Life is Strange: Before the Storm delivers another emotionally-charged episode in its second installment, Brave New World. Chloe and Rachel’s lives continue to go up in flames along with the forest as they face the consequences of their actions for ditching school. More information is revealed about the mystery woman, and Chloe has another foreboding dream with her dad playing fortune teller. Brave New World hits all the right narrative beats to set up players for a grueling journey in episode three, even if it’s saving many key elements that tie into the original game for the final episode.
Players get to see some of the choices they made in episode one of Before the Storm come to fruition. Choosing to be nice or mean to Joyce the morning after the Firewalk show, for example, will dictate if Joyce comes to Chloe’s defense during her disciplinary hearing at Blackwell. There didn’t seem to be much long-term influence outside of these things, but the choices as a whole in both episodes are anxiety inducing. They feel so much like real life choices, and not just because I’ve been in a lot of similar situations during my teen years. Players may have only two ways they can steer Chloe’s general reactions—angry and remorseful, sarcastic and serious—but that’s the perfect amount.
One of the most irksome things about the adult characters’ interactions with Chloe is that they keep insisting she’s from a broken home or that she doesn’t know what a stable home is like—a terrible, misinformed thing to say given the fact that her father died before the events of Before the Storm. Her home isn’t broken. She knows what a stable family environment is like. As infuriating as these moments are, they lend an incredible amount of credence to Chloe’s rebellious nature; they downright insult a girl who is still struggling to figure out life without that familial stability—and her mother’s boyfriend, David, isn’t her idea of stability.
With a strong focus on character development, the second episode feels a little more drawn out than the first due to some scenes in which the player spends alone time with Chloe. These make sense in the context of this episode, because Chloe needs time to process the events of the first episode as well as the on-going events of the second. Gameplay wise, the player goes on a few simple fetch quests, or they can sit somewhere and listen to Chloe’s thoughts for a moment before the song playing in the background does the rest of the talking. One fetch quest in particular felt a little boring, but it provided more information into Chloe’s character as well as built on a few things from the original game. (Players who have not played the original game will not completely understand the significance of this quest.) The other fetch quest builds on two secondary characters from episode one, showing their lives are just as heartbreaking as Chloe’s.
As I mentioned in my review of episode one, I suspected that something larger is happening in Rachel’s life. Episode two more-or-less confirms that, but leaves more questions as to how the third episode will play out: over what length of time it will take place. I suspect that the more dramatic moments of episode three will come from Rachel’s plot line rather than Chloe’s. Those who have played the original game know exactly what the third episode can and can’t reveal about Rachel because many of those things Chloe didn’t discover until well into the original game. So, the writers are limited to what they can do, but there is still a lot more room for story and character development.
Since episode two doesn’t make much stride in setting up crucial events that will keep continuity, episode three will have to bare the brunt of the weight by getting the story as close to the beginning of the original game as possible. The game does this in small moments in episode two, through things like a discarded flyer in the school parking lot announcing the addition of a photography class to Blackwell academy; and a school official name-dropping Mark Jefferson during a radio interview. Jefferson is an integral part to Life is Strange, so is this Deck Nine’s not-so-subtle way of letting players know he’ll return for the final episode?
Regarding the development of Rachel’s character throughout Before the Storm, she hasn’t been shown to have many friends, if at all. However, that wasn’t the case in the original game. Evan Harris describes his relationship with Rachel as “a brother and sister in arms,” and Frank mentions to Max and Chole that he had a close relationship with her. Also, Rachel was a member of the Vortex Club. Those who have played all five episodes of Life is Strange know what happened to Rachel, and know there is a lot of ground to cover in terms of her spiraling downward.
There seems to be little ground left to cover as far as Chloe’s relationship with her mother and David is concerned, as well. Little things like Chloe’s trademark blue hair from the original game and her tattoo come to mind as something that players could see in the final episode of Before the Storm, but much of the plot has already started to pull away from Chloe in episode two. This isn’t necessarily bad, but there is an overwhelming sense that Rachel is manipulating Chloe, using her for some sort of personal gain.
With Chloe under her spell, the player becomes a passive protagonist, doing anything in their power to protect Rachel and make her happy. This power dynamic between the two teenage girls comes to light during The Tempest, with Rachel as Prospero and Chloe as Ariel, Chloe is cast beneath Rachel as her servant. In addition, Chloe is more willing to open up emotionally to Rachel than Rachel is to Chloe, as players will see in a sweet, but slightly lopsided scene between the two girls in the junkyard before the play.
But all this should be set-up for the grand finale. Players who completed the original Life is Strange know what’s coming, and yet no amount of preparation will soften the blow.
For more information on Life is Strange: Before the Storm, check out the official website. A copy of the game was purchased by the writer.