Life Is Strange 2 Episode 3: Wastelands

Welcome to The Play-By-Play, a column where I’ll be writing about an episodic game series as I play through the season, sharing my thoughts on the storyline, the game, and generally any other things that I’ve picked up on. Today, we’re continuing our journey with Dontnod’s Life Is Strange 2. Warning: spoilers abound.

The more I play of Life Is Strange 2, the more disappointed I feel that this seems to be the overlooked entry in the franchise. Our two main characters, Sean and Daniel, have a great, constantly evolving relationship that shifts believably with the various choices I’ve made along the way, the superpower belonging to the sidekick instead of the main character allows for a novel approach to difficult situations, and the twisting and turning story feels consistently engaging. While I did thoroughly enjoy the original Life Is Strange, and I’ve yet to experience the latest entry, True Colours, Sean and Daniel’s story feels like it’s really earned a place in my heart.

After being forced to run away from a momentary sanctuary living with their grandparents, episode three finds the brothers working on a weed farm alongside the hippies they briefly encountered in the previous episode. The situation here allows the writers to dig into all sorts of tension between the two, as Sean starts wanting to spend more of his time with people his age while he can – something little brother Daniel resents him for. Here we see Sean’s internal struggle laid bare – he’s suddenly having to act as Daniel’s father figure, when he really wants nothing more than to be his big brother. Trying to walk that fine line is an almost impossible task for the still young Sean, who (at least in my walkthrough) is afraid to loosen the reigns but also worried about coming across as too overbearing. When dilemmas relating to Daniel came up in this episode, I genuinely found myself staring at the screen for a good few minutes, torn between the options available to me.

When given the choice to rob the weed farmer at the end of the episode and get all the money they’d need for their journey to Mexico in one fell swoop, Sean’s indecision was palpable. I could feel the decision weighing down on him – put Daniel in danger for a moment in order to assure their future safety, or remain cautious yet unsure where their next bit of cash would come from. For my generally risk-averse Sean, the idea of one big gamble was terrifying, but I could feel the temptation to take the ‘easy’ way out pulling on him. In the end, I opted to err on the side of caution, but the choice was out of my hands – Daniel’s desire to rebel against his brother leading him to act out and sneak away to the boss’ house while Sean wasn’t looking.

Daniel’s gradually changing personality has been a point of increasing tension between the two brothers as he begins to push back against his brother’s rules and assert his independence. In previous episodes, we saw a little of the frustration he has bubbling under, but he fully explodes at a few points during this instalment, his powers reaching new heights each time. In the finale of the episode he lets out a telepathic blast, similar to the one he leased at the beginning of the story, this time injuring four people, Sean among them. The episode’s cliffhanger has us looking over the wrecked room and panning over to an unconscious Sean, whose eye is now just a bloody mess. Daniel was nowhere to be seen. With him seeming to be gradually giving into his anger and Sean pretty badly injured, I’m looking forward to seeing where this story takes us in its final two episodes.

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