12th Dec2019

‘Life Is Strange 2 – Episode 5: Wolves’ Review (PS4)

by Xenia Grounds

life-is-strange-2-ep5

We’ve reached the end of a very long road. Sean and Daniel’s journey is over in its entirety. Over this past year and three months of watching their story, it’s warmed and broke my heart so often. Their relationship has made everything very worthwhile. I’ve never seen a game that so accurately captures what it’s like to be a sibling and the love and sacrifices that can come with it. As Daniel asks, “How does the story of the Wolf Brothers end?”. Depending on how choices, it’s either very bittersweet or tragic but in any case, each ending is incredibly satisfying for your choices and how you’ve shaped Sean and Daniel.

Taking place seven weeks after the events of ‘Faith’, Sean and Daniel have been peacefully living in a desert commune with their mother (Karen) and a whole bunch of people who left society behind them. The two brothers are really enjoying their stay from camping out under the stars in the canyon, helping build beautiful sculptures and playing treasure hunting games. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Karen tells them that the police are hot on their trail once again leading Sean and Daniel to try and finally cross the border to Mexico but this final gauntlet of challenges may be the making or breaking of these brothers.

There are a lot of games like this that claim your choices matter but more often than not, things play out the same regardless of your influence. In the case of Life is Strange 2, I can proudly say that your choices really will shape the ending you get. There are a total of four endings (seven including variations) and they factor in everything that you did as Sean and what you taught Daniel. It makes the ending feel more personal and impactful because it’s a reflection on the player.

This is another episode in the series that touches on racism. In the finale, you meet some truly terrible racists. I’d argue that ‘Faith’ racist encounter was more painful. I’ve never forced myself to watch that scene where Sean has to racially humiliate himself in order to avoid a beating. In ‘Wolves’, this encounter with racism is very disturbing considering what they are willing to do to a pair of kids without any sign of remorse. I know there are publications and players who say Life is Strange 2 exaggerates on this front in order to be topical and socially relevant. I disagree because extreme racism like the kind demonstrated in the game is not as uncommon as they think it is in our world. With mixed raced protagonists living in a world divided by these matters, there was no way that Life is Strange 2 would be able to avoid it without being tone deaf to real life events.

One of my biggest issues that was finally addressed in the finale was this plan to run down to Mexico. For a long time, it seems like no-one was really pointing out the reality of what that meant or that it isn’t going to be as idealistic as Sean would like to think. Honestly, this is a plan Sean came up with when he was in a horrible headspace. He was dealing with so much trauma and emotional grief when he chose to run. Sean still is dealing with those things. He’s had to convince himself it’s the right thing since he’s a wanted fugitive and the trauma he’s endured has reinforced what he thinks. However, Sean hasn’t really thought it through entirely. For all his impressive character development and growing up, his idealism about living in Mexico shows he’s still got a little childish naivety. In ‘Wolves’, this plan is critically examined and it asks the question to Sean (and in turn, the player) if it is the right thing to do. There is a lot of examining when it comes to the merits and flaws of living in modern America and if Sean and Daniel truly would be better off living in Mexico or not.

My biggest complaint about the original Life is Strange is that either ending renders all your choices meaningless and I felt like I had wasted my time agonizing over anything. The team behind the game has clearly learned from this so Life is Strange 2 makes sure that each ending counts. Even better, there’s some throwbacks to the original Life is Strange during this finale that address things which were left rather vague (depending on which ending you got) due to the return of a surprising character.

The climax of ‘Wolves’ is incredibly emotional. The acting from Gonzalo Martin and Roman George is what makes the climax to the episode so great. You can see, hear and feel how Sean is at the end of his rope in the minutes before Sean’s final decision. His regrets about past mistakes and the crushing reality of what is about to happen next hit him like a train. Sean’s been through it all and it’s mostly shown through his voice alone. Daniel has to really go through the entire spectrum of emotions considering what happens in each ending. I’d love to talk about one scene that showcases Roman’s voice acting skills but that would involve addressing a massive spoiler about one of the endings. If you’ve played the episode, you’ll know which moment I mean. Be warned, there is no real happy ending to this game but I found myself happy with the ending I got even though it was very bittersweet. If you manage to get through it without shedding a tear or turning into a sobbing mess then you have a heart of steel.

When I reviewed ‘Roads’ way back at the beginning of the year, I made a bold claim that Life is Strange 2 had the potential to be one of the best stories about brotherhood in gaming. Do I stand by it? In my opinion, Life is Strange 2 has flaws but I still believe that it is one of the best I’ve ever seen about sibling relationships.

I’m still processing the finale of this story and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I played the episode. It’s something that’ll give you plenty to talk and think about for days. It’s really sad to see this journey end because it’s been so great from beginning to end but it ends on an incredible high that makes every moment worth experiencing. It is what an ending should be. If this really is the last time we see Sean and Daniel in the Life is Strange universe then they got the send-off they deserved.

In the end, I really have to thank for DONTNOD for giving us a game that touched the hearts of so many. It’s one I know I’ll replay in future and a game I look forward to visiting again from the beginning knowing how it unfolds and appreciating it in a whole new way. As a little sister, Life is Strange 2 will have a place in my heart forever. It has truly inspired me in so many ways when it comes to life and what I want to do, got me to start streaming and given me so much to talk and write about. If a game is capable of making that kind of mark on a person then I think that is the highest praise I could probably give it.

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