Life is Strange has given us two very different main characters with extremely different lives, motivations and beliefs. Both are teenagers but that is pretty much where the similarities end, both have their fans and detractors but personally I believe Dontnod have created two wonderful characters that deserve more then to be at war with each other all the time.
Whilst the story of Max takes many dark turns and has the supernatural story of the butterfly effect running through it the majority of the time we spend with Max is just dealing with teenage drama of a slightly selfish girl.
On the other hand Sean faces a politically charged world that he feels is out to get him and has to deal with the supernatural story of his younger brother. It might not seem as big and important as Max and her story but so far our story has been to shape our brother Daniel into the character he’ll be in the future.
We have one story that was very much about the world around them.
Then one that was very self contained about how your actions will change those around you.
Many people who loved the first don’t like the second for it being so self contained and political but what seems to be the problem is that people can’t bond with Sean in the same sense that they can with Max.
For me I always had problems caring for Max and what she “wanted”, usually going against what felt like the story that the writers had wanted you to take and going for things that made me feel like playing the game my way was the wrong way. It didn’t make me hate the series, as you can tell by the fact I have played all the series so far, but it didn’t leave me as defensive of Max, Chloe and Arcadia Bay as some.
What do I mean though?
For me it felt like the only true story was to have Max and Chloe run away together, if you picked options to pick Warren over Chloe I felt like Max would still revert to not liking him so whilst most people loved the fact that they were given this great story between two females and rushed down that road with a feeling of being able to play the game the way they want to I begrudgingly went down a different path and felt like the ending I got was tacked on because I hadn’t got it right….
I picked to save a entire town over one person. Pretty sure that is meant to be the choice rewarded with a proper ending not picking one person over a entire town.
Getting off topic though.
So I personally found it hard to get Max because she was a rich girl at uni who was thrown into a super important story but most of the time was actually just being the kind of character that she herself hated in others. She was no better then anyone else and even had to learn the hard way that her selfish actions to make her friend, her friend she pretty much abandoned might I add, like her more wasn’t what was best for the fabric of reality.
Thing is that there were so many stories going on all at once that whether you liked a certain story or not there was a lot going on and it was therefore easier to get lost in subplots then it is in the second game.
So we have a normal girl in uni with a love story that gets thrown into a mystery on one side.
On the other we have a pretty normal teenager from a poorer family whose dad dies in front of his eyes thanks to a misunderstanding, a trigger happy police officer, politics and his brother suddenly having super powers that go off when he’s stressed and upset.
Sean doesn’t get the luxury of a second of breathing space like Max did. He’s pretty normal and down to earth but before we get a chance to see HOW normal all the shit that didn’t really start till later in the first game starts happening right away and suddenly our story isn’t how one girl can save a entire town… Or in fact destroy it and not care who lives or dies because she’s a little on the horny side… but a teenage boy who makes a bad decision and suddenly has to look after his little brother, get over the death of his father and survive whilst on the run from the police.
Now unless you’ve suffered any kind of discrimination you aren’t ever going to know how it feels to be someone like Sean. I say that as someone from a poor family in the UK who has had problems with the police in the past that came down to my word against someone from a “better homes” word. People like to think things like this don’t happen but the simple fact is that take race away from it and it happens much more then you can imagine.
I also once had to run away from home with my baby sister, obviously for different reasons, and know how in these moments you don’t think straight. I would have been the same age as Sean but my sister was much older then Daniel and we didn’t go far for long but it was the wrong decision made for much the same reason Sean decided to go.
We didn’t trust the police and didn’t trust what would happen next.
Maybe my story is so unique that I am one in a million that will enjoy a game based on someone making decisions I myself had to make and that is why not having a foundation of getting to know Sean before the road trip part takes place wasn’t a good idea but that doesn’t mean that Sean himself is a bad character like many make out.
It means that Sean is hard to bond with but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.
I feel many people gave up after that. With a story that hangs heavily on race, feeling left out of the world and helping another character passively grow as a person it isn’t really that easy to have moments to relate with Sean whilst a teenager at school trying to make a bond with a old friend is super relateable.
So maybe the problem with Sean isn’t so much that he’s a bad character in so much that we haven’t been given the chance to bond with him.
He’s been through things that I personally on some level can relate too but most people can’t so whilst his world being turned upside down and a small story about two people in one town was turned on its head to be a story about two people travelling with no chance to get to know anyone else people throw a lot of the criticism of what they believe is wrong with the game at a character who actually in many ways I find to be a much more realistic character then Max.
So maybe one of the biggest problems with Life is Strange 2 other then bad graphics and stupid bugs which are a totally different and legitimate thing to be pissed about especially with the time between episodes, maybe its biggest problem is that it never grounded the character of Sean to the simplest point that more people wanted to go on his journey with him.
Then again maybe he isn’t the character that when all is said and done we’re meant to be bonding with but as the main character of the first two chapters people failing to bond with him and feel sympathy for his character is one of the biggest problems that LiS2 has had and which has, along with the aforementioned bugs plus the fact that until recently you could only buy the entire season and not specific episodes, made this game a much less loved one then the ones that came before it.