Life Is Strange 2 Episode 5: Wolves Review

We Are Wolves
Developer: DONTNOD Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: PS4/Xbox One/PC

Life is Strange 2 comes to a close in its best episode yet, thanks to a deft handling of series-wide player decisions and seriously good storytelling overall

It’s hard to believe that, after over a year since the initial episode, Life is Strange 2 is finally coming to an end. It’s a testament to the quality of the narrative that DONTNOD has crafted that jumping back into the series with each new episode feels like I never left – despite the fairly large gap in time between episodes both in the real world and in the context of the story. DONTNOD set themselves a high bar with this series as each episode continued to push the envelope in terms of drama, emotion and beauty, so there was a lot riding on their ability to pull off a satisfying finale. Luckily, they’ve done exactly that and more.

Wolves picks up around a month after the events of the fourth episode, with Sean and Daniel having escaped a literal cult alongside Karen, their estranged mother. Karen brings the boys back to her home – a tiny commune (luckily not the cultist kind) in the middle of the Arizona desert. It’s here that the surprisingly peaceful first half of the episode is set, with the bulk of the time spent interacting with the makeshift town’s scant few inhabitants. That’s not to say there’s no drama in these early moments. The still-tense relationship between the boys and Karen provides plenty of emotional fodder, for starters. It’s the shocking return of a character from the original Life is Strange that makes the most impact here, though. I’m truly ashamed to admit that I didn’t even make the connection when this particular character was first introduced – but it didn’t take long for the penny to drop, along with my jaw. It’s incredibly satisfying, and poignant, that DONTNOD would finally, truly pull the disparate pieces of their world together right at the buzzer, and it really works.

Without going too deep into spoiler territory, the boys’ stay is soon cut short and their exodus to Puerto Lobos once again becomes the focus. Wolves’ second act is perhaps not quite as emotionally strong as its opener, but it deftly doubles down on the themes of racism and white nationalism in America that it’s flirted with from the beginning. There’s a particular moment, where Sean is trying to explain away the fact that there’s a giant wall at the Mexican border, only for Daniel to question whether there’s a similar wall up North, that really strikes a chord. Despite them being a critical component in the boys’ final effort to break free of the USA, Daniel’s powers, and the overall supernatural element of the series, play a refreshingly equal role to the story’s many other themes by the end as well. If the strides that DONTNOD has made in video game storytelling weren’t already clear by this point – they sure as hell are now. Wolves perfectly and succinctly wraps up a mature, emotional and brave narrative without losing sight of one of this franchise’s core pillars; player choice. The final decision in the final episode is not only the hardest to date – it also reminds players that this isn’t Sean’s (and by proxy the player’s) story alone, and every decision made that has affected Daniel along the way informs his final say in things. I’m used to my decisions affecting the outcome in stories like this, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the game to make its own, equally impactful choice alongside mine.

I could, as with the reviews I’ve written of each Life is Strange 2’s chapters, go on at length about how beautifully presented these scenes are and how wonderful a job both the art team and the voice talent (especially Gonzalo Martin and Roman Dean George as Sean and Daniel) have done. That’s long been established at this point though. The important thing is that fans who’ve been following the Diaz brothers’ journey from the beginning have been treated to one of the finest narrative games of the decade, and that lofty bar has only been raised further in its final moments.

Final Thoughts

Life is Strange 2 has been one hell of a ride, from beginning to bittersweet end. DONTNOD might have caught the world’s attention with the original series, but they’ve truly earned it here. It’s been a long journey, no doubt – a message of thanks after the credits roll shows that the developer knows just how patient its fans have been. Jumping right back into the first episode after seeing this one through served to highlight just how important that passage of time has been though, for both the Diaz boys and those of us who witnessed their journey. It’s been fucking real.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher

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Good

  • Excellent close to the series' narrative
  • Presentation is as striking as ever
  • Great use of player choice over the entire series
  • Doesn't shy away from established themes

Bad

  • It's over now
9.5

Bloody Ripper

Kieron started gaming on the SEGA Master System, with Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. The 20-odd years of his life since have not seen his love for platformers falter even slightly. A separate love affair, this time with JRPGs, developed soon after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII (ie, the best in the series). Further romantic subplots soon blossomed with quirky Japanese games, the occasional flashy AAA action adventure, and an unhealthy number of indie gems. To say that Kieron lies at the center of a tangled, labyrinthine web of sexy video game love would be an understatement.
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