WE GOT HIGH HOPES!
Three episodes in and Life is Strange 2 has already itself apart from the previous two titles in a good way while still giving the nod to the franchises core themes. By creating new characters and stepping away from the cast we became so invested in, DONTNOD has created new ones for us to care for all over again with the Diaz brothers and referring to this shared reality like some kind of gaming, hipster MCU of sorts. Throughout the course of ‘Roads’ and ‘Rules’ respectively, this writer was subjected to different feelings and emotions come to each conclusion, with feelings of dread and eagerness exuding after Roads and anxiety and melancholy cascading through my mind one Rules had come to a close. Which brings me to the much-anticipated episode ‘Wastelands’. After everything was said and done not only did I feel all these emotions once again because of this impressive midpoint but as a result, there was a little bit of heartbreak was thrown in for good measure. Wastelands sends an important message to anyone that plays it, and intense life lessons, like how friends can come from any which way of life, a family doesn’t necessarily mean blood, love is love and at least once in anyone’s life, we all end up working for a really dodgy boss, while continuing the coming of age motif.
Wastelands launches a couple of months after Sean and Daniel Diaz hopped on a train after being chased out of Oregon by the Police. Thankfully they have found their way to California finding refuge at a campsite from Cassidy and Finn who you may remember for their bit part in the previous episode, as well as a few other vagabonds who I think will have a bigger piece in the grand scheme in their own way down the road. In order to make ends meet and gather funds to reach Mexico, the boys have taken a job on a weed farm, working for a shady gun-toting dealer called Merrill (I mean I flipped burgers and cleaned hotel rooms when I was 16 but times change I guess!). While this is happening Sean is still helping his younger brother hone his kinetic powers while helping him control his anger, or neglect his feelings and smoke weed, get drunk with his friends and ahem become man, it’s up to you dude! Much like Rules, Wastelands through the opening hour or so goes at its own pace, forever leading you into a false sense of security, before a theatrical peak is reached in the episode’s climax, leaving Sean and Daniel at square one, and to be honest with you what an ending it is! The build-up – suspenseful, the choices – harrowing, the imagery – jarring, to say the least, and gives you an insight to just how powerful Daniel has become and sure every episode of Life is Strange leaves me yearning for answers and this one is no different, all of which come in the same form but not this time, Wastelands has left me high and dry with a whole lot of new questions for Episode 4 to answer for me.
As always there are conundrums to negotiate with yourself through the duration of Wastelands, but what I found impressive was how each significant decision I had to make, toyed with my psyche. My moral compass guided me to what I felt to be the right decision pretty quickly, however, there was a little voice that would just appear in the back of my mind that would tell ‘Come on, let’s be devils!’.
One thing that helps Life is Strange standout among others like it, is the significance of the minor details. Blink and you’ll miss it, the butterfly never flapped its wings and set a whirlwind in motion and you never even knew it did you? But not so much this time, yes there are moments of exhibition you can miss but Wastelands seems to have downsized its surroundings, going from the open road in the opening episode to two main locations you frequent in the third. There are still a number of ways in which you can make your own story and it can go in some pretty unexpected directions. The mechanics are standard Life is Strange fayre, with a quick break to give way to some Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm.
Life is Strange 2 continues to pay homage to the great outdoors and as a Brit, showcases the beauty of the United States beyond the concrete jungles. Another high point is the tole of living rough being genuinely visible in the two boys, with dirt, scratches, tattered clothing, and scruffy hair being the words they lay in their metaphorical journal of life.
But with sights, you now sound won’t be far behind. I have stressed in the past how Life is Strange as a whole has amazing songs set within it, ore times than not songs i’ve never heard have become main stays on my playlists thanks to this franchise but this time around songs from my past I haven’t taken the time to enjoy in years have reemerged. Gorillaz ‘Up on Melancholy Hill’ sets a tone to better days in the opening flashback and Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ accompanies a cheerful working montage, because even if you do work for a discount Gustavo Fring it’s all about who you do it with. But it’s Milk and Bone’s ‘Natalie’ that really drives the tormenting imagery of the ending home, particularly with the way the lyrics connect with the situation.