Life is Strange: Before The Storm is a prequel to Life Is Strange and follows the teenage exploits of Max’s friend Chloe Price. This adventure game explores Arcadia Bay, Oregon and the relationship between Chloe and her classmate Rachel Amber. Explore branching dialogue trees, find opportunities to graffiti, and navigate the waters of high school drama. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is a story about friendship, coping with loss, and developing new relationships.
Brave New World
Chloe and Rachel both decided at the end of Episode One: Awake that they should run away from Arcadia Bay. This episode begins by having both characters deal with the fallout of their actions. Chloe and Rachel are responsible for ditching school but it ultimately comes down to pinning the blame on someone. The adults are already pre-disposed to base their judgments on stereotypes. We get introduced to the principle, Ray Wells, who runs Blackwell Academy and must pass judgement on Chloe and Rachel.
Chloe must navigate these dangerous waters by presenting two choices for the player. She either accepts sole responsibility and blame for the events that transpired or allow Rachel to take the full blame. Either way Chloe faces consequences that affect her demeanor with friends and her pseudo family. This moment is a great set up for things to come between Chloe and Rachel. Which further develops the themes about trust and the needs of each character.
The player gets presented all sides of the argument such as the principles point of view, Chloe’s mother, and Rachel’s own struggle. The tension during these scenes are great and amplified with great camera angles that show everyone’s uneasiness about the situation. However the player decides to deal with the encounter will determine Chloe’s future across the rest of this episode. Episode one dealt with building a small town, characters, and developing story threads. Episode two is about consequences, resolutions to certain story threads, and playing with the idea of trust.
After the meeting, Chloe needs to mend the wounds with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, David. The first episode we see that David is not the greatest father figure or person but we see moments of character growth. David offers a peace offering and a second chance to try to help Chloe. The problem with David is that he’s not a bad guy but he comes across as an authoritative figure whom Chloe only views as an enemy. David’s behavior comes across as demanding and rude, which would never blend well with someone like Chloe who speaks her mind. The player can agree or disagree with the choices presented by Chloe’s guardians but either way it leads to Chloe running away.
And The Plot Thickens
Episode two explores new story threads while also solving and closing others. New story beats include Frank asking Chloe to run an errand that could help Chloe fund her eloping with Rachel but at the cost of someone else. While Drew and Mikey’s situation, hinted in episode one, becomes clear as we get the full story of these brothers trying to survive while their father is homeless. Drew becomes entangled with a bad crowd and a dangerous scene that is first shown during the concert at the mill in episode one. Frank’s task for Chloe and Drew’s predicament leads to a powerful scene that gives the player several choices on how to handle the situation. At this time we are introduced to Damon, a dangerous drug dealer, who is looking for people who owe him money. The player finds out more information about Damon that spells trouble for Chloe later down the road.
Chloe in this episode explores new locations such as the junkyard, school dormitories, and Rachel’s play of The Tempest. The culmination of episode two leads into the big play which is a key moment for both Chloe and Rachel. The play is similar to the Dungeons and Dragons event that happened in episode one. The player gets to participate in the production of The Tempest because someone was not able to arrive on time. Rachel then suggests that Chloe would be perfect for the part and joins the play for a small part. The play requires a small bit of preparation to pull off, but offers a great and tender character moment between Chloe and Rachel.
Afterwards Chloe and Rachel become aware of both their intentions and ambitions while also becoming self aware that their actions lead to a huge fire that’s threatening the lives of Arcadia Bay. The episode comes to a close when Chloe goes to Rachel’s house for dinner which leads to a cliffhanger ending that leaves the player wanting more. Episode 2 does live up to the title of “Brave New World” because several choices have more weight behind them than decisions made in the previous episode. The story moves along at a great pace and offers plenty of opportunity to understand and delve deeper on the cast of characters. We start to see several new layers for everyone thus making them far more fascinating than Chloe’s first impressions of them.
What will happen to Chloe’s and Rachel relationship? Does the fire become a great obstacle and motif for things to come? Episode two offers character growth, painful and sweet moments, and helps ramp up the final conflict that will lead into the final episode.
Time to BackTalk!
BackTalk is a dialogue mechanic that allows the player to win arguments against other characters. Every big moment will lead into a battle of wit in order for Chloe to figure out a way to help her situation. The game requires the player to choose between three dialogue choices in a short amount of time. The correct dialogue choice will give Chloe a point and once she fills her meter she’ll win the argument. BackTalk events are key for attaining Chloe’s goals and allows the player to become part of the drama.
BackTalk is a great way for Chloe to show of her wit and her ability to handle herself in an argument but performing this mechanic is too easy. The game tells the player that they should pay attention to key words used by the opposing character. In theory this is a great tactic to use the opponent’s own words against them but the dialogue choices make it plainly obvious which is the correct answer. Which takes away some of the difficulty for this high risk/high reward gameplay mechanic.
The game offers several ways to interact with the city of Arcadia Bay and understand Chloe’s view of the world. Chloe is able to explore, analyze, and comment about several objects she encounters. Episode two offers a few key locations for her to explore such as the junkyard, the school dormitories, the backstage of the play, Frank’s RV, and Rachel’s house. Each location is small but filled with several objects that cue the player to backstories or more information on existing characters.
Frank’s RV is a treasure trove of information about Frank and the drug scene that is affecting Arcadia Bay. The junkyard is a safe haven for Chloe where she can work to fix a junker and change her clothes. Some of these locations also offers opportunities to graffiti and some graffiti locations require puzzle solving to gain access. There is a great spot for Chloe to graffiti Samuel’s door but it requires the player to figure out how to distract him using the environment. Often times talking to everyone around will present either new dialogue choices to solve a puzzle or attain items.
Great Music and Amazing Colors
The character models are great and the art style lends itself to bring a forest town to life. This game doesn’t go for realism but instead paints the scenery with a mix of realistic looking locations but in a Pixar-esq style. The cast looks amazing except for David and the principle; they still look like they could have fleshed out more. The colors used in the school are bright and vibrant which contrasts with the rustic and browns of the junkyard.
Rachel’s house is also impressive because the setting captures the look and feel of a high class home. The low lighting but darker tones gives the house a jazzy and calm portrayal. Speaking of Jazz, the original score and tracks in the game help set the tension and lifestyle of Chloe’s personality. Also using licensed music during key and pivotal scenes adds a dramatic effect and adds emotional resonance between the player and Chloe. Certain locations will play music in the background that will help set the tone when interacting with different characters. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is a beautiful looking game with an amazing musical score that adds more depth to the cast of characters.
Can’t Wait For More!
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm’s second episode is a great ride with weighted decisions and consequences. Chloe grows further as a character and develops a deeper relationship with Rachel. While still managing other narrative threads that conclude in this episode or further develops them for the final episode. The final scene will leave players wanting for more. Choices in this episode are divisive which leaves room to replay the game again in order to see those alternate choices.
- THE GOOD
- Great Art Style
- Intense Moments and Great Set Ups
- THE BAD
- The Parking Lot
- BackTalk could be more challenging
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 is great as show casing the players’ previous choices in episode 1. Chloe must face the consequences for her actions, cope with her loss, and help her friends. Navigate choppy waters of high school drama and the hints of a seedy underworld in Arcadia Bay. This episode delivers a powerful moments while also setting up the finale in a satisfying manner.