Life Is Strange: Before the Storm continues in Episode 2

Teen ’em up prequel Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is a story with an ending we already know but hell, isn’t life? It’s all about the journey, maaan. And the journey continues a little more today with the launch of the series’s second episode (of three). In it, aw heck, you know how it goes: teens hang out, teens get into trouble, and grown-ups just don’t understand.

Publishers Square Enix explain what’s going on:

“Chloe and Rachel’s family life continues to crumble, their friendship blossoms and the two girls discuss running away together. But before they can go, Chloe gets involved with an errand for Frank Bowers which puts her in a dangerous situation and exposes an uglier side to Arcadia Bay…”

I don’t know. I adored Life Is Strange but haven’t touched Before the Storm at all yet. I think knowing how this all ends means I’d rather not know the middle, not see the hopes and plans and FEELINGS grow when I know they’re going to be crushed. Life is grim. But my Strangemate Pip reviewed Episode 1 and did enjoy it, with reservations. I’ll have to bug Pip after she plays Episode 2. Pip, how am I supposed to know how to feel now you’re gone. You’ve Rachel Ambered me up like a kipper.

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm costs £14/€17/$17 on Steam. Or it’s £5 extra for the ‘Deluxe Edition’ which contains a few odds and ends and will get a bonus episode starring a young Max Caulfield.

Before the Storm is made by Deck Nine Games rather than the series creators Dontnod Entertainment. Dontnod are working on a new Life Is Strange of their own, mind.

5 Comments

  1. somnolentsurfer says:

    Arg. Hadn’t seen this was coming. Now I need to find time for it in the weekend. I was absolutely astonished by how good episode one turned out to be. It had no right. And then I was upset because there would be no Pip—Alice verdict.

  2. Hyena Grin says:

    It’s hard to give a properly critical review for an entry in a series I am so heavily emotionally invested in.

    It’s one of those things that I’m sure is either immensely cheesy or emotionally resonant depending on how much you’re willing to ignore. I have a pretty high tolerance for cheese as long as a story is hitting the right buttons. And it does, for me at least.

    I keep asking myself whether Before the Storm would feel like a good mini-series if it weren’t for the obvious relationship with Life is Strange. Given that you lose a sense of control that you had in Life is Strange, with Max’s time-bending powers, the decisions that you make feel at once more meaningful and yet somehow less because you’re stuck with your decisions.

    That missing component also renders the occasional puzzle somewhat rote. LiS wasn’t especially strong in the puzzle department but it used its time-bending to good effect in a number of places. In BtS, it’s just a matter of performing a handful of actions in the correct order (in fact, in the puzzle I am thinking of, the game doesn’t even allow you to try to do these actions out of order, making it less of a puzzle and more of a ‘find the hidden object’ game).

    But the story resonates, at least with me, and because it does, when it hits emotional moments, it feels more skillful than most games do. They have nicely translated the sad-twee aesthetic of LiS into a slightly more emo-grunge aesthetic that better matches Chloe’s outlook. The game is still rife with sad guitar and beautifully framed shots of surprisingly beautiful imagery, and it continues to tug at my heart strings, even if it leans a little heavily on the increasingly ubiquitous blue/orange palette to achieve its beauty.

    The elephant in the room is always the fact that you know Rachel is not long for this world, and yeah it’s hard to watch these two teenagers trying to figure themselves and each other out while this shadow looms over them. But the game seems to be self-aware of that fact, subtly using it as a source of dramatic tension without drawing attention to it, or asking you to ignore it.

    I’m still enjoying it, I guess is the main thing. I enjoy the story, I enjoy the characters (to a point), and although it feels less interactive than LiS, I guess that in the end I’m not playing BtS with the expectation that it would be as involved. It’s a prologue – and in a way, it’s exposition meant to cast some light on Life is Strange.

    It is, at its best, a companion piece. And it does that well enough. Maybe the best question to ask at the end of Before the Storm is going to be;

    If I have a friend who hasn’t yet played Life is Strange, will I recommend they play Before the Storm before Life is Strange, or after? And even though it’s a prologue, I am kind of leaning toward ‘after.’ I don’t know that it carries enough of its own weight.

    But as a companion piece? It works.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Perhaps, but BtS gives a better understanding of Chloe’s motives and feelings in LiS. I kinda wish I’d played BtS first.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Oh, definitely play LiS before BtS. The biggest emotional moment from Episode 1 only resonates the way it does because we already know the characters.

    • Someoldguy says:

      Nicely put. For my part, it works better after LiS. Its biggest drawback is the inability to retry a conversation without reloading from the last checkpoint. There are fewer places in chapter 2 where the things Chloe said were not what I intended or expected when picking the option, but there were a couple where I had to reload to find a path that better fit my intention. The rewind ability in LiS covered all that and also allowed you to explore other routes that you don’t really want to pick, but just want to see the short term outcome anyway. To see those paths in BtS I’m going to have to do a second playthrough picking options that feel less natural to me. Some I can see with the graffiti replay sections, but not all scenes have places to tag. I particularly want to see Chloe giving the DA an earful, it was so tempting not to skip that one even though it didn’t feel right to let rip. Because I’m already invested in the story, these niggles don’t matter as much. I can shrug off the flaws and enjoy it all the same.

      Episode two felt more consequential, longer and better than episode 1, but even so I don’t think I’d automatically have bought LiS based on what I’ve seen of BtS so far. Of course it still has the grand finale to go, so there’s still time for it to raise the bar even higher. A bit more polish on the character animations would not hurt in places, but mostly it has to deliver it on the story. Perhaps then it might make sense to play BtS first, but it might alter your opinion of the protagonist too much. Playing from Chloe’s perspective it really feels like Max severed the relationship and abandoned her, while in the original it didn’t feel like that, more of them losing touch when Max got too busy in her new life of photography and endless introspection.

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