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Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 review – Brave New World

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 review – Brave New World
Game Name: Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 2 – Brave New World
Platforms: PC, PlayStation®4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Deck Nine
Genre(s): Adventure
Release Date: 19th October 2017
ESRB Rating: M for: Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Nudity, Strong Language, Use of Drugs

The second episode of Square Enix’s interactive drama is even better than the first, as Chloe Price’s life begins to turn upside down.

Developer Telltale Games, makers of The Walking Dead, recently pointed out that they’d never made a romantic comedy, but that they did want to increase their range and try their hand at one in the future. Given their recent output we’re not sure that’s something we can get very excited about, but they’re certainly right in the implication that video game storytelling is still needlessly limited in the types of story and characters it deals with.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is not a romantic comedy, in case you thought that’s what we were leading up to, but romantic tragedy might well be an apt description by the time it’s over. Or maybe not, depending on the choices you make while playing it. This prequel to the first game is only three episodes long and everyone who’s played the original will know what must happen in order to link the two. And that inescapable fate looms over the whole game, much like the forest fire that dominates the skyline during this episode.

I’m going to try and avoid any spoilers in this review, which is difficult given that means we have to tiptoe around so many plot points. But at face value this continues the story of 16-year-old college student Chloe price, who following the death of her father has become an authority figure-hating delinquent and is constantly on the verge of being thrown out. In the previous episode she met the enigmatic Rachel Ambers, with the two forming a close bond after skipping school together.

The aftermath of that unauthorised field trip starts the episode, in a sequence that from the first moment shows an increasingly cinematic flair with camera angles and dramatic staging. As well as effective use of the game’s excellent soundtrack. It’s just a bunch of people talking in an office, and at least one of the voice actors isn’t particularly good, but there’s a great tension to the scene given the ramifications it has for Chloe’s future, and the fact that Life Is Strange has earned a reputation for interactive decisions that drastically effect the flow of the story.

The only problem, and this is a general issue with the concept of prequels and not Before The Storm itself, is that you already know the ultimate fate of Chloe’s school career. But in terms of this episode your actions do make a real difference. They also have a profound effect on your relationship with Rachel, whose exact nature is not set in stone.

My favourite sequence in the episode involves a school production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but who performs in the play and how they act (literally) is entirely dependent on the choices you’ve made up to that point. In our version of events it ended with Shakespearean improv that managed to juxtapose the characters of the game and the play in a manner that was as unexpected as it was touching.

‘Not exactly Shakespeare’ is a common joke criticism made about video game dialogue, but while the script is still highly uneven Before The Storm is so earnest and passionate we found it genuinely affecting. The underlying issues that Chloe, Rachael, and the other characters are dealing with are universal and once the episode was over we found ourselves thinking about not just the game itself but of events in our own lives that mirrored aspects of it.

Aside from choice-making, the main form of gameplay in Before the Storm lies in exploring and accomplishing small objectives. The tasks that you accomplish in order to progress the story feel mundane at first, but they give you an excuse to venture around the setting of the scenes. For example, there’s a part in the episode where Chloe is trying to fix up a car’s interior. One of the tasks is to find a towel to cover a ripped backseat. Finding a towel in the middle of a junkyard seems like a chore, but once you check out everything there is to find and learn about this universe, it’ll be worth it. Sadly, though, as with episode one, there’s not as much to explore as there was in the original Life is Strange.

Lastly, the backtalk mechanic that was introduced in the pilot episode returns. This mechanic continues to impress, and I can’t stress enough just how satisfying it is to convince others that you’re in the right with assertive language. The challenge of quickly selecting the correct type of response based on your opponent’s comeback is also very engaging.

As expected, Before the Storm continues to perfectly craft its world through a gorgeous score and Life is Strange’s trademark pastel-like art style. Thanks to the excellence of both, the setting of Arcadia Bay feels very authentic. the dialogue writing and voice acting are both on point as well, with the exception for one or two Side characters.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2 is a great continuation of the new narrative, but it doesn’t quite match the excellence of the pilot episode due to some flawed pacing and a bit of poorly-written humor. Despite this, the story, gameplay, art and music all come together to form what is another wonderful display of Deck Nine’s skill.

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