By Melody Klink
In Life is Strange 2’s third episode, Wastelands, we find the Diaz brothers taking a lot of new turns… not all of them for the better.
In their trek towards Puerto Lobos, Mexico, Sean and Daniel run into some familiar faces; the drifters we previously met at the Christmas market, along with some of their friends. These folks have a co-op camp community of sorts in California, and Sean and Daniel settle in with the group offscreen between this episode and the last. With so many new faces, it’s a bit overwhelming at the start; as an RPG person, this point is definitely the “I’m entering a new town, there’s a shiteload of new NPCs I have to talk to,” without all the grindy quests involved. (Yay!) This of course leads to a welcome bevvy of character development, and most of the people involved get fleshed out well.
Our Diaz brothers have an unconventional job: working on a weed farm. It’s become a decent source of income for the boys, and they’re not starving and desolate as we’ve seen previously.
For once, they kind of seem… happy again. At least in comparison.
I word it this way because we play first-hand witness to the boys falling apart. Sean becomes intertwined with members of the group (and has romance options! OH LAWD HE’S GROWING UP), and Daniel feels this frustration. Then, it’s Sean’s turn to feel the pangs of jealousy as his little brother cozies up to someone new himself. (Not romantically, DANIEL DON’T GROW UP TOO FAST NOW.) I guess I should say, they’re normal, not more or less happy.
Of course the boys can’t help growing up too fast; after all, their situation is wild. They’ve been running and fleeing and afraid for months now, they’ve had to step up to situations that no child should ever be in. But that doesn’t take away the growing pains, the awkwardness, the emotions that come with it all.
Let me rewind a little (LIFE IS STRANGE 1 JOKE HURR) and touch on the romance with Sean. There are two options, and you’re thankfully free to choose one, the other, or nothing at all. One choice seems leaned towards more than the other, but it’s still your move to make.
Given all this, the pace of the episode is way more laid back than previous, in a different way. Some parts of Eps 1 and 2 were sluggish, while Wastelands lets you take your time. You’re actively doing things: getting to know people, doing your part, making and living a life, you’re just not in a hurry.
Contemplative, not adrenaline-pumped.
This does mean there are way less interactive/real time action sequences, which I can personally take or leave. (I suppose that happens when you play so many frickin’ Interact/Player Choice games…) Our choices, big and small, are still working their way into place, though there are a few you make here that I can see changing the outcome in a big way. The episode does the narrative a favor by fleshing out the emotions and nuances of the characters, though it does little to move the actual objective plot forward.
Speaking of the objective, their destination of Puerto Lobos seems less important now that the boys have found a ragtag family. It’s not entirely out of their minds or out of the picture, but it’s not pressing or driving them to move.
Daniel’s powers here have been quiet; not because they’re weaker (it’s definitely the contrary) but with so many people around, there are significantly less opportunities for him to use them… until The Big Moment Of Use Them NOW, which has become a predictable spot in the series. There’s a buildup, and here it is, Daniel, use those powers and DO THE THING. This has become the developer’s primary mode of moving the plot to the next target. I won’t say it’s unfortunate, I’ll just say we’re starting to see it coming.
Overall, Wastelands is a good episode. I mentioned at the end of my Ep. 2 review that this would make or break where and how the series unfolds, and I’d say we’re on the up. Wastelands isn’t boring, it deepens the characters, it gives the boys a purpose in life besides survive. I’d like to see an uptick in action on the other side of this, though, because MAN the walk slow, talk slow is getting to me. I’m searching for the endgame, so to speak. I keep reminding myself of the slowness of other Life is Strange episodes, and that this is normal. I’m just ready for the light to go green instead of just waiting and revving the engine.