Developer: Deck Nine Publisher: Square Enix Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
The second episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a step up from the first episode. While it has its share of action and surprises, where it really shines is in its emotional tension. With the forest behind Arcadia Bay still burning thanks to the events of the first episode, the second episode kicks off with Chloe and Rachel in the principal’s office, having to answer for their actions. Still holding on to the legacy of the first game, being undoubtedly Life is Strange and telling more about the characters you love and love to hate, Life is Strange: Before the Storm’s second episode, Brave New World, will have you eagerly awaiting the final episode of the prequel.
After the relatively calm happenings in the first episode, Brave New World has you flung from place to place, transitioning from calmer phases to high tension scenes where you’re pressured to make the choice you think is right. Although it’s still fairly grounded, with no supernatural powers play, there are also dream scenes like in the first episode, where Chloe talks with her deceased father, whose death she still has not fully come to terms with. This hits home even more since her mother has started dating another man, who not only is very different from what her father was like, but also has a take-no-shit attitude and wants her to be disciplined. This conflict has been present since the first game, only it’s much more in the foreground thanks to Chloe being the main character.
The game seamlessly builds on top of the relationships you built up in the previous episode. Eliot Hampden, who clearly has a thing for Chloe, keeps trying to make a move, and he seems to be getting tired of constant rejections, even if they’re not blunt and mean. Drew North isn’t just the bully he seemed to be, and his brother Mikey was helped out of a rough patch by Chloe. Victoria Chase is still rich, arrogant, manipulative, and looks and sounds exactly like the young villain of every soap opera ever, except for the fact that she’s often no more than a background character. The school play Tempest (which seems to be the leitmotif of the game) is about to premiere and Victoria just can’t stand being an understudy to Rachel.
The backtalk mechanic is even more present than in the first episode, with many opportunities to use it, each of them being insanely satisfying when finished. Usually you have to only make two mistakes to lose, and the options aren’t the easiest to pick from. The situations they’re used in are diverse, ranging from getting info out of Frank, getting into an area you’re not allowed into, making a whole family turn against their father. Some of the backtalk choices will most definitely make you feel like an asshole, whereas others will have you feeling proud that you shut someone down.
Chloe and Rachel’s friendship (or more) is still the definitive focus of the game. Unlike the first episode, which has you feeling like Rachel and Chloe couldn’t be more different, with Chloe being a snarky stoned dropout with daddy issues and a problem with authority and Rachel being an exemplary honors student with rich parents and the world behind her back, Brave New World shows that they’re much more alike than one might think at first glance. Not only is Rachel a great actor, which she uses to her favour to try to get Chloe out of trouble at school, but she and Chloe back her father into a corner at dinner having seen him cheat on Rachel’s mother with another woman.
Episode two of Before the Storm puts even more focus on emotional turmoil than the first episode, and is an improvement in that aspect. However, it does revert a bit to the mellow style of the original game at times, which clashes a bit with the music and Chloe’s personality. Although it still fits, as she’s not the hard punk she makes out to be, reminiscing over days past in letters to Max that she’ll never send, which acts as a replacement for the diary.
There are still many open threads, so it’s interesting to see which ones will be closed, and which will be the ones that carried on into the first game. The only problem with this game being a prequel is that we know Rachel is going to die. However, we don’t know why, how, where, or when and with the plot twist at the end of the episode, as well as sinister foreshadowing in the form of Eliot and Damon, it’s not hard to tell that episode 3’s title of Hell is Empty will be fitting. As Ariel says: “All the devils are here”, and I can’t wait to see how everything goes to shit.
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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2 is an emotional ride between two different worlds that are more alike than they seem and will have you grasping for more.
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