When it comes to penultimate acts, the Life is Strange series has a strong past. Both Dark Room and Brave New World are highlights of their respective seasons. It could be hard for the fourth episode of Life is Strange 2 to reach that mark, though. Coming off Wastelands, the strongest episode of the sequel so far, Faith is a challenging follow-up. It’s been a tough road for Sean and Daniel, and it’s only gotten harder.
When we last left the brothers Diaz, a botched robbery had left them without jobs, and Sean without an eye. Faith begins a few months after the previous episode. Sean is hospitalized from his injuries and is still rehabbing the injury to his eye. The bad news continues as the older brother is only a day away from being sent away to juvie. With Daniel still missing, though, Sean realizes he has to find a way out. After his trusty journal points him in the right direction, Sean finds himself headed to Haven Point, Nevada.
Without going too far into spoiler territory, this episode is a rough play. Sean is run through the gamut, both physically and emotionally. Every encounter leaves him scarred in fresh, new ways, and while these may be painful, they go a long way to developing his character. Gone is the naive young man from Roads, and in his place is a weary soul searching for his brother. He’ll need to put aside past grudges in order to accomplish this, however. It doesn’t feel forced in any way, though — it’s a testament to Dontnod’s storytelling that they have been able to fully flesh out his evolution and arc.
Faith does falter in one way that Wasteland didn’t, though. The new faces introduced in this episode are a poorly developed bunch. Outside of one addition — which, if you’ve seen the launch trailer, you can probably guess who it is — they are all very one-dimensional, either comically evil or unrealistically nice. This black and white characterization is something the sequel has mostly managed to avoid so far, and it’s particularly egregious when it comes to Reverend Mother Lisbeth, who is ostensibly the antagonist of this particular episode. Instead of being a complicated woman of faith, she’s a broad caricature of the evils of religion. It makes her a boring foe to deal with, and that shouldn’t be the case.
I’m on the fence over whether or not Daniel’s absence helps or hinders the episode. On the one hand, the younger Diaz remains a frustrating presence to deal with. Considering he is a young child with mind-blowing powers, this is understandable, and while I get that his actions are meant to aggravate, Dontnod wants you to make hard decisions when it comes to interacting with him. However, that doesn’t make him a particularly enjoyable character to deal with. He’s only involved in two major set pieces this episode, and both of them shine a light on his worst tendencies. As much as you want to protect him, you also kind of want to wring his neck.
However, with no Daniel to pal around with, Faith feels kind of aimless. There’s little to no action to be found, and most of what Sean does do unfolds during cutscenes — it’s the least interactive episode of the franchise to date. Even the few bits of action on display little to raise your anxiety or blood pressure. At one point, you need to sneak into a compound, but you can just briskly walk over to where you need to go and bypass any conflict. I don’t necessarily mind the greater emphasis on dialogue and development, but the episode could have benefited from another major setpiece.
The move from the forest to the desert does a number on the visuals. The campground was a fun environment that had plenty of personality. The desert of Haven Point, Nevada, is pretty much a complete 180 from that. However, the stale presentation almost feels purposeful. Faith is set in a part of North America that is rarely visited in gaming. The seedy motel Sean stays at and the church he has to infiltrate don’t feel far removed from real-life. It’s boring by design. A banal setting that conceals the hatred found in small-town USA. I do appreciate the make-over given to Sean, though. The shaved head and eye-patch work wonders for the kid.
Faith may not be able to fully carry the momentum from the previous episode, but it’s far from disappointing. It’s a slower, harsher episode that isn’t afraid to reflect this country’s worst tendencies back at us. Sean and Daniel have been through a lot in Life is Strange 2, and while we have yet to reach the end, it’s certainly in sight. With this chapter being as grim as it was, I’m excited to see just how Dontnod will wrap their sequel up. Will the brothers get the happy ending that eluded Max and Chloe? History says no, but stranger things have happened.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Square Enix.