I said it last time and I’ll say it again, Life is Strange 2 is excellent, but damned if the wait between each episode isn’t excruciating. The fourth episode, titled Faith, makes that even more clear both by feeling shorter than prior episodes and by being so powerful that I can’t stand to wait again.
If you haven’t been playing along with Life is Strange 2 so far, probably a good time to stop reading right about here. If you have though, you’ll know that when we last left the Diaz Brothers, their fugitive journey to the Mexican border had taken them to their estranged grandparents’ doorstop. Before long though, the authorities come knocking and the pair are forced to hop a train headed south. They find themselves living in a commune in the woods along with some other teenagers they’d met in Beaver Creek and working at a nearby pot farm. Things go pear-shaped after an attempt by Finn and Daniel to rob the farm’s owner. Daniel is shot, an explosion occurs and the episode ends.
Faith, like the previous episode Wastelands, picks up some two months later (hey, at least it’s almost releasing in real time?) with Sean in hospital under police custody and Daniel missing. Having been in a coma since the explosion, Sean is naturally desperate to figure out if Daniel is alive and where, but his future looks a lot more jail time than a rescue mission. Obviously things don’t end that way though, and Sean soon stages an escape that sees him not only making important reunions but dealing with a church-turned-cult in a Nevada church.
Faith feels like a far shorter episode than the ones before it, and there are definitely fewer and smaller sections of freedom to wander and engage in conversation, but it also comes down to a more hurried pace that matches the stakes and the desperation of its characters. Sean is on the run and trying to find his brother before the police do, so it makes sense that he wouldn’t dawdle around, making small talk or appreciating the scenery.
What Faith does have though is an almost immediate and pervasive feeling of dread as Sean’s fugitive status further highlights the systemic racism that the boys have experienced their entire lives. Not since the series’ early conflicts have the effects of Trump’s America been felt as hard as when a hungry, tired and injured Sean is still deemed worth beating up by random strangers that see him as an invader. Almost immediately after this happens, another passerby offers to help Sean reach his destination, and the sheer unease felt all throughout this encounter with an outwardly kind stranger brilliantly highlights just how much prejudice informs the experiences of minority people, even in the face of genuine good will. Politics in my video games? Yes, please!
If I had to level any kind of criticism at Faith, it’s that the trade-off for a snappier pace and big emotional payoff is a little bit less of the established Life is Strange 2 formula. That means less licensed music, less moments of quiet reflection and less interactivity in general. They’re necessary concessions and the strength of the narrative outweighs them, but I can’t say I didn’t miss those aspects. I did appreciate the amount of times that the game put me in Sean’s first-person perspective to highlight his struggles with having lost an eye, though, especially in the few opportunities he has to add to his sketchbook. Aside from some kinda awkward animations in the first scene, this game continues to look absolutely gorgeous as well.
In its home stretch, Life is Strange 2 isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. It’s clear by now that DONTNOD are fully committed not only to challenging their own ability to craft compelling narratives but challenging their players to embrace games and developers that aren’t afraid to have a message and an agenda.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher