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And all of the sudden it is December. You should give the gift of telling all your friends how much you love The Game Informer Show and sharing it with high praise on all your social media networks ... or at least that is what I think.
On this week's episode of The Game Informer Show podcast, we explore a wide variety of subjects, so every segment has a surprise. The show starts with Ben Reeves, Jeff Cork, and Matt Miller as we discuss our PlayStation 25th Anniversary cover story, Darksiders Genesis, and Arise: A Simple Story. The entire show is produced by the man in the box, Alex Stadnik (someone asked for his Twitter handle too so you can find it here).
Next, we dive head first into community emails. Joined by Matt Miller, Joe Juba, and Andy Reiner for this week's discussion, which is highlighted by the theme of us becoming the "Lords of Gaming" and making proclamations as to how we would rule. Good times.
For part four of our Game of the Year chats, where I ask guests what games are defining their year, I am joined by Andy Reiner and special guests from The Video Game History Foundation, Frank Cifaldi, and Kelsey Lewin. This segment will run the rest of this year, as we bring in editors (and guests) every week to talk about games that have impacted their year in the lead-up to Game Informer's Top 50 of 2019.
And finally, we chat with Alex Hutchinson, co-founder and creative director at Typhoon Studios. We talk about his history (spoiler alert: he was creative director for Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 4 among many others) and their upcoming release Journey to the Savage Planet. Always entertaining to chat with Alex.
Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below, share the episode if you enjoyed it, and follow me @therealandymc to let me know what you think.
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Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.
To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below.
00:11 History of PlayStation, Arise: A Simple Story, and Darksiders Genesis
37:18 Community Emails
1:59:28 Game of the Year Chats Pt. 4 - Featuring Frank Cifaldi and Kelsey Lewin from The Video Game History Foundation
2:51:51 Interview with the co-founder and creative director of Typhoon Studios Alex Hutchinson
Many of the decisions we make in choice-driven games boil down to selfish outcomes; we want to get the best rewards, or spark romance with our favorite love interests. Having that kind of agency is fun, but Life is Strange 2 takes a different approach. It adds dimension by putting another character’s needs before your own. Sean and Daniel Diaz are two young brothers on the run, and developer Dontnod tells an emotional tale about the connection between them, all while encouraging players (as Sean) to see choices in terms of what they mean for nine-year-old Daniel.
The bond between the Diaz brothers is the most consistently compelling element of Life is Strange 2. Unlike similar dynamics in other narrative games (like Lee and Clementine in The Walking Dead), Sean isn’t just protecting Daniel from danger. You are simultaneously shaping a relationship with him and setting examples for him to follow. This last point is important, because Daniel has mysterious telekinetic powers, and how he uses them – or doesn’t – depends largely on Sean’s guidance. For instance, if you let him use his ability to kill a dangerous animal instead of scaring it off, that may solve an immediate problem – but you have to wonder what it teaches him about how to use his gift in the future. Can he recognize the boundary between killing an animal and a person? Daniel looks up to Sean, and moments like these effectively keep that fact in the forefront of players’ minds. I like how this made me view my choices less in terms of optimizing certain story results, and more in terms of helping Daniel learn right from wrong.Click here to watch embedded media
Your interactions in these situations have interesting consequences, because you aren’t determining Sean’s actions alone. You are also influencing how Daniel might react later. At one point, I told Daniel to be honest with another character about his power, as opposed to keeping it a secret. Because of the guidance I had given him in previous instances, he listened to me and obeyed. But Daniel can also disobey depending on the example you’ve set, so your decision at any fork in the road isn’t a guarantee about how the story will unfold. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this ambiguity, but I did; it makes the behind-the-scenes flowchart of outcomes less apparent, allowing you to focus more on how you think the characters would react.
Life is Strange 2’s gameplay is a simple-but-effective combination of walking around, examining objects, and having conversations with the weirdos you meet along the way. The boys’ ultimate goal is to travel from Seattle to Mexico, but circumstances force them to live off the grid to avoid detection, which puts them in a variety of questionable situations. Over the course of five episodes, Sean and Daniel cross paths with redneck racists, weed farmers, and zealous cultists. I appreciate how these characters represent a variety of perspectives, but some of the encounters feel contrived. Sean and Daniel meet some people at an outdoor market in Oregon, and just happen to reconnect with them riding the rails in California weeks later? The stereotypical depictions of these side characters also stand in contrast to the care taken with Sean and Daniel, though none of them stay in the spotlight long enough to do significant damage to the larger story.
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The writing and performances can feel stilted at times, but even at their worst, Life is Strange 2 retains a core of authenticity that no awkward exchange can erase. Despite imperfect implementation, the game builds a believable rapport between the brothers and made me care about them. I was regularly concerned about their health, whether they got enough to eat, and if they had the freedom to just act like dumb kids sometimes. Forging that connection is crucial for this story to succeed, and the team at Dontnod gets it right.
Episodic games often have gaps of months between installments, but even by those standards, Life is Strange 2 kept fans waiting a long time from one chapter to the next. If you fell off the journey somewhere along the way (or if you were waiting for the tale to conclude, like I was), that is understandable. However, whether you knew it or not, Life is Strange 2 has been quietly weaving a powerful and sincere narrative experience that admirably carries on the series’ legacy.
Summary: Over the last year, Life is Strange 2 has been quietly weaving a powerful and sincere narrative experience that admirably carries on the series’ legacy.
Concept: As the eldest of two brothers on the run, your choices and actions shape the personality of the youngest and determine how he uses his telekinetic gift
Graphics: This entry maintains the series’ signature visual style, but the faces and animations can’t always convey emotions the dialogue seems to require
Sound: A contemplative soundtrack heavy on piano and acoustic guitar sets an appropriate, thoughtful mood
Playability: Straightforward controls make exploration and conversation easy to manage
Entertainment: The Diaz brothers are likable heroes with a believable relationship. Their journey is punctuated by big decisions, surprising consequences, and a satisfying conclusion
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