The ending of Life is Strange: Episode Two challenged what I had come to expect from Dontnod’s fledgling series. The first episode was a cute and fun romp about a quite girl in a sleepy down, reuniting with old friends as she develops time travelling powers. It was short, sweet and harmless. However, with Episode Two, Dontnod has proven they can orchestrate a compelling and heart wrenching tragedy while making the player feel liable for every decision that led them there.
Episode Two is not really about Max Caulfield (the series’ protagonist). Instead, Max is an outside observer to the story of Kate Marsh. After potentially being drugged and videotaped in a compromising situation, the subsequent recording is placed online, resulting in a heavy helping of ridicule and judgment being heaped onto Kate. The extent of which Max is involved in this story is largely up to you. Max can erase harmful web-links written on bathroom mirrors, confront Kate’s aggressors and delve into the Marsh’s family life to see where the pain is coming from. How much Max involves herself in Kate’s life is completely up to the player. However, inactions may be just as devastating as actions in Episode Two.
It is the game’s biggest shame that Kate’s story occupies such a small amount of game time. Episode Two opens and closes with Kate, but her story is noticeably absent from the middle section. Instead Life is Strange decides to show you just how bad their gameplay can be.
Interactive dramas like The Walking Dead and Life is Strange tend to warrant a free pass when it comes to their gameplay. Life is Strange is dedicated more to its story and characters. Therefore, innovative gameplay and level design tends to take a backseat. However, in a completely unnecessary attempt to add variety to the game, Life is Strange pauses for two uninspired puzzle sections. The first and most damming of these is an extended sequence in which Max uses her time travel powers to valiantly traverse a scrapyard in search of five bottles.
Life is Strange not only wastes this opportunity for gameplay, but it also burns up a lot of time that could have been spent furthering the story or developing character. What could have been an opportunity for story progression or character development ends up creating a filler arc. Furthermore, this section is almost completely devoid of opportunities in which the player is required to use their time travel powers.
The middle section felt like the developers were stretching out the game’s length. What’s worse is that this section is so lengthy and uninspired that it almost made me give up on Kate’s story.
In regards to the nitty gritty technical details, the game runs fine for the most part. The occasional dubbing issue is far outweighed by the lack of any stuttering as the game loads in your decisions, something even The Walking Dead couldn’t get right. However, character interactions in the later sections of the game feel almost comical as characters jump back and forth between sentences from hating you to liking you, depending on what choices you made earlier on.
Whether or not you should play Life is Strange: Episode Two boils down to how well you can delay your gratification. For those who can put up with the tedious gameplay and mind numbing middle section, Life is Strange will reward you with a raw and emotional climax. For those who can’t, there is always the next episode.
This review was conducted on the PC. Life is Strange: Episode 2 is available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One