More than most games of its style, Life is Strange 2 does a stellar job of bringing meaning to every choice that brings you to its closing moments.
By “Wolves,” the fifth and final episode, Life is Strange 2 is no longer a choice-based game, it’s a reflection of the morals and ideals that I, as Sean Diaz, preached and taught to my younger brother Daniel. In a sense, almost nothing that happens in this finale is up to me. Instead, it’s all in the hands of a person who has watched me, learned from me, and came to understand his role in the world through my actions.
And I loved it.
“Wolves” picks up around a month after the explosive events of episode four, with Sean and Daniel living in a remote community with their mother. They’ve found something that resembles a home here, but they know the authorities are tracking them, and they can’t put off their plans to reach Mexico any longer.
The episode is basically a greatest hits of everything Life is Strange 2 did well in its first four episodes. Its politically-charged storey confronting the realities of how Trump’s influence has poisoned the lives of Mexican-Americans takes center stage once more, and developer Dontnod proves once again that it has an expert grasp on how to tackle the subject. “Wolves” takes the Diaz brothers through some of the worst, most extreme detractors of their very existence in America. There’s a point where two extremists, who were basically hunting people at the border like animals, were locked in a cell and at the mercy of Daniel’s telekinetic abilities. After every instance of race-based discrimination, the Diaz brothers had been through in Life is Strange 2, it felt like the game wanted me to finally retaliate and it had earned it by this point. But after all this time I was at such a point of exhaustion for these young men that, even when I was given the option to fight back, I pressed on without causing more harm. By that point, my goal was to escape to Mexico and that meant escaping was a higher priority than revenge.
While Life is Strange 2’s portrayal of right-wing views of immigration and the fear and violence that comes from being on the receiving end of it color most of the episode, it’s not without its moments of respite. Most of the episode is rightfully pessimistic about the state of America, but in its earliest segments, it shows how the American Dream as its often pitched can be realized. In the community the boys are living in at the beginning of the episode, there’s a gay couple living in their home in the remote desert neighbourhood they and others have set up.
Alongside their home are two flags: the American flag and the Pride flag side-by-side. When I examined them Sean remarked they were “real patriots,” and that’s the idea, right? What it means to be an American is something that’s supposed to be in the eye of the beholder, but the realities of this aren’t so idealistic. But that’s where one of “Wolves’” failings rears its head. This community, full of people who are choosing to live away from society and can carve their own path are only able to do it because they’ve chosen to stay away from it all. They’re so distanced from the reality it is a form of escapism and not a realistic portrayal of the truth.
In a way, this makes sense because the Diaz brothers have been staying here for so long it’s meant to be that break from everything awful that has come before. But it rings hollow, especially in the face of where the episode ultimately leads.
In proper Life is Strange fashion, Life is Strange 2 doesn’t really have a happy ending. But it does have more possible permutations than the original game, and the way each possibility ties into basically every decision you make across all five episodes makes every path feel purposeful and tailored to whatever story you’ve been telling up to that point. By the time “Wolves” begins the endings available are pretty much decided. Where the Diaz brothers end up, whether it’s together, separate, or if one of them has to go it alone from then on out all came down to the values I’ve instilled in Daniel since the moment our father died over a year ago in episode one, and how he would utilize them in one defining moment.
It is strange to say that it’s been over a year since Life is Strange 2 began and the Diaz brothers left Seattle, but in retrospect, the game itself has felt the weight of all that time. Those several month-long gaps between episodes weren’t represented in small, incremental steps in these brothers’ journey. Every time I saw them again they’d moved across state lines, dealt with some new obstacle or tried to find a new home, even if it was temporary. In the end, I think I’m happy with the life I helped them find. It’s not the perfect scenario, but after everything I’d seen them through, was a perfect scenario ever possible? No, I don’t think it was. But at least I can say I’m glad I got them as far as I did. Now I just hope they can make the most of whatever comes next.