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Why you shouldn’t wait: A mid-season reflection on Life Is Strange 2

Life Is Strange 2 mid-season reflection
Life Is Strange 2 mid-season reflection

A few days before Life Is Strange 2 launched last September, Telltale Games abruptly shut down due to lack of funds. While the studio had no hand in Life Is Strange, this is significant for what it symbolizes. Several developers have dabbled in episodic games over the years, but none were as persistent or as (seemingly) successful at it as Telltale—with the emerging exception of DONTNOD, whose first Life Is Strange series sold more than three million copies. For the pioneer of episodic gaming to fall just a few days before their closest successor’s sophomore effort debuted was a daunting omen.

Starting with their first Sam & Max game in 2006 and refining the concept over time, Telltale considered an episodic series not as “one long game” arbitrarily broken up into chunks, but as a serialized story told in regular intervals, like a TV series. DONTNOD mimicked this format with 2015’s Life Is Strange, releasing five episodes on a (somewhat) set schedule, with dramatic cliffhangers between episodes to keep players coming back.

But since Telltale came up with this games-like-TV formula, the way we watch TV has changed. The ubiquity of streaming services, DVRs, and on-demand means we can watch what we want, when we want, no schedule required. At around the same time Telltale was coasting on the success of their breakout hit, The Walking Dead, Netflix popularized “binge watching” by releasing all episodes of their TV series on the same day—a practice that spills over to episodic games when players wait until a full season is released before jumping in.


And that brings me to the biggest reason I urge those who intend to play Life Is Strange 2 eventually to jump in now instead of waiting: Episode 3 ends with a cliffhanger that simply won’t hit you the same way when you can immediately proceed to the next installment. It’s tragic and unexpected and shocking; it’s inevitable but you won’t see it coming. If my suspicions are right, it has the potential to change the rest of the story in a drastic way, but even if I’m mistaken about where the adventure is going, the wait to find out is something that can never be replicated. Wasteland’s ending made me worry about these fictional characters, Sean and Daniel, with an urgency that games rarely achieve, and I’ll continue to worry about them until Episode 4 comes out in August. If not for the enforced delay between releases, I would have played on and immediately learned the outcome, and the emotional impact surely would have been weaker as a result. I also fear that people who wait to play will have this cliffhanger and resulting story twists inadvertently spoiled for them. (I’ve never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, but thanks to social media, I know how it ends…)

Of course, waiting to binge play an episodic series also has a financial impact. These games are made with the expectation that the early episodes will sell well enough to justify the season’s continued development. But as Telltale’s sudden closure proves, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to suggest that DONTNOD is in a similar position (I honestly have no idea), but the more subdued reception and longer wait time between episodes hints that Life Is Strange 2 hasn’t taken off like the first game, which had already sold a million copies by this point in its lifecycle. (DONTNOD hasn’t revealed sales numbers for the sequel, but I think we can read between the lines.) People who wait to play do so on the presumption that the game will be available later. Hopefully they’re right, but as Telltale’s games are being de-listed from online stores, maybe we shouldn’t take it for granted.

I do understand the temptation to wait. I was on the fence about Life Is Strange 2 when it first launched last fall, for the sole reason that it starred different characters than the first series. That seems so silly in retrospect. Life Is Strange 2 has equally compelling characters, with a story and scope that are much more ambitious. And it’s here; it’s happening right now. I love the characters and world DONTNOD has created, and so far I’ve loved living Sean and Daniel’s story with them. I want other people to have the same experience—before it’s too late.

 

Community Comments

Latest comments (2 total)

I was unsure on playing this game because many people would render it too poliitical. I thought this would make the quality suffer. You know, flat characters; you beign fed of some values you didn’t ask for, and a plot with less action and fun, over moralized speeches and actions.
Now I can say that those people are idiots. Should have listen the real critics instead.
Are we really discussing this? This is probably one of the best games in recent years!
If you liked LIS, this is the prerfect succesor. Totally at the same level. It’s so clear that it was done by the same people (unlike the super-ultra-boring BTS). It has the same production values as LIS: the right mix between intrigue, some paranormal stuff, good scenes and great characters. The developers didn’t kept miliking Max and Cloe and every other character to infinity as they could have. They just know that they did it once, and they can do it again. And they totally have. I remember when LIS was out, I thought it was great, and there were a lot of comments against it. I feel the same way now.
What I’ve found is that most of those critics are just irrational, and come from the fact that there are minor references to Trump and his wall. Truth is, when you play you don’t even care, and it’s really there because it helps the story, since the characters are mexicans outlaws. I guess some people are kind of dumb and think that they have to boycott it just for that.
Truth is, most of the stuff produced in the US is cheap propaganda and this is not.
I wasn’t expecting this game to be THIS good. Now I’m addicted.

Jun 19, 2019

First two episodes were great. And it’s definitely better than BTS. So everybody must play it, the story is unique and touching.

Jun 16, 2019
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