When you play a prequel, it can be a strange experience as you ultimately know exactly what will happen in the end, and this can make the time spent with it feel a little dull. Sometimes though, the prequel acts as the perfect set up, and Deck Nine Games’ Life is Strange: Before the Storm has managed to do just that. Episode 1 titled Awake started things off perfectly, and episodes 2 and 3 continue this fantastic theme to its compelling conclusion.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2 – Brave New World & Episode 3 – Hell is Empty: PS4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Deck Nine Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 31 August 2017
Deluxe Edition Price: £19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
We left episode 1 with Rachel having accidentally set fire to the local wooded area, after seeing her Dad kissing another woman earlier that day. Episode 2 sees Chloe, Rachel and their parents called into the Principal’s office to face punishment for bunking off school. This is where your first conversational choices and potential back talk challenge comes into play, and has you deciding whether to let Rachel take the blame for skipping school or do it yourself. It feels like your conversation choices again have a real effect on what happens in the game, which draws you into the story that little bit more.
Whilst episode 2 might not be filled with quite the same level of drama as episode 1, we learn a lot more about the characters and their stories. We see how Chloe’s mum feels torn between her daughter and David, but at the same time, how the young teenager feels that her mum is favouring David over her. This kind of depth in a relationship can only really be covered in this kind of game, with the focus on narrative so high, and it’s interesting the see the amount of care that has been paid to each character.
Brave New World does also feel like a bit of a filler episode in some parts, where you do a lot of unessential wandering around. Taking about 5 or so minutes to set a table in each separate part does not make for interesting gaming, but it does pad out the prequel and allows you more time to take in the story being told to you. There’s also the usual endless number of items to interact with, as well as the special graffiti areas to play with. Again, this encourages exploring every inch of each area but also doesn’t punish the player for not opting to explore more with the games collector’s mode on hand to go back and find missed graffiti points.
As we jump into episode 3: Hell is Empty, the focus shifts from Chloe and focuses more on Rachel and her family. Episode 2 ends with another unexpected revelation about who her father was kissing, and throws Chloe and Rachel’s plans to run away into turmoil. Hell is Empty is probably the most dramatic of the three episodes and is also probably the best told of the 3. We see how Chloe is there for Rachel in the good times as well as the bad, and how their relationships continue to develop is told beautifully.
The concluding episode also brings a lot of stories together to cross over, and sees high involvement from Drew and his family as well as Frank the drug dealer, and even contains a serious trip to the hospital for a couple of the characters. Obviously, these scenes are pretty much set in stone, but you can completely change Chloe’s reaction with what you say. There’s plenty of opportunity in this episode, especially to lie to people rather than telling the truth, meaning you can alter Chloe’s personality a whole amount.
Both episodes deal with a lot of serious issues that mean you’ll probably end Hell is Empty with an emotional connection to the characters. Chloe’s issues with grief and abandonment following the loss of her dad are focused on again, and her coming to the terms of the fact that nobody is perfect, and everybody lies. On top of this, the prequel’s conclusion deals with the horrible side of addiction and choosing the safety of others over what you want yourself. It’s good to see a game handle these kinds of serious issues without making light of them in any way.
With the story being the main focus here, and with it being told so well, you can forgive the little niggles you might come across every now and then. You might find some problems when wandering around, where tiny objects get in the way of you walking, and it does get annoying when invisible walls stop you from exploring freely. This is especially irritating when you have a large location on offer, lots of things to interact with and a beautiful soundtrack in the background, and then you find yourself only able to walk a couple of feet before getting stuck.
Episode 2: Brave New World sets up for an exciting finale and episode 3: Hell is Empty delivers. The compelling prequel ends with an exciting and important decision much like the original Life is Strange, that alters the end. Both episodes are filled with exciting story elements and serious topics covered that make each minute more exciting than the last. A few minor issues can be forgiven when much of the game does such a good job of drawing you in, telling you a real story and leaving you with something to think about long after your consoles switched off. Life is definitely strange, but you’d be a fool not to give it a go.