Title: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode Two)
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix Holdings
Release date: Out now, with further episodes to come.
tl;dr: All aboard the “get Chloe away from Rachel,” train.
Price: Please note these are the prices for the regular bundled edition:
PS4 – £14/$17
PC – £14/$17
Xbox One – £14/$17
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information.

So I’m back with episode two of Before the Storm, where Rachel is a horrible influence, Max is a hella awful best friend, and I am officially worried for Chloe Price. If you want to read my take on episode one, it’s over here.

This is more going to be plot discussion than anything else, because not a whole lot has changed since episode one, in terms of gameplay. So take this as your warning, here be spoilers. If you want a tl;dr, my answer is – episode two is absolutely fantastic, better than one, in spades. The pace is spot on, and it’s wonderfully dramatic. Go buy it.

Now, on with the show. 

First for the more technical things – Chloe definitely seems to be the best animated out of the lot, which is really jarring when we’re interacting with Rachel so much. Second of all, Rihannia DeVries’ performance has massively improved. She sounds so much like Ashly Burch, and she’s nailed the angry Chloe voice perfectly – I’m really enjoying listening to her.

Apart from that, not a whole lot has changed for the gameplay, although maybe the camera feels a little less like it’s constantly lurching side to side? No, what I want to talk about today is plot, and my god, have we got a lot of it.

So, a lot happened this episode. To sum up my choices, Chloe let Rachel take the blame and got suspended. This was mostly me struggling to stay in character – she blamed Max instantly for the weed in the original game, so it felt like she’d let Rachel take the fall for her… maybe? Apparently I was in the minority here.

She emptied out her pockets for David… now, this was a tough one. I already really dislike David to start with, but I feel he had at least good intentions, here, he’s just going about  it the wrong way. He wants to help, but has no idea how, unless he’s running things like an army barracks, which isn’t really helping a traumatised 16 year old girl. Joyce, though… I’m torn. On the one hand, I love that Deck Nine are making her into a truly flawed, desperate character. On the other, they’re really making me start to dislike her.

She seems to be turning a blind eye to David’s pretty questionable behaviour, and completely dismissing Chloe’s quite valid concerns. Joyce is coming off like she’s chosen David over her daughter, and from some of the texts you see (Chloe says something like she needs David to stop, and Joyce responds “I need my daughter back,”), I can really understand why Chloe feels so frustrated, angry, and alone. No one is listening to her, except Rachel. And I’m seriously starting to doubt that Rachel is a particularly good influence.

Then we get to the next big choice, which was surprisingly, not Chloe deciding whether or not to steal money for Frank, but whether she confronts Damon or stays with Mikey. And I promptly panicked and handed the money over to Damon, which seemed not only decent in character choice, but a fairly logical one, because I was pretty sure I was going to overhear a murder had Chloe not stepped in. It’s a brutal choice, because yes, their dad really did need that money, but what was the alternative? Though the game didn’t make it very clear that you actually could give the money back to Drew. So Mikey ended up with a broken arm, but Drew kept his kneecaps.

So, even though the play scene didn’t involve a lot of choices, there’s a lot of interesting things in there, the most obvious one being the raven imagery being linked back to Chloe as well as Rachel, this time. The latter has all her lines in the play about running away with Chloe and leading her off on some grand adventure, though judging by Chloe’s reaction (something to do with excitement not being permanent), maybe she’s finally gained some self awareness? Either way, it’s all more manipulative stuff from Rachel…

And then of course was the big choice – ask Rachel for her bracelet, for her to get a tattoo, or for a kiss. I naturally picked the last one because it’s blindingly obvious Chloe has a crush the size of the planet on Rachel, and I presume must have done something right last episode, because I got the extended make out scene. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to unpack here, too – Rachel’s behaviour leading up to the choice, high on energy, bubbly, almost seems unnatural to me; I want to call it manic. It’s not that she isn’t thinking things through, quite the opposite, like she wants to rush Chloe away without giving her a chance to think. To me, she never seems to reciprocate what Chloe’s feeling, merely use the tools she’s been given, since we’ve already seen she can turn pretty much anything to her advantage.

And then, of course, the explosive dinner scene. I loved the atmosphere in this one – Chloe’s awkwardness was so palpable and really felt genuine. One of Blackwell’s obvious downsides in the rampant classism, and this scene just rammed it home, from Chloe’s slang to the way that she dresses. She does not belong with the Ambers, the alleged shining untouchables, with their fake, perfect home, which is why it felt so good to confront Rachel’s father with the Backtalk choice.

The ending reveal, I’ll admit, came out of nowhere. So Rachel’s presumably adopted, and that’s why it’s okay for her dad to make out with her biological mother in the park…? Normally, I’d be sceptical of how this could be pulled off, but Deck Nine have truly surprised me with just how fantastic Before the Storm is; I’m sad it’s only three episods, plus the bonus Max one.

So, to sum it up? DeVries sounds great, and shit’s going down in Arcadia Bay.

 

The Good

  • DeVries’ voice acting has massively improved
  • The other dream sequence was absolutely horrific and I loved it
  • I got to call out Rachel’s dad and it was glorious. Plus Samantha clapping for Nathan.

The Bad

  • Went on for a bit too long

Family Friendly

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is rated PEGI 16/ESRB Rating M, for sexual themes, strong language, drugs, alcohol, and violence. Rachel Amber definitely isn’t a role model…

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game purchased for the purposes of this review.