DONTNOD Entertainment have announced that Episode 1 of Life Is Strange 2 will release on September 27th 2018. We don’t know much about the story or the setting of the sequel to the smash indie hit given the events of the previous game, but the developers have promised us more info will be released in August.
I was a huge fan of the original, and the 2017 prequel, so I am incredibly hyped for the proper sequel, and hopefully follow Max and Chloe on their next adventure.
DONTNOD Entertainment, developers of Vampyr, are inviting fans to see exclusive behind the scenes footage of their new game. In the first episode of this original weekly four-part webseries, produced and realised by the video department of Focus Home Interactive, DONTNOD unveils exclusive gameplay footage while delving into their signature approach and reasons behind putting players in the role of a predator. The three following webseries’ episodes will release weekly every Thursday.
Vampyr is set in 1918 London, with the city weakened by the recent World War I and ravaged by the Spanish Flu. This setting makes up an important part of Vampyr’s identity. DONTNOD will make players feel the duality that torments Dr. Jonathan Reid, giving them the freedom to choose who to sacrifice and who to save. Every killing has consequences, and it’s up to players to balance their need to feed and grow stronger, with the rapidly deteriorating city of London.
In Episode I: Making Monsters, DONTNOD gives more information about Jonathan Reid, the doctor-turned-vampire that players will step into the shoes of in Vampyr. Freshly turned, Reid’s ‘condition’ unveils a dark new reality, thrusting him into a once-hidden society of wretched creatures like himself. Ancient Ekons plot from the shadows, terrifying Vulkods prowl the streets at night, and cursed Skals hide in the darkest places of the city.
Episode 2: Architects of the Obscure discusses the four distinct districts of London you will explore in Vampyr, as well as the differences between the people you will be interacting with in each location; getting rough and dirty with criminals in the East End, or walking with the respect of your peers in Pembroke Hospital.
After a short wait it’s time for the final episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and in my opinion this series still has more to do before it reaches the emotional highs of the original game. Does the finale of Before The Storm go out with thunder and lightning, or is it just a bit of light drizzle?
Before you continue, it’s best to read my reviews of both Part 1: Awake and Part 2: Brave New World as these cover the gameplay mechanics that you will find in Hell Is Empty, as well as giving you my opinion on the series so far. If you choose not to read them (Why Not!?) then you need to know that I think that there is too much focus on the character development for my liking. I was missing the raw emotional set-pieces that the original delivered.
Hell Is Empty kicks off right where Brave New World left us, teetering on the edge of an almighty cliff after some shocking news for Rachel. I criticized the previous episodes for spending too much time on character development, but Hell Is Empty definitely doesn’t make that same mistake. Finally, for the first time since the opening of Awake, both Chloe and Rachel are placed in danger, a situation that has been hinted at, with the return of the very much underused bad-guy. This is ramped up mid-way through the episode as one of them has to continue alone in order to resolve their big problem. These scenes are punctuated with moments of humour, especially in a hospital visit to a patient hurt in Brave New World.
The backtalk mechanic is seen much less in this episode, but is replaced with a section of gameplay that’s strangely very reminiscent of LA Noire, as Chloe has to do some investigative work in the DA’s office. This section also includes an encounter that is as creepy and as dangerous as anything else seen in the series so far, especially as it comes from an unlikely source.
In my opinion the whole series deals with grief, as Chloe’s whole story arc up to this point is about her struggling to cope following the loss of her father, but Hell Is Empty finally brings her out of this as she realises that her friends and family are also suffering from their own types of grief. It also does a tremendous job in making us question whether a lie told to protect others from that grief is morally right. In the end Chloe has to make a big decision, similar to those in the original game, which seemed to take an age for me to think about! Although here I found the decision to be an easy choice, I am sure others will spend a lot longer on the moral ambiguity!
Hell is Empty does a good job ending on a pretty positive note, but this does feel slightly convenient in certain cases, as Chloe’s relationship with her mum and David is so fraught throughout the first two episodes. And although it improves in part three it is far from resolved, but the ending montage hints otherwise, which doesn’t quite sit right. The first two episodes also featured the raging forest fire which gave a sense of impending doom to the proceedings, but this is dismissed with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it single line of dialogue along the lines of “oh yeah, the fires out” which felt like a huge narrative mistake. But there is a post credit sequence calling back to the impending event from the original game, and is a emotional punch to the gut after that somewhat uplifting ending.
Overall, Hell Is Empty is the outstanding highlight of the series, bringing emotion, fear, sadness and joy all in a two hour gaming session. Still not quite to the standard of its predecessor, but I think we all agree that would have unlikely anyway. Fans of the original will come away feeling very satisfied.
Thanks to Xbox and Dontnod Entertainment for supporting TiX
The second and penultimate episode of the prequel to the highly loved Life Is Strange is here. Will Episode 2, subtitled Brave New World, improve on Episode 1- Awake, or will it suffer from Act 2’s slightly mundane middle section. Before you read on, please read my review of Awake for details of the gameplay mechanics, story beats and of course my final verdict.
