No Chloe. No Max. Words I was saddened to hear when Dontnod started to talk about what was next for the Life is Strange universe. The tales of Arcadia bay were charming, touching, sometimes a bit emotional, but hugely well-crafted despite the occasional odd line of dialogue.
This new game tells the tale from the perspective of Sean Diaz, a 16 year old kid from Seattle. Like many teens of that age, he’s experimenting with life – weed, girls, beer, and wondering what life will be like at college, potentially without his high school friends. However, his life is torn upside down as the result of his racist neighbour.
A few deaths, some police brutality and some supernatural powers from younger brother Daniel later, and the pair are out on the road, on the run, together.
“Roads” has some pretty obvious and brutal messages about modern America (the setting is moved forwards to 2016), and how it’s an increasingly racist, divided society. Sean and Daniel, as Mexican immigrants, suffer direct abuse in the episode which is pretty hard to stomach. It’s a well-written adventure, and whilst maybe some of the messages could be less “in-your-face” (although they are absolutely the right ones!), I’m smitten with the new characters and can’t wait to see what’s in store for them next.
Controlling Sean, you don’t have any direct super-powers unlike the first game. However, the new mechanics mainly resolve around brother Daniel. You don’t control him directly, but get plenty of opportunities to interact with him, varying from teaching him lessons, showing him a view, or using him to help grab items.
You’ll also need to look after him, because if you leave him alone, he will do things like trip up, hurting himself, or start talking to some dodgy stranger. You’ll also need to manage your inventory a bit (no, this isn’t Monkey Island), because you’ll need money and food to make sure that Daniel doesn’t starve. This is no survival game either, but the mechanics are very well thought through, causing you to care for the character without it become a chore or overwhelming.
Not everything is quite perfect though. Sean likes to draw, and the mechanics and controls here aren’t very obvious (nor are the tutorialised). The idea of using the controller to simulate drawing sounds neat, but the execution is borked. Also, whilst I get that you’re supposed to have to look after Daniel and be a parent to him, his AI just isn’t quite good enough. With the field of view, it’s also not always clear that you are leaving him behind, so you’re often forced to turn around. And sometimes the waiting can be pretty frustrating.
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