Much like the effects of the oncoming storm often acted as a metaphor for the character’s relationships in the original Life Is Strange, so too does the forest fire in Before The Storm. By the end of the second episode in Deck Nine’s prequel trilogy, everything is ablaze; Chloe’s place at Blackwell Academy, her relationship with her mother and her ‘step-douche’, Rachel’s relationship with her father and her mother(s). Everything is being burnt to the ground. I just hope some positive can rise from the ashes.
I’d mentioned in my review of episode 1 that I was worried about the pacing of Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, it’s much less of an issue in this episode. Unfortunately I think this has far more to do with the fact that the game is episodic in nature, than because of Deck Nine’s story telling. For me, it’s been a month and a half since Chloe and Rachel first met, they’re friendship is now fully formed and well established in my mind. For the girls though, its only been 24 hours, and yet my version of Chloe is risking expulsion from school to prevent a girl, that she’s literally just met, from losing her part in the school play.
Whilst these big sacrifices no doubt have the greatest effect on the plot (I’m already looking forward to finding out how the second act of this episode plays out if decide not to help her out), it’s the quiet times in between that have the greatest impact on the characters. Before The Storm Episode 2 is an unique episode, it’s the only time in either games that I’ve seen Chloe truly happy. Sure, in Life Is Strange, Chloe gets her childhood friend back, but that is overshadowed by her worry for what has happened to her other friend Rachel. In Before The Storm Chloe opens up to Rachel, most notably during their pretend therapy session in a way we never saw her do with Max. There is a trust there that allows Chloe to bare all, because Rachel would never leave her the way Max did. That makes knowing what is to come all the harder.
I mentioned previously that the only way Before The Storm could work as a prequel was if it got us to invest in the relationship between these two young women. Well I’m invested. And I’m hoping Rachel lives. Is that mad? I already know how all of this plays out. And yet my emotions are completely overriding my factual knowledge. I want these two to escape together, I want them to make it work despite all the odds being stacked against them. I’m rooting for them, and I doing that because I can relate to them. Which is a remarkable accomplishment on Deck Nine’s part, as I have experienced very little of what is going on with them.
It may surprise some of you to learn this, but I’ve never actually been a teenage girl from Oregon, who lost her father whilst trying to figure out her sexuality. Yet that doesn’t matter. Before The Storm could easily be a tale of a platonic friend giving comfort after another was bullied at school, it could be the tale of a beloved pet showing loyalty after a bad breakup. Chloe and Rachel’s tale is relatable because we all know what it’s like to fall, and to be caught.
The detriment of having a main plot that is so captivating, is that I care considerably less for the sub-plots, not because they are bad, but because they don’t seem nearly as important as Chloe and Rachel’s story. The second act evolves around helping Chloe’s drug dealer Frank to recover some money that a fellow student owes him. At present it feels like it has little, if any relevance to the story as a whole. However, knowing what good friends Rachel and Frank will one day become, I’m sure this will develop into a major plot point in the third and final episode. As I hoped, we get further insight into what made Nathan Prescott such a monster, and also get to see that Victoria Chase has always been a brat.
The up-side of having less time for sub-plots is that it, once again, makes things feel very real and relatable. Chloe can see the troubles going on in other people’s lives, she may even want to help them, but she can only help so many people, and so she chooses to help the person she cares about the most. We’ve all been in those situations. And it reminds us that, sometimes, good people can be forced to do some pretty bad things.
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 is a brilliant continuation of Arcadia Bay’s story, just surpassing the excellence of the pilot, with the story, gameplay, and wonderful soundtrack all coming together to show that Dontnod Entertainment made the right call by handing control of this particular tale over to Deck Nine.
Score(3.8 / 5)
Feature image is a screen shot by the author taken during game play of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 ‘Brave New World’ developed by Deck Nine Entertainment, and published by Square Enix.