The journey south continues for the Diaz brothers, but the trek is long and tiresome. Trudging through Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 – Rules is no easy task, but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Title: Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 – Rules
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: January 24, 2019
It has been four months since we last left the Diaz brothers, Sean and Daniel. Episode 1 of DONTNOD Entertainment’s sophomore season of the Life is Strange series left off with the two brothers heading down south to Puerto Lobo, Mexico.
Episode 2: Rules picks up months later, specifically in December during a harsh winter. Both brothers are now aware of the tragic incident that happened back in Seattle that left both their father and a police officer dead, and both have come to grips with the fact that Daniel has telekinetic powers.
The two are now surviving the cold in an abandoned house somewhere in the forest, but with no power and little food, their current life isn’t easy. Still, they are making the best of their situation.
When Daniel develops a bad cough that doesn’t appear to be getting any better, Sean makes the smart decision to seek help from their maternal grandparents, Claire and Stephen Reynolds. They are the biological parents of the boys’ mother Karen, who abandoned the family shortly after Daniel was born for reasons that are unknown to us (and the boys). This mystery serves as a major driving force for the episode.
As the title of the episode suggests, most of Rules is about Sean instilling a strict set of, well, rules for Daniel to follow in order to keep his powers a secret from others. This is the crux of what Rules is about as many of the decisions you’ll make as Sean will either encourage or discourage Daniel from using his powers. And yes, these decisions do have a major impact on how the episode ends, so there is some weight to the choices you make.
Unfortunately, getting to that ending is a bit of a drag. The Life is Strange series, in general, has been described as a slow, but intriguing burn. The same holds true for Rules, though it teeters on the edge of boring at times.
Pacing is very much a problem as most of your time is spent either performing mundane tasks that really aren’t key to your survival now that you’re safe in the grandparents’ house. The bulk of the episode is spent exploring the environment for background context on the characters we’ve either been introduced to or have heard about thus far, including Karen. The problem is that Rules does a poor job in presenting this information, most of which is conveyed through a random assortment of objects scattered throughout the house.
Rules does get a little boost from the appearance of Chris, the imaginative nine-year-old boy from this summer’s free demo, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. As it turns out, Chris and his dad are neighbors for the Reynolds. Daniel and Chris immediately befriend one another; but, in an interesting twist, it’s Chris who believes he’s the one with the superpowers. How Sean opts to handle the situation is a fascinating predicament.
The stakes are raised further when you actually accompany Chris and his dad to a nearby tree farm. This presents DONTNOD another opportunity to explore the topics of racism and social classes in America – a topic that is often uncomfortable for many. Life is Strange has never shied away from difficult-to-discuss topics, and even though I don’t 100 percent agree with the developer’s depiction of the socioeconomic status of America, I respect their desire to at least encourage conversation.
As someone who toes the line between political spectrums that’s not at all a fan of our current political and social climate, I’ll admit it’s not an entirely inaccurate portrayal of America, however, the rhetoric of the narrative can become exaggerated at times, which takes away from the credibility of the scene within the context of Life is Strange 2 as a whole.
Episode 2 certainly does have some emotional moments, but getting to these climactic heights is the issue. Simply put, the things you do in Episode 2: Rules just aren’t exciting, or fun. I should note that these situations are also hindered by the lack of emotional expression on the character’s face to match the tone of the voice actor (this has been a problem throughout the Life is Strange series, in general).
But I digress. In the first season of Life is Strange, players utilized Max’s powers to go back in time and alter history in an attempt to fix a situation. Max was trying to not only understand her powers but the purpose behind them. Her ability to manipulate the past interweaved within the plot of the season in a way that made the game cool and interesting.
Daniel’s powers are just kind of there. You can encourage him to use them, or you can encourage him not to use them. But the story of Life is Strange 2 would get along just fine with or without them. That’s the problem with Rules; everything that happens could unfold even without Daniel having powers, so really what’s the point?
Life is Strange 2: Episode 2: Rules is seemingly about the build-up. Everything you do and every decision you make sets the tone for the final moments and presumably future episodes. Assuming you’re still emotionally involved with these characters months after the first episode, you’re going to want to suffer through the grind. The highs, especially the end, are definitely worth the lows you’ll trudge through.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.