Title: Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Farewell (Bonus Episode)
Platform: PC, Xbox One, and PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: It broke me
Price: Across all platforms, you’ll need to purchase the base game to access it.
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
So after Before the Storm’s rather lackluster finale, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the bonus episode. “Play as Max and Chloe one last time as kids,” to me, didn’t sound all that appealing, because I was never Max’s biggest fan, and I’m here for the, y’know, time travelling. Farewell, on the other hand, I consider the best thing to come out of Before the Storm – perfectly paced, it hits all the right notes, and reinforces the sad, sweet themes the series has to offer.
This episode nails pretty much everything; it’s only an hour long, but it uses every minute and makes it count. I know I complained about previous episodes dragging on too long, so it was refreshing to have Farewell paced appropriately. There’s a good variety of scenes that feel perfect in length, the dialogue no longer over saturated or stilted. The air is thick with anxiety and grief, because you know at some point Max is going to have to drop the proverbial bomb, and it shows – whether this is due to the superior voice acting, I don’t know. Hannah Telle seems vastly improved as a younger Max, and as much as I liked having Ashly Burch back, I honestly think we could have stuck with Rihanna DeVries, since they sound pretty similar, a testament to the latter’s rapidly advancing skills as a voice actor.
The graphics also seem to have taken a bump, with beautiful facial expressions with a much wider range – Before the Storm had the unfortunate issue of only Chloe really looking animated, but they’ve done a stellar job on Max here. However, there’s a lot of stuttering and frame rate drops in cutscenes, which kicked in for me in the opening scene, which isn’t a great start. It does level off as the game goes on, so there’s no real cause for concern. As for gameplay, there isn’t a lot to comment on – you examine things, take a few photos (which have different variants); you have one short puzzle, which was easy enough for even me to figure out, and finally, the big choice – if, and when, you tell Chloe Max is leaving for Seattle.
What I really want to talk about here is the story and its emotional resonance. I had a lot of problems with Before the Storm, mostly because it was trying to cram too much into three episodes, and couldn’t decide what it wanted to do – was Rachel a good person? Was Sera a terrible one? What the hell was James even trying to achieve with his kudzu plot involving heroin and disappearing mothers? Farewell does the opposite and keeps it simple, and in doing so, manages to pull off something I rarely seem games do – it shows.
We only have one setting – Chloe’s house – yet it already looks markedly different to what we see in Season One and Before the Storm. It’s full of hope. There’s plane tickets to the Grand Canyon, Joyce is going to retrain as a teacher, Chloe is headed to Blackwell Academy with a straight A report card and a dad who fights her corner. The house is bright and cheerful, with the sun blazing down; it’s a magical day crafted to potential, memorable perfection if your Max so desires, letting you believe there’s still hope that everything turns out okay, even when Max blurts out she’s leaving for Seattle.
Compare that with the other two times we’ve seen the Price household. It’s shabby and worn down, with Joyce pulling endless shifts at the dinner and selling her engagement ring to make ends meet. Chloe’s headed nowhere fast, with Max out of the picture, Rachel gone AWOL, and a storm is headed her way. Farewell gives us a heartwrenching picture of what could have been, a goodbye to the summer days of childhood, which end right before your eyes.
I won’t give out any spoilers about how it ends, because I wasn’t expecting it, and the ending lands like a punch to the gut, expertly helped along by Farewell’s enhanced facial expressions. My one gripe is that the final, and most emotional scene, doesn’t have any voiced dialogue, which I feel is a massively wasted opportunity, given the range of Burch’s voice acting. We know she can do highly charged, incredibly intense scenes (finding Rachel in Season One comes to mind), and I think she could have pulled off dialogue worthy of this finale, or partially voiced it until the music begins to play.
Overall, though? Farewell is a worthy goodbye to Max and Chloe. It’ll rip your heart out and stamp on it, but if you haven’t upgraded to the Deluxe Edition, go and do so – this is worth it.
- Superb voice acting
- A bittersweet ending that’s excellently told
- Improved visuals
- I ugly cried over the last ten minutes.
Whilst Farewell doesn’t have a separate rating, I’d go with the ESRB’s M and PEGI’s 16. This episode doesn’t show anything graphic, but does briefly deal with highly upsetting subject matter.
This review is based on a physical copy of the game purchased for the purposes of this review.