Despite coming in the wake of a popular release, Life Is Strange 2 has struggled to reach a wide audience. However, even as a sequel, it’s also a very different game than its predecessor. Bleaker and more frustrating, the journey of Sean and Daniel has been harsher than just about anything Max had to deal with at the same point. And yet, there is hope. The latest episode, Wastelands, introduces a new home and allies for the duo, but their situation still remains tenuous.
Picking up several months after the events of Rules, Wastelands has the brothers crashing with a new group of friends. Introduced in the last chapter, vagabond Finn has cobbled together a group of like-minded individuals to work at a nearby marijuana farm. When not working for the menacing Merrill, though, the group passes the time at a local campground. While not every relationship is strong, Sean continues to bond with kindhearted singer Cassidy, who also debuted in the last episode. Meanwhile, Daniel falls under the wing of Finn, for better or worse. Things appear to be going well, but as we all know, that won’t last forever.
Almost immediately, Wastelands rectifies one of my big issues with the last episode of Life is Strange 2. The introduction of the group Finn has brought together finally gives someone for Sean to talk to. The lack of this sort of dialogue in Rules made that episode a bit of a bore at times, and while this new crew is no stranger to being annoying, they are still unique and interesting to chat with. Cassidy and Finn are clear standouts, building off their prior appearance. Both of them are a delight to bond with, which makes the conclusion of the episode, wherever it goes for you, such a heart breaker. The series has been known for twisting the knife, but the final act here is one of Dontnod’s most shocking to date.
The relationship between Sean and Daniel is also further fleshed out. We actually begin the episode by flashing back to a memory that took place long before events of Roads. Besides letting us hang with dearly departed Esteban for a bit, we also see what the brothers were like prior to things hitting the fan. As the youngest of four brothers, I can definitely relate to the love/hate relationship the two shared. That was the past, though, and present-day Daniel is starting to act out more and more. Credit to Dontnod for not taking the easy way out here, rather than making the younger brother’s attitude more realistic. He’s pissed and upset about what’s happened, and as strong as Sean has been for him, it’s not going to be enough moving forward.
The role Sean has played in his brother’s life has been the strongest aspect of the sequel, but it’s starting to get harder to see the impact of your choices. Daniel’s obnoxious and unruly behavior seem counter-productive to most of the decisions you have made prior to Wastelands. I’ve been a good brother for him, and yet, he is still a little s**t who rarely listens. That may be the point, though. Parenting is hard, even more so when you are still just a child yourself. Regardless, it’s still a little disheartening to see how Daniel acts here, despite putting in good work prior to this episode.
Like the majority of Life is Strange 2 so far, Wastelands is light on gameplay. Outside of the climax, which I won’t get into for the sake of spoilers, you’re largely doing actual, physical work this episode. Moving water tanks and trimming bud is important, even if they aren’t particularly fun or engaging. To be fair, the series has never been strong in this department, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. If you’re more a fan of the world-building, like me, you won’t really care either, though it’s still worth mentioning.
Shifting from the suburbs to the forest, Life is Strange 2 continues to be visually engaging. The campground is bursting with eye-catching detail and adds another layer of personality to the group you are crashing with. Other minor details, such as the litany of missing person posters close by, also make the world feel alive outside of your story. The new faces are all memorable, and won’t soon be forgotten. Again, Cassidy and Finn get the most attention, but fellow workers Penny, Hannah, and Jacob carry their own unique appeal as well.
Besides their style, the voice acting also adds a lot to each character. Across the board, the voice work is remarkably solid, with every member doing their best to sell the part. Sarah Bartholomew and Matthew Gallenstein, who play Cassidy and Finn respectively, do an excellent job of making their characters feel approachable and trustworthy. Gonzalo Martin (Sean) and Roman George (Daniel) continue their incredible work as well. As is tradition for the series, the selection of music is equally great. The Gorillaz, Justice, and Milk & Bone are all solid additions to the ever-growing soundtrack.
Although Sean & Daniel are currently in a bad place, Life is Strange 2 has never been better. Wastelands represents a new high, not just for the sequel, but for the franchise as a whole. It’s an emotionally charged episode that continues to build up the brothers, even as it begins to tear them apart. I was more or less sold on Dontnod’s vision from the start, but if this episode is anything to go by, we are in for a wild conclusion.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Square Enix.
By choosing to flesh out the supporting cast, Life is Strange 2 reaches a new high with the release of Wastelands. It's an emotionally intense episode that both builds and destroys the bonds Sean has worked so hard to forge.