There must be something in the water at DONTNOD when it comes to these third episodes. The third episode of the original Life is Strange was by far the strongest of the bunch, and history may be repeating itself here with Life is Strange 2.
While the previous episode of Life is Strange 2 was something of a tepid affair, “Wastelands” pulls you in almost instantaneously with a bold new setting and colorful cast of characters.
In case it wasn’t super obvious in “Rules”, yes, Sean and Daniel catch up with drifters Finn and Cassidy in “Wastelands” but what the third episode of Life is Strange 2 focuses on is a very welcome surprise.
Set on an illegal weed farm being run in the forests of California, “Wastelands” boasts a setting very rarely depicted in gaming. As such, players will be thrilled with tasks like clipping up marijuana buds, and doing all manner of chores back at the hobo camp that the group is staying at.
Yes, I’m being vaguely facetious here, but I’m not kidding. Like in Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, there’s a weird sort of zen to the mundane work tasks that Sean is tasked with in the latest episode of Life is Strange 2. The structure of having a routine to go through, and then some time to hang out and socialize afterward, is a wonderful balance for a game, and one that many titles (such as Persona 4 or Firewatch) have utilized to great advantage. It’s no less successful here.
What adds further purpose to “Wastelands” is the considerable raising of the stakes in nearly every facet of the story. It’s established early on that Merril and Big Joe, who run the grow op, are not dudes to be messed with. So, of course, you will intuit that they will be messed with at some point, probably with serious consequences. Hell, Big Joe has an assault rifle strapped to his back most of the time, so make of that what you will.
The stakes are also raised in other areas of the story as well. Sean will have the opportunity to romance Cassidy, Finn, or even no one, should he so choose. These open avenues, like in previous Life is Strange games, make it so gay, straight or asexual folks can all make a choice that suits them, and I think that level of inclusiveness is a truly great thing. It’s subtle enough that it never feels pedantic or pandering either, which is a bonus.
Finally, the ante is upped in a major way regarding Daniel and his powers. I won’t spoil the amount by which his powers have grown in the third episode of Life is Strange 2 but expect to be wowed by the training sequence this time around. And, of course, with the potentially explosive situations that might erupt in a criminal enterprise, Daniel’s new level of prowess opens up all kinds of possibilities for “Wastelands”.
In addition to the top notch storytelling this time around, “Wastelands” also looks and sounds wonderful. The song choices in Episode 3 are particularly strong, and the springtime vistas of the forest and farm grounds will leave a lasting effect on your mind’s eye.
All in all, Life is Strange 2 is better than ever in its surprisingly robust third episode. With an effective narrative, a fantastic cast of characters, and some meaningful choices, fans of this series cannot afford to sleep on “Wastelands”. It might just be the best thing in this entire series thus far.