The story picks off from the end of Awake, with ramifications for both Chloe and Rachel on their return to school. Like Awake the story continues to focus on the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, introducing Rachel’s parents early on, and then more extended scenes with Frank and Awake’s opening scene bad guy. Gameplay-wise not much has changed, with moments of Backtalk being available in order to progress past certain scenes, the one with Skip being particularly entertaining as you try to gain access into the school dormitories.
If anything the story suffers from having to further explore the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, as this takes up the bulk of the episode, as it did in Awake. This doesn’t leave an awful amount of time to explore Chloe’s relationship with her mum, or for her to deal with the new family dynamics she finds herself in. It really puts all its eggs in one basket, developing the relationship between the two friends, which mirrors Chloe’s actions, as she too is apathetic towards anything in her life except her new best friend. In the moments of alone time with just Chloe it’s a bit dull, especially a junkyard search for items that will spruce up the inside of an abandoned van.
When the episode does kick into life it’s reminiscent of its predecessor, but there are only a couple of moments where there are serious decisions to make. But when these arrive they really do require some soul-searching in order to make the correct choice. It’s hard to remain spoiler free, but just how do you make the right decision when both outcomes will have grave ramifications for school friends.
Chloe does show a softer, more caring side in this episode if you choose those decision paths, and the final moments with Rachel’s parents put her into a family environment which you know she is part craving and part despising. The final cliffhanger is somewhat of a soap opera moment which you are not expecting, and despite all my pondering, one I can’t quite understand, but it is intriguing to see where it will lead.
A big change which I didn’t encounter in Awake was that a decision made right in the opening scene will change a gameplay scene later on within the performance of The Tempest play. I don’t recall such a decision in Awake that altered gameplay to this extent, but maybe I just missed it. In fact, many decisions in Brave New World feel like there will be consequences in the final episode and I will be going back to replay certain moments just to see if and how the story changes.
But, the one thing that Life Is Strange always nails is the look and feel of Arcadia Bay. Some of the scenes are filmed in such a cinematic way that you feel like they have just popped out of a movie. The screenshot below is a perfect example of one of these shots, with the two best friends captured plotting their next move framed by streetlights and falling ash from the forest fires. The music is also spot on as always and each track has been added to my Life Is Strange playlist!
Overall, “Brave New World” is on a par with the previous episode, despite feeling shorter and less dramatic. The forest fire that starts in Awake is still raging and although only referenced in passing it still creates a feeling of impending doom. Due to the events of Life Is Strange you know that Chloe’s and Rachel’s relationship and future plans are not going to have a happy ending, therefore the action taking place in Before The Storm are like the fire, with the inevitable doom on the way.
Dontnod Entertainment, after the success of Life is Strange, are busy working on their next project, Vampyr. They have teamed up with Focus Home Interactive to bring us some new screenshots of the combat side of Jonathan Reid’s exploration of Georgian Britain.
This action-RPG will see you wandering the flu-ridden streets of London in 1918. All manner of dangers lurk in the shadows as an epidemic of Spanish Flu sweeps the streets. From Vampire Hunters to mutated abominations, Reid will be faced with foes as well as friends on his mission to discover the truth behind his new affliction.
Armed with some conventional melee and ranged weapons, Reid will have to dodge and attack his enemy to fill up his Blood Gauge. This then allows him to unleash powerful Vampire attacks. From impaling enemies on a spike, to draining them of blood from a distance, as the Blood Gauge fills during a combat situation, his Vampire affliction will slowly start to overtake his more human side. This will unleash ever more destructive spells and abilities against those who are trying to stop him.
As with other RPGs, Vampyr will contain a skills-tree, unlockable as you progress through the game and as you gain more and more experience. As this skills-tree is non-linear, you will be able to equip these in any order, effectively allowing players to create their own archetypes to match their playing styles. Dish out more damage by playing aggressively or focus on crowd control and keep your foes at bay, Vampyr should offer tactical play as well as all-out action.
Combat difficulty can also be affected by player actions outside of combat. Feeding on civilians provides a huge XP boost, which makes combat situations much easier, but that will come with a cost. Increased danger on the streets and narrative consequences for the citizens are some of those costs.
Players will need to investigate who to take out for a bite, and who to spare individually. The conscious need to increase their strength must be balanced against the possible impacts on the story, if you decide to take the wrong character for a drink. Reid’s Vampire instincts are always working against his human side in Vampyr.
Vampyr is scheduled for a 2017 release on Xbox One.
I felt that Life is Strange got off to a slow start – I didn’t relate to the characters and the story failed to hook me into the strange goings on in Max’s world – that all quickly changed during episode 2 and I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions ever since, with the last episode leaving the story in a somewhat predictable but no less impactful point.
Episode 4’s ending haunted me for days after I had finished it, wondering what was going to happen next. Episode 5 will arrive October 20th and I will finally be able to lay my Life is Strange demons to rest… but will it be the ending I want? The twist may have been predictable, and I’m hoping that this was done on purpose, with a real kicker of an ending that nobody would suspect!