Life Is Strange 2, Episode 3 Review

This campfire needs more kindling.

At the core of Life Is Strange is one relationship: Chloe and Max. Together, they reconnect, they bond, they solve a mystery or two, and depending on your choices maybe even fall in love. Life Is Strange 2 is similarly anchored by a relationship, albeit a very different one, between brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz.

Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for the first two episodes of Life Is Strange 2 ahead.

Daniel, as we know, has superpowers like the first series' heroine. Only we don't control Daniel: we control his brother Sean. In Episode 3: Wastelands, we find Sean and Daniel now living within a camp for drifters in Humboldt, California, about a month after the events of Episode 2. It's a strange bunch of people, with a Dutch couple, a lot of white people with dreads, a woman who walks around without her shirt on even though there's a nine-year-old kid around. Quickly, you find they're all relatively nice people, though some are still a little shifty around Sean and Daniel, the newest entrants to the "family."

Episode 3: Wastelands, the latest episode since Episode 2 premiered in January 2019, is the slowest paced one yet. Decent chunks of the episode has you walking around and socializing with people in the camp, from Cassidy, a familiar face from the last episode, to the rebellious Finn, who may be a bad influence on young Daniel. You help out with chores, and during the day, you work at a weed farm clipping buds. It's here where another tedious minigame is briefly introduced, much like the "move the joystick around to sketch" that pops up often, only here you hit the left and right bumpers at a precise moment to clip a weed bud. The sequence lasts a long time, as you lay witness to Cassidy and another character bicker, while others like Daniel whine about the work. And trust me, I was whining too, but not as Sean.

Daniel's getting antsy, and understandably so: he wants to use his powers a lot, and can't. He wants to leave the camp, which he also can't do. Instead, Sean's plan is to remain at the camp for another month so they can raise enough money to comfortably migrate south again. Thankfully, the weed farm is paying them under the table. It's tiring work, but it pays okay for a group of drifters living in the redwoods, even if their boss is kinda mean.

Unlike the past two episodes, the unique interactions with Daniel are few and far between. There are a few instances, like asking Daniel to lift up a log and helping him train, but when you go up to talk to him, you rarely see an additional option outlined in blue to do some activity with him. As a result, the interactivity beyond dialogue choices and moving around is severely lacking in Wastelands. It's a disappointment, as that was part of what helped set it apart from other adventure games of this ilk.

Episode 3 has occasional issues running on PC too. Lighting flickers, and textures pop in a hair late. In some instances, characters would be holding something when suddenly it would disappear. Despite solid framing of scenes and other shots being really beautiful, technical issues like this have grown to be common in the series. And in Episode 3, they were even more rampant than before.

While there's a lot of heart at the center of Life Is Strange 2's first episodes, Episode 3 tests our patience. We instead trot around with a far more annoying Daniel. He's cocky with his powers now, having nearly mastered them—he can lift a redwood tree trunk out of a lake, for instance—and he's in turn tired of his older teenage brother keeping tabs on him. It's a familiar dynamic, bringing to mind the middle section of last year's God of War immediately. And perhaps with how my second episode ended, with poor Chris getting hit by a car after thinking his "superpowers" could stop it, it's what I deserve.

Episode 3 also contains one of the weirdest music moments I've seen in maybe any game. Like "Gangsta's Paradise" in the Sonic trailer-level weird. | Dontnod Entertainment/Square Enix

For a series with just two episodes left, I felt like not a lot happened in Episode 3, even in terms of just character development. In Episode 2, we saw Sean and Daniel reconnecting with long lost family. It was similarly slow paced, but heavy in its focus on Sean and Daniel reckoning for the first on-screen time with the long-absence of their mother. While not as eventful as Episode 1, it did bring about a new twist: the possibility of going to find their mom in place of fleeing to Mexico. (The former an idea that Daniel is for, and Sean is vehemently against.) In Episode 1, in contrast to the most recent episodes, a lot of shit went down.

But in Episode 3, the intrigue stumbles. Sean has the opportunity to go down a romantic path (with two options), but otherwise, it doesn't feel like anything really happens until the very end. While the ending admittedly makes me want to see what happens in Episode 4, Episode 3 felt like a mostly-inconsequential adventure-of-the-week; or a middle episode of a show with way too many episodes in a season. (Like, say, Riverdale.)

It's the weakest episode yet, even with its cliffhanger ending. The choices you make throughout Episode 3 don't feel as if they carry as much weight, even on a pure brotherly level. Daniel, no matter how nice I was to him, still had an attitude. Decisions I made, after seeing other options through, all barreled to the same conclusions mostly. What you see in the end is largely the same too, no matter how careful or wreckless you are with your decisions. With two episodes to go, I hope that Episode 4 gives us some indication of how the boys' road trip will conclude, because right now, it doesn't feel like the end is near in sight.

Tagged with Adventure, DONTNOD Entertainment, PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Square Enix, Xbox One.

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