At the very end of “Life is Strange,” players are faced with an impossible decision: save one life or sacrifice it to rescue everyone else. It’s a monumental choice with heart-wrenching consequence. “Life is Strange 2” begins with a similar choice, but players will be powerless to stop the outcome.
It’s an interesting script flip that shows developer Dontnod’s evolution and maturity since introducing the world to Max and Chloe. “Life is Strange” featured two privileged white girls wrestling with trauma and relationships while messing with powerful forces (both mundane and supernatural).
The sequel carries forward the series’ head-on approach to violence and loss. “It’s a more ambitious story in a more expansive universe,” says lead writer Christian Divine. “‘Life is Strange’ is not just Max and Chloe and Pompidou and Arcadia Bay. It’s not just one set of locations or characters.”
Brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz are forced on the run after a run-in with the police. They decide to travel down the coast from Seattle, cross the border, and visit where their father grew up in Mexico.
Sean is not a perfect child, but he isn’t a bad kid. At 16, he holds down a job, helping his family earn money. In his spare time, he drinks and smokes pot with friends. Despite his bad habits, Sean’s father Esteban does his best to gently steer his son in the right direction. He knows Daniel drinks socially but doesn’t try to smother him. Instead, he encourages safety as a way to avoid being shut out entirely by his teenage son.
After the police incident that sends the brothers running, Sean needs to step into the role of father figure. This is reflected throughout the game as players make decisions. Instead of simply impacting your own outcome, your decisions as Sean will influence how Daniel, who is only nine years old, will act moving forward.
Early on in the game, Sean is called upon to decide whether his father or brother get the last Chocko Crisp bar. You can choose to give it to your little brother, as it’s Daniel’s favorite candy, or your father. You can also choose to swipe it for yourself. This lighthearted moment helps cement the family dynamic in the Diaz household.
Sean is clearly resentful of his little brother, as many older siblings are. The relationship between the two boys is tense, especially as we find out that their mother has abandoned the family and their father isn’t giving up hope of her return. This amplifies the rapid shift Sean must undergo from older sibling to parental figure.
In the first of five episodes, Sean and Daniel will find themselves at a trailhead, hungry and alone. The two spot a parked car with a window cracked open and a chocolate bar on the dash. Players can opt to steal the candy or leave it, and Daniel will be paying attention to which choice is made. Satisfying your hunger now might lead to trouble later if Daniel learns that stealing is acceptable.
Earlier this year, Square Enix released a free “Life is Strange” episode to bridge the gap between the first two full series. “The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit” features a young boy, Chris, and his father. In typical “Life is Strange” fashion, “Captain Spirit” is equal parts uplifting and tragic. It also connects in some as yet unrevealed way to “Life is Strange 2.”
How that connection will materialize is something for players to discover. Dontnod says that those who have been along for the journey will clearly see when the two stories intersect.
“When it comes up, for people who played ‘Captain Spirit,’ it’s a lot of fun when that interaction does occur and when the connection is made,” says voiceover director Philip Bache.
Dontnod faces a significant challenge in its return to “Life is Strange” (the prequel, “Life is Strange: Before the Storm” was developed by another studio, Deck Nine). Max and Chloe had moments of respite in the midst of their story’s most challenging emotional events. Creating that juxtaposition for Sean and Chris will be harder, as the boys are on the run from the police.
The supernatural elements have only barely been revealed so far. How they weave into the story and the gameplay is a mystery left for players to uncover when the first episode of “Life is Strange 2” arrives on September 27.