It's difficult to tell a compelling story in a game where players already know how it's going to end for the main characters, which is why the most important part of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm
is trying to keep things unpredictable. "Episode 1: Awake" didn't end on a cliffhanger as such, but the story still left players wondering where Chloe and Rachel would head next. While "Episode 2: Brave New World" answers some of those questions, it also introduces many more.
Everything's going up in flames
Chloe's world continues to disintegrate, both at school and at home. In fact, much like the forest surrounding Arcadia Bay, it seems to be burning down around her in an uncontrollable fashion. In this episode, she goes through several events that would be considered life changing. Some of these are played through in fine detail and we get to see Chloe at her most vulnerable moments, where her often overly-dramatic observations and somewhat unique reasoning start to make more sense when placed in this context. Then there are other moments that are just glossed over and players are left to fill in the gaps, meaning that things can feel a bit rushed.
If there's one part of the story that is certainly not lacking in air time, it's Chloe's relationship with Rachel. As the two girls support each other, you start to feel for them and their plight. Even if their relationship growth feels natural, the timespan in which its happening is incredibly quick. In the space of 24 hours, the pair have gone from being strangers to confessing their deepest secrets to each other, and then they're making plans for their future together. On the contrary, it took Max and Chloe far longer to rebuild a friendship that had existed for years. With plenty of time to speculate before the appearance of the game's third episode, you wonder if this may be part of the reason why things ended as they did, because they developed too fast. It's certainly not a relationship based on stability.
As you've likely guessed, this situation isn't good for either of the duo
With how rushed some things seem, it's as if there's too much story to fit into three episodes and that maybe a five-episode story would have been more ideal. The plus side to this is that Deck Nine Games manages to keep things exciting; there's no middle-episode syndrome here, where it feels like things are happening just to tide players over for the more exciting penultimate episode, because this is
the penultimate episode. Unsurprisingly, this time we're left sitting on a cliffhanger with a revelation that few people would have seen coming. While the distant future of Chloe and Rachel may well be set in stone, their immediate future is far more uncertain.
Away from the main plot, plenty of secondary characters get a turn in the spotlight. You'll see the reason why Nathan turns out as he does, the true side to Victoria's personality and more of an insight into Frank's business, as well as storylines involving new characters introduced in the prequel. Some of these minor plotlines actually include the most difficult decisions to be made in this episode, especially when there's a chance that every interaction will have an impact in the final episode. The effect of choices from episode one were apparent throughout "Brave New World", from smaller follow-up text messages to missing choice options from more major decisions; it's starting to feel more like your version of events rather than a story that is just being told to you.
Frank seemingly has eyes in the back of his head
As her life falls apart, there are signs of maturity in Chloe that weren't there before. She's more hesitant and cautious in some of her decisions and she's not quite as mouthy. The latter is most evident when players get to use the Backtalk mechanic in this episode. While there are a couple of instances where she goes all out with attitude, it's also used as a means of persuasion and to gain trust, because it isn't always a good idea to burn all of your bridges. Despite this, the mechanic isn't used as often as it could have been and is starting to feel like something that has been tacked on to appease the crowd who sorely miss Max's time mechanic.
The episode isn't all about tough decisions and conversations. Occasionally Chloe will face problems whose solutions boil down to basic fetch quests. For instance, Chloe decides to fix up a truck that's sitting in the junkyard and needs to fetch several items to repair the interior. There's a chance here for players to customise the truck by choosing the items that they pick up around the junkyard, but most likely won't find this out until it's too late. Once an item has been added to Chloe's inventory, it can't be swapped out for another that players may find later and prefer to use instead. While these missions do provide a breather from the decision making, they are the weakest part of the game and you'll likely wish that more time had been afforded to other subjects instead.
This is one graffiti spot that players didn't have to find
Finally, the achievements for Episode 2 follow the same rules as those in the previous episode. Once again, there's the obligatory achievement for completing the episode, but the remaining ten are linked to completing the optional graffiti spots. These seemed to be a bit more challenging this time with more requiring a series of actions to complete, rather than just being hotspots that players can encounter by random exploration. However, guides will help you to locate all of these fairly easily, of course, and the game's Collectibles Mode will allow you to return to specific scenes in order to complete those that you missed. The episode will award players an easy 300 Gamerscore for completion again.
The second and penultimate episode of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm
heats things up in more ways than one. Not only is the Bay on fire, but Chloe's life also seemingly goes up in flames at both home and school, and her relationship with Rachel is definitely increasing in temperature. All of this happens at such a pace that unfortunately some things aren't given the air time that they deserve and there's a chance that five episodes may have been a better idea than three. Despite this, we're getting to see the characters develop in a believable manner, and when player decisions start to take effect, it truly feels like it's becoming your story as much as it is Chloe's. With the addition of the relevation on which the episode ends, you would be forgiven for wanting to rush headlong into the next episode to see the conclusion to this tale.
- Great character development
- Tough decisions to be made
- That ending
- Some topics are rushed
- Weak fetch quest type missions
The reviewer spent three hours trying to stop Chloe's life disintegrating completely, although she also spent a worryingly long time trying to work out how to graffiti a door. She gained all of the episode's 11 achievements for a total of 300 Gamerscore. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.