Stakes Have Never Been So High

User Rating: 10 | Life is Strange 2: Episode 3 - Wastelands PS4

This episode starts with (what should be) both a jarring flashback and time-jump; however both of them end up making sense and help to drop you, rather comfortably, right in the action of a tent city in Humboldt, California. Even though the location suggests the Diaz bros. are making a lot of progress, we get the sense from Sean that he feels as stagnant as ever. That'll be important later.

Currently, we find our scrappy (non)heroes among a ragamuffin group of hippies, travelers, hitchhikers and nomads--they also work on a not-so-legal weed farm, where--by all definitions--they're being exploited by 2 new big bads named Merril and "Big" Joe... who may or may not have ties to THE Cartel or someone worse. Why? Money of course. Sean has been saving what measly earnings they get from their hustle for their fabled trip to Puerto Lobos.

So that's what's going on. Who is going on is what makes this episode the strongest yet. I came into this episode remembering from the last time that the cozier the setup, the harder the loss. And every interaction I made felt like there was some underlying importance to it. We've got the return of weed-baked, but good-hearted deadhead Finn (who's become something of a brother-figure as Sean grows more distant from Daniel), two Swedish tourists with a sketchy visa situation (whom we don't interact with much), a hard-boiled, homeless wayfarer in the form of Hannah and most importantly, Sean's favorite Guitarist... Cassidy.

Finn and Cassidy form the heart and soul of this episode, and to each Diaz brother they can be either an angel or a devil on their shoulder. Sean's angel is Cassidy, who embodies a certain kind of wholesomeness and escape even amongst the continuing misfortune of their situation. While Daniel's Angel is Finn--although that has the potential to change throughout the course of the episode, depending on how you choose. And whatever you choose will make a massive wave as the episode continues on, leading up to the massive finale.

Without giving too much away (because I honestly don't know what happens), I might have picked the wrong answer and gotten someone killed. Needless to say, regardless of how comfy it all seems you should be afraid as you play this episode... Very afraid. Because it all takes a very dark turn, and its hard to see what comes next.

Music: 5/5. Syd Matters did great with the acoustics as always--and the licensed tracks were actually quite surprising in their own ways, but totally fit their scenes in retrospect.

Gameplay: 4/5. I really appreciated that we were able to engage in more dialogue with the cast in real time as opposed to waiting for cutscenes. Even Daniel got a chance to shine during the ending sequences.

Characters: 5/5. Top marks. DONTNOD and the writers there have found their groove; they've given us characters we (or at least I) really genuinely care about--even the bad guys. And ultimately, I just didn't want to let Cass down >:(

Overall: 5/5. The weed clipping bit was a bit longer than I'd have liked, but I got a higher score compared to most, I found out upon checking the leaderboards at the end, so all in all a top notch entry in the series.