‘Life is Strange: Before the Storm’ video game review
By Lauren Kelly, Graphics Manager
With the March 5 release of “Farewell,” the bonus chapter for Life is Strange: Before the Storm, our time with Arcadia Bay has finally come to an end. However, before we talk about “Farewell,” let’s take a look at Before the Storm, the prequel to the original Life is Strange, in its totality. I’ve previously reviewed Episode One of the game, so I won’t repeat myself on new mechanics and background. While I’ll try not to be too specific with spoilers, there will be some for Before the Storm and Life is Strange, so tread carefully or skip this if you’ve yet to play them.
Before the Storm tells the story of the beginning of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber’s friendship from Chloe’s perspective. It also makes what was hinted at in Life is Strange much more explicit: Chloe and Rachel had a romantic relationship, and Before the Storm walks us through the adorable and awkward steps of two teenage girls quickly falling for each other. Of course, it is possible to only have a friendship with Rachel, but even then the narrative makes it clear that Chloe still has a crush on her. It’s the type of story that is sadly lacking in mainstream media, and thankfully here it’s handled masterfully. Episode Two is particularly beautiful in this regard, with the Tempest scene and the following celebrations being one of the most touching video game sequences I’ve ever played.
Unfortunately, where Episode One and Two soar, Episode Three fails to provide a satisfactory conclusion. Plot threads that players aren’t particularly invested in or aware of are given focus, there is a lack of time with Rachel even though the plot of the episode revolves around her, many side characters are ignored, and the climax is rushed and confusing. There is also little use of the Back Talk mechanic, the prequel’s equivalent to Max’s time travel powers. Lastly, the nature of Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is much less explicit here than in previous episodes. There are rumours that a lot of content was cut for the episode, which would explain its deficiencies, but it’s hard to understand why this was chosen as the final product if that were the case. Overall, though, Before the Storm is an amazing story that was marred by poor narrative choices in its eleventh hour.
Onto “Farewell.” This short episode was included with the deluxe edition of Before the Storm, and it focuses on the day two years earlier when Max tells Chloe she’s leaving Arcadia Bay. It’s a sweet, satisfying story where we play as Max reliving her childhood with Chloe and reminiscing about how soon this chapter of her life will be over. Of course, in typical Life is Strange fashion, the ending shifts gears and hits you like a semi-truck. It’s not as long as a regular episode—if you explore everything, the episode will run you about an hour and a half to two hours—but it never feels rushed or unsatisfying. For fans of the series, it’s a lovely but bittersweet send-off to these two fan-favourite characters, and worth upgrading to the deluxe edition for.
From here on out, Life is Strange creators Don’t Nod are working on Life is Strange 2, which will feature a new cast of characters and a completely new storyline. While I can’t wait to see what the sequel brings, it’s very difficult to say Farewell to Max, Chloe, Rachel, and the other inhabitants of Arcadia Bay.