It’s safe to say that Life Is Strange 2 hasn’t been a slam dunk so far.
The major gaps between each episode’s release dates have kept the game off the lips of its once vocal community, while the constantly shifting narrative running through each episode has meant the series never really found its footing. Luckily, the game’s fourth episode, Faith, finally manages to make some significant and interesting strides with the story, putting the Diaz brothers’ tale on track for an exciting finish.
This is largely because Faith plays to Life Is Strange 2’s biggest strengths, as well as addressing some of its major weaknesses. For one, it finally gives its protagonist some time to breathe and develop as a character. Waking up in a hospital bed a solid two months after the explosive culmination of the game’s previous episode, the big difference you’ll notice in Faith is that Sean is completely alone. His brother is lost, in custody for his crimes and – most notably – Daniel’s accidental eruption has cost him his eye.
While it might be easier to just skim past the trauma all three of these outcomes have on Sean, Faith accentuates the weight on his shoulders and is all the better for it. It takes the time to highlight how our teen protagonist is struggling to accept the limitations of his new physical impairment, the blame for his mistakes and losing his brother. It’s heartbreaking stuff, easily displaying some of the sequel’s best writing to date.
One thing leads to another, and Sean eventually gets back on the road again, his trail leading to a town where he believes he’ll find his brother. It’s here that Sean’s development as a character begins to take some surprising turns. One early encounter harkens back to the socio-political themes Life Is Strange 2 addressed primarily in its first episode. I won’t go into major detail as it’s a surprisingly dark moment that’s worth experiencing first-hand, but it’s a sequence that shows Sean coming face to face with extreme bigotry and discriminatory violence.
As becomes evident numerous times throughout this episode, Faith’s focus on showing Sean deal with mature topics finally begins to illuminate the road he’s moving down as we reach the last episode. His adventure has shown him the uglier aspects of the world and, sadly, he’s had to sacrifice his adolescence to overcome them.
Upon reaching Haven Point – the town Sean believes he’ll find Daniel – things return to the classic Life is Strange style. You’re given a few interesting places to explore, some interesting NPCs to chat with, and a healthy dose of moral choices to make. Haven Point’s not especially interesting to look at, but the environments do have some interesting stories to tell. The church that becomes the primary focus of the episode particularly has a host of cool story titbits and reveals. Searching one location actually becomes integral to a major turning point in the narrative of the finale, the information you locate becomes key to a tense negotiation. It’s an interesting application of DontNod’s formula that rewards exploration, and here’s hoping it will make a return in their future games.
The narrative upon reaching Haven Point is more of a mixed bag. While there are some cool applications of Life is Strange’s supernatural elements in terms of religion – and a brilliant interaction between Sean and a mysterious character he partners with in the town – the main crux of the third act fall slightly flat. It’s far from disastrous and keeps better pace than the previous episode, however, a weak pair of antagonists with somewhat hollow intentions means it’s hard to invest in Sean’s plight. With a little extra focus, they actually could have been menacing adversaries, but the pair wind up a disappointing afterthought. The moral choices that spring up are also fairly weak, either barely effecting the ensuing events or feeling so devoid of moral complexity that you’ll decide in mere seconds. It’s not the end of the world as Faith has a more compelling central plot than other episodes of the series, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
These issues aside, Faith is something of a comeback for Life is Strange 2. It digs deeper into Sean as a character while also addressing some darker themes and sought-after plot reveals that have been dangling since the series’ debut. There are some issues with the latter half of the episode, but ultimately, this a strong set up as the sequel approaches its final chapter.
Life is Strange 2 Episode 4
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 22, 2019
A disappointing third act and weak moral choices aside, Faith is the best episode since Life Is Strange 2’s debut. It unravels Sean’s character in interesting ways, has some expansive areas to visit and delves into the more mature aspects of the sequel’s world to create some deeply poignant moments. With the finale right around the corner, the Diaz brothers’ last chapter has all the ingredients to be a doozy.
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