Title: Life is Strange 2 Episode 5: Wolves
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Narrative Adventure
The anticipation of a long-awaited final chapter comes with a boatload of expectations from fans. Answered questions, complete character development, and a satisfying conclusion are things that diehards will check every frame for. With the hype stacking up for developer Dontnod to deliver a tale that is equal-to or greater-than its predecessor, Life is Strange 2 aims to provide a story that asks the question, what happens to a child with intense power as an older sibling tries to teach them right from wrong?
Spoiler Alert: This is the final episode for the five-part series of Life is Strange 2. This review will not only speak on the early moments of episode 5 but highlight previous chapters, as well. We’ve also only highlight screenshots from Episode 4 in this review.
Episode 5 takes place two months after Sean and his mother, Karen, saved Daniel from a religious cult that incidentally got burned to the ground. The boys take refuge in a small makeshift town called Away, a place full of people looking to escape from the world. But it is not long before the police are on Sean and Daniel’s trail. The Diaz brothers continue south to the Mexican border, where they face their most life-defining decisions.
At this point in the story, Sean and Daniel have committed so many crimes that they know the police are not going to go easy on them. Sean especially feels the stress of the situation when he continuously expresses how tired the two brothers are, wishing desperately to get things back to normal. Sean is then introduced to many outside perspectives that make his plans up to this point seem flimsy.
The most significant example of this is Sean’s ideas for crossing the border to Mexico, where the American police forces will have a tougher time finding them. However, plenty of voices, including Daniel’s, wonder about the shaky opportunities that face them in Mexico. With doubt in their minds, it might be better to go home and face the music.
This is where Dontnod does an impressive job poking holes in Sean’s plans and making even the player second guess the very character they are controlling. Seeing that the game series is known for messing with player’s expectations based on their choices, the player could spend most of Episode 5 wondering if Mexico is the only option, or in the finale will play out in a spectacular failure on the player’s part.
Speaking of the series’s expectations, Life is Strange 2 Episode 5 does not pull any punches in the art department. The game continues the coming-of-age indie movie look-and-feel that has been with the series since the beginning. Given that Dontnod has been using this look for two games and two spin-offs, it’s impressive that the imagery hasn’t gotten old. You see, the free expression cinematic design allows for non-traditional shots and focuses, letting the developer highlight the characters and what could be on their mind.
It ends up being present in shots that showcase the game’s lighting, color palette, and animations. Which, by the way, has gotten better throughout the episodes. Characters have a better expression with their bodies, and their eyes will have a reflection of the environments in certain scenes, significantly improving immersion and believability in the characters you see on screen.
As for the music, it continues to add any emotional support to scenes that call for dread, tension, or somber. In other moments, when the character needs a moment to adjust or focus on the task at hand, the ambient sounds have players feel as though they are in the scene. Critical moments that weigh heavy on Sean stop the gameplay and enter in this deep and vital or fast-paced and hectic space, appropriate for giving the feeling the weight of the world on the player’s shoulders.
As fans already know, Life is Strange 2 is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of game where the choices players make come with consequences for all parties. In previous Episodes, when adventuring around, players can find items that will allow Sean to continue to add commentary into his way of thinking or, better yet, give more insight into situations that may occur and give him or his brother the edge.
Sadly, Episode 5 does not have any sections that played out this way. Without spoiling any significant events, Episode 5 is a pretty straight forward chapter, as in one tough moral challenge after another. Seeing that this is the final act in Sean and Daniel’s story, I can see why Dontnod decided to get to the big end game, but part of the fun in this series came from choosing to be more observant to solve problems. While this criticism was a hindrance to the episode’s ending, finally seeing the Diaz brothers story play out to my choices was satisfying.
I could have a few notes on why my particular conclusion comes off as uninspired, but honestly, with players having a few different outcomes from so many choices, how others look at their ending will be subjective. So taking a step back to look at the entirety of Life is Strange 2, I find that the series does a great job at completing a journey the brother set out on in a way that I’m sure fans will appreciate.
Overall, Life is Strange 2 is the most ambitious story in the series yet. In previous titles, characters still had relatively healthy lives while being stricken with supernatural powers. An added burden that affected their everyday grind to find normalcy. Dontnod decided this time around to tell a story that flipped the script and take away everything these characters cared about.
Sean and Daniel had no more sense of comfort or normalcy as they faced police persecution, racism, and morality, leaving fans to pick up the pieces. Because of this, the game continually pushes the brother’s relationship to its limits. While I felt that that limit should have been more of a breaking point, Sean and Daniel still deserve to have their story told to the world.
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