What I enjoy most about the Life is Strange series is the world-building and character development. DONTNOD’s thoughtful with their characters, from protagonists to NPCs we see maybe once or twice, and they always impress me with how much backstory they can fit into just a few lines. Some moments of Episode 3 left me wanting more, but overall, Wastelands stands tall as considerate, dramatic narrative.
Life Is Strange 2
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Price: $39.99 (Episode 3: $7.99)
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with an Xbox One code for review.
In Episode 3, we meet back up with Sean and Daniel in the California redwoods. To save money and continue their journey down to Puerto Lobos, they’ve taken jobs on an illegal marijuana farm—thanks to a friendly recommendation from Finn, from Episode 2. The pay’s great, and all the workers live on a campsite close to the farm for free. Cassidy’s there too, to Sean’s delight. But these new experiences—and new relationships to explore—strain the brothers’ relationship, and test their ability to stay on the same team.
Sean didn’t ask to be Daniel’s caregiver. He was forced to grow up, to be the adult, to be the perfect role model and live with the consequences if he wasn’t. In Episode 3, for the first time, he’s around people his age, and his yearning for normalcy makes a grand appearance. Now, Sean has the option to put himself and his needs first, but doing so distances him from Daniel. Daniel, too, yearns for independence as any young person would. But his powers, growing stronger each day (even more than Sean realizes), make it near impossible to let go. This struggle for balance feels genuine all throughout the episode, and sets up some intense moments later on.
Wastelands has some of the best writing in Life is Strange. And yes, I’m specifically talking about the campfire scene. After a long day at work cutting marijuana and cleaning up the farm, everyone kicks back under the stars. Drinking, smoking, confessing their worst memories as they stare into the crackling flames, carried by the wind off into the night. It’s perhaps the most peaceful moment in the series so far, and convincingly shows how we humans live off connection, craving it in its absence. I’m thankful Sean can keep this scene safe in his sketchbook.
Wastelands also has some of the most questionable writing. Beyond the campfire, the characters feel out of reach—like mere vehicles to move Sean and Daniel’s friction forward. I didn’t feel as connected to most of them as I did to, say, Cassidy (though that could be just from her having more screen time). I was also a little disappointed in how sexuality is portrayed. But the overall narrative is strong, dramatic in the right parts, and made me empathize with older siblings a LOT more.
Many of the choices in Episode 2 left me, as a player, unsatisfied. That no matter what I decided, the story (and Daniel) would just play out as they were written to. While Wastelands made me feel similarly, it did so naturally and didn’t feel as forced. Daniel’s a kid, and he didn’t ask for this life on the road either. So, of course he’ll act out and behave in unpredictable ways—that’s just what kids do. But they still care, and at the end of the day, your behavior and choices will affect them greatly. Do with that what you will.
The Final Word
Episode 3 has some questionable turns, but reignited my love for the series. Its strongest moments are at both ends of the spectrum—intense and serene—and kept me powering through the episode with ease. The writing is some of the best so far, and god I just can’t wait for what comes next.
MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good