Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 Review

Tempest-uous Relationships
Developer: Deck Nine Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: PS4/XB1/PC

Deck Nine pick up the pace following Before the Storm’s competent first episode, turning in something even more special in the season’s halfway point thanks to strong writing and masterful design

When we last saw troubled teen Chloe Price, she and model student Rachel Amber had formed an unlikely bond, stowed away on a train, witnessed a parent’s infidelity and accidentally started a wildfire. The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm did an admirable job of setting up this prequel series and the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, and this second episode titled Brave New World continues that momentum while shining a spotlight on some of Arcadia Bay’s other residents. The episode begins with the two girls called in to the office of Blackwell Academy’s Principal Well’s office, along with their parents, to be held accountable for ditching school during the events of the previous day. It’s here we get our first great piece of secondary character development for the episode, for Chloe’s mother, Joyce. Between defending her daughter against the profiling and classism levelled at her by Blackwell faculty, and relenting to her boyfriend David’s push to move in (against Chloe’s wishes), we see Joyce struggle with trying to bring order back to her family while protecting Chloe’s best interests. It’s a great first scene that immediately adds a needed depth to some important secondary characters, a trend that continues throughout the episode.

“Why can’t you be more like little miss two-parents over there?”

Chloe’s fellow pupils Drew and Mikey, her drug dealer Frank, and even Rachel’s parents are all explored more thoroughly here and the episode is all the better for it. Though the immediate dialogue is still as awkward as ever, the actual character and plot development in Brave New World are the strongest they’ve been in either of Life is Strange’s seasons. A number of branching paths are introduced or picked up from before, and developer Deck Nine’s brilliant handling of the series’ characters and their relationships lends each plot thread an emotional weight that had me completely invested from start to finish. The Backtalk dialogue system makes a return, and though it still feels a little too ‘game-y’ and further cements the cringeworthiness of the game’s dialogue, it’s mostly optional here and does result in some satisfying moments for Chloe should the opportunity be taken up. By far the most satisfying use of player choice and consequence comes in the form of Blackwell Academy’s performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which is not only an entertaining scene in its own right but can seemingly play in out in a number of significantly different ways depending on how the preceding situations are handled. Telltale’s works may have the monopoly on high stakes moral dilemmas, but by painting such vivid and believable portraits of its key players, Deck Nine have lent comparatively mundane situations an emotional payoff that is unrivalled.

I don’t know, this scene looks staged

Before the Storm also continues to set a gold standard for art direction, cinematography and sound design in the graphic adventure genre, with gorgeous scenes rendered in its unique stylisation and punctuated by the brilliant original soundtrack by Daughter. It may come off as borrowing a lot of the brooding and pseudo-evocative alt-pop wistfulness usually reserved for bad supernatural romance sagas, but there’s no denying the way in which this episode deftly navigates those tropes as it reaches its conclusion. Despite leaving more than a few loose threads leading into the next and final chapter in the season, Brave New World’s final scenes hit me like a tonne of bricks, and dare I say had me closer to tears than any game has in a long time.

Final Thoughts

Life is Strange: Before the Storm reaches a new height in its middle episode by moving the story forward at perfect pace while fleshing out some of its key minor characters. Some profoundly emotional scenes and its continually solid presentation make Brave New World the best chapter yet in the franchise and a stellar example of the genre.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro

Good

  • Compelling branching plot threads
  • Superbly written characters
  • Peerless cinematic direction
  • Daughter's soundtrack is just too good

Bad

  • Dialogue remains uneven
9

Bloody Ripper

Kieron started gaming on the SEGA Master System, with Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. The 20-odd years of his life since have not seen his love for platformers falter even slightly. A separate love affair, this time with JRPGs, developed soon after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII (ie, the best in the series). Further romantic subplots soon blossomed with quirky Japanese games, the occasional flashy AAA action adventure, and an unhealthy number of indie gems. To say that Kieron lies at the center of a tangled, labyrinthine web of sexy video game love would be an understatement.
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