I have played through the new Life is Strange yesterday. Before I go on with a huge rant, I want to say that the game is not terrible. It has its moment and I did not regret having bought and played it. With that said ....
... oh boy, where do I even start. This is really hard for me to put into words without having it look like disconnected ramblings, so let's begin with the obvious and see where it leads.
This whole game is like... a masturbatory hipster fantasy. Holy ****, it's so over the top, there was more than just one moment where the cringe wanted to make me puke in a bucket. The game is set in the year 2019, in a small mining town, they have a vinyl record shop (I have found 3 vinyl players in different houses), of course it has an indie movie theatre, the whole town looks like what a hipster thinks utopia is like. There's fancy flower pots and stuff all over the place, and nobody is littering. I've already noted it when the first trailer came out -- the whole town looks like a creepy cult site because it's just not real. If this location would be real, it would be the most fakest town ever, and I guarantee the people living there must all be neighbors from hell.
While yes, LiS1 (I haven't played LiS2) also has its fair share of hipster stuff, it was still 100 times more down to earth than what this game is doing. It's like they had a huge checklist of hipster stuff and worked through it from a to z.
The next point on my list is the dialogue. Everything feels so off. There are lots of awkward pauses up to a point where I wondered if they forgot to correctly master the cutscenes. These awkward pauses underlined with a creepy teeth-smile that every character has, makes it feel like you are interacting with aliens who pretend to be humans. Holy crap, maybe that's why the town is so creepy?
I cross-checked this with Before the Storm (played the first chapter yesterday), as that game was also made by Deck Nine, and the difference is huge. Here the dialogue is fast paced, smooth, and never awkwardly creepy unless it is supposed to be like that. So... what the hell went wrong in True Colors? Who the hell thought that this is good??? Surely someone at least in QA must have noticed it??
What also made me want to vomit is the whole "empath"-thing. This is not hyperbole, I hate it so much, it's just disgusting. Feels like the game is trying to cater to a very specific kind of people. How should I put that in words... you know, some people see themselves as "empaths" -- they pretend to be able to read "the aura" of people and their emotions. Now the thing is, I had experience with people like this, and they are almost always disgustingly self-absorbed narcissists. If you want a YouTube drama example of such a person, google "Shane Dawson empath" and you get the gist of it. The game just kept making me think about this and in turn I couldn't take it serious.
At one point Steph says how cool it is that Alex (the player character) is an empath and that she always wanted to have an empath friend... NO YOU DON'T. This is where the game shifted into crazy territory for me. Self-proclaimed empaths are nutters and you want to stay away from them unless you really need that added touch of drama in your life.
That said, the story itself holds up quite well and feels more down to earth and "real" because it doesn't really feature any unbelievable supernatural events, etc. In theory you could remove the whole empath thing and the story would still be playable. While it wasn't anyting epic etc. I thought it was done pretty nicely and I really don't have anything to complain about that. The characters are almost all well written and likable. This time I even almost sided with the male romance option, which is probably a first for me. Still ended up with Steph, though, because I'm horny, not gonna lie. (The romance is pretty toned down this time. No naked sexytime or similar. I almost wouldn't even call it a deep relationship .. more like, the very early beginnings, which probably helps making it feel more real and less forced (like Rachel Amber and Chloe, who went the "I love you"-route after knowing each other for a couple hours).)
I also like how much they got out of the few actual maps that the game has. There's just like... I dunno, 10 different maps or so, but they all look nice and feel like they serve a purpose. Nothing is there "just because". However, the outside map has issues with invisible walls and unnaturally blocked off roads. This kinda reminded me of the maps in The Last of Us 2, which also had really crappy map borders... would have been easy to fix it, dunno why someone decided the stuff has to look this bad.
Most of my complaints are from the first and second chapter. The first chapter was *way too slow* ... seriously... all these awkward pauses and badly edited cutscenes that make you cringe like there is no tomorrow. The second chapter finally had things going, but now the game is rushed and you are supposed to care about people that you don't even know. With the third chapter (~ half of the game) it finally picks up and I started to really enjoy it. The final "end battle" was well written and the emotional impact was immense. The actual ending, however, was way too long and ruined it all again, which sucked hard.
Not sure how much the story choices actually matter in this game, but I like that they always made me stop and consider what the possible outcome might be. It also made me think about the moral aspect of my actions. To give an example, there is a scene where you have the option to "remove" the anger emotion of a person. The game heavily implies that this will help the person and make everything better, but me personally, it made me stop and think ... should I really be doing that? After all, doing this would be disgustingly manipulative, which brought me back to the further above mentioned "empath" thing -- people manipulating other people for personal gain. It's just wrong. Now I have no clue what would happen if I had done it, but the game later rewarded me with a pretty nice scene and a honestly really good outcome (tl;dr -- you have to let people heal on their own and not manipulate them into it). Of course if I would be getting the same scene after sucking out all the anger, I'd trash the hell out of this game for being such garbage.
Anyways ... as I initially said, the game isn't completely terrible. The story is interesting and feels "real", the characters are well written, and the conflicts are well done too. It's just that they went so overboard with all this hipster stuff that the game world feel like a fever dream. I 100% guarantee you, if this location would be real, everyone living there would actually be a terrible person. The weird dialog editing and the lacklust performance of the voice actors at times (another issue with the editing?? No directed recording sessions?) also doesn't really help it.
There's more I could write about the game, but I have a hard time focusing and getting everything in order (sadly I'm just not a good writer). So I'll just keep it at that... Probably not going to replay the game anytime soon (or ever?) unless they add an option to skip dialog (oh yeah, you can't skip dialog, I tried). Yadda-yadda, the music was nice.