Life Is Strange dealt with the consequences of playing around with time. Whenever things didn’t go the way Max Caulfield wanted them, she could easily hit the rewind button and affect change until she was met with the frequent, life-shattering consequences of doing so. Life Is Strange 2 is also built on the idea that actions have consequences - Telltale perfected the formula - but in a different and more interesting way. You’re still tracing routes of cause and effect, only this time, they are completely out of your control. With the discovery of his father’s death, young Daniel Diaz’s grief made manifest a latent and unknown telekinetic ability, gifted to him as abruptly as it did for Max. As a result, older brother and player protagonist Sean Diaz is put in the unlikely role of a moral compass for a boy far too young to grasp his new ability.
Rules, then, is an apt title for the second episode of Life Is Strange 2. With Daniel coming into his power, Sean encourages him to hone and perfect his skill while recognizing that moving rocks, plates, and shoes around isn’t for fun and games. Their situation is already a mess, with the Seattle police hunting them down and a racist grocery store owner damning them to whoever will listen. The revelation of telekinetic abilities would only make things worse. To that end, Sean becomes an arbiter of his younger brother’s abilities, telling him to use it in secret, to not tell anyone about it, and definitely to not use it around other people. The challenge of the episode lies in making decisions after Daniel skirts and breaks these rules, giving you the chance to practice what Daniel preaches. Your reactions in these scenarios help fuel the overarching development of Sean and Daniel’s personal growth and relationship with each other, as indicated by one of three wolf indicators after every major decision.
The majority of the episode is set in Beaver Creek, a small rural community that Sean and Daniel’s grandparents call home. On the run from the cops, hungry, cold, and Daniel struck with a bad cold, I fully expected things to go rotten the moment the boys rang the doorbell. It was heartwarming to see Claire and Stephen Reynolds greet them with open arms, knowing full well that the police are after them. For the first time since they left home, Sean and Daniel enjoy a warm bed, fresh clothes, hot food, and familial love. Claire and Stephen obviously think the world of their grandchildren and try to give them the best life they can have under hiding. The remainder of the episode focuses on the weeks spent in Beaver Creek, following the boy’s relationship with the Reynolds who are kind and friendly, except when it comes to answering questions about their daughter, who was Sean and Daniel’s mother before she divorced their father and ran off to parts unknown.
The second episode is especially notable for those who played the one-shot prequel episode, The Adventures of Captain Spirit. As it happens, Chris Eriksen and his father Charles are neighbors and Daniel immediately hits it off with the Chris, bonding over their mutual love for superheroes and active imaginations. I played Captain Spirit on the PlayStation 4, so I didn’t have a save file for Life Is Strange 2 to work with. However, you certainly don’t need to have played it to get something out of their appearance in the game. The episode goes out of its way to present Charles as a single father struggling to keep his life in order after the death of his wife. Playing Captain Spirit offers a considerable amount of insight into the Eriksens as well as reveal certain things Rules makes allusions to. This interaction, unfortunately, dispels any suggestion that Chris had powers at the end of Captain Spirit, making his standalone story all the more depressingly pitiful. Chris Eriksen, a boy who uses his imagination to work through the complex issues of his own life, isn’t special and I found that to be especially crushing.
Whatever joy Chris brings to Daniel and security the Reynolds offer to Sean are ultimately undone in the episode’s finale. I had some issues with how the final portions of the game were executed because of the confrontation Daniel and Sean have with granny Claire. Upon discovering that the kids broke into their mother’s room, Claire is visibly angry and has some really harsh words for Sean. This rubbed me the wrong way because from the moment the boys stepped in the Reynolds’ household, I made it a priority for Sean to treat these people with the utmost respect, so my dialog choices traveled deep into Theodore Cleaver territory. It was jarring, then, to hear Claire completely unload on Sean when I made him into nothing less than the perfect, respectful grandson. What’s more, it made little sense to me why Claire was being so secretive about her daughter’s whereabouts and why she was so insistent on not helping two frightened children that desperately wanted to know why their mother left them. From there, things get a little wild as the fight is interrupted by Stephen getting hurt and needing help. A visit from a police officer comes totally out of the blue, leaving no recourse for Sean and Daniel other than to hit the road again. As far as final acts go, Rules made me feel like I went way off script for doing the right things.
The best moments in the episode are those between Sean and Daniel, where the player is forced to make decisions that complicate the lives of others and the relationship between them. Two episodes in and I find that this is the best thing to come out of Life Is Strange 2 because it creates a great dynamic between the two boys. I’m trying to raise Daniel right so I enforce rules that spared me from moments where really bad things could have happened and hurt people and really do a number on him (I feel this is me atoning for my inability to save Kate in Life Is Strange). Annoying as he can be, Daniel’s been given a terrible burden he didn’t ask for and I really don’t want him to suffer unnecessarily. Other than that, there’s little to differentiate this episode from the last and even the previous season. You’re still adventure gaming your way in between moral dilemmas, examining and poking around to view and gain insight on items of significance.
Life Is Strange 2 is a road movie where the journey is more important than the destination, which is still kind of up in the air. There are a lot of miles between the Diaz boys and Mexico, leaving open ample opportunities for things to go hideously sideways. It’s early yet so I can’t discern where the story will take these two boys. A solid entry despite its off-key finale.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.