of rationalizing events based on your beliefs. Several times in the story, characters are forced to confront an event that doesn’t fit into what they thought they knew, and they explain it in a way that makes sense to them, be it with conspiracy theories or miracles, childhood innocence or pessimism.
The episode also reminds me of the original game in parts. For example, the layout of the grandparents’ house is quite similar to Chloe’s house. Interestingly enough, the image of a small-town society is the opposite of that in the first game: although there were darker secrets to be found, the original presented Arcadia Bay as a charming place to be, however, the town the grandparents live (Beaver Creek) in is a lot more threatening. At first look, you see the same whimsical attitude, but boiling directly beneath the surface, the danger of being spotted and arrested is high — which one of the locals knows about the incident in Seattle?
Essentially, Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 takes away any complaints I had about the first episode. Not only is it an excellent continuation of the story, but it also stands well on its own. With an abundance of character development and much more gameplay than the first episode, it hits you where it hurts and makes you know it was your fault.
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Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 is easily one of the best episodes in the franchise, a beautiful continuation of the story and an improvement on the first episode in almost every way.
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