Being a relatively short, three-episode mini-series, I didn’t think Life is Strange: Before the Storm would have the time to meander like episode two, Brave New World does. The episode is a whole third of the story Before the Storm has to tell, and yet remarkably little of substance happens during it.
In the pilot, Chloe Price, at odds with her mother and stepfather-to-be, decides to run away from her home in Arcadia Bay with her new friend Rachel Amber, who is similarly unhappy with her family life. This plan is essentially the focal point of the two’s relationship and Before the Storm as a whole, and yet, it takes a backseat to a fair amount of benign fodder in Brave New World. This isn’t helped by the fact that much of it separates Chloe and Rachel, preventing their relationship and the actual A-plot of Before the Storm from progressing up until the last ten minutes.
Brave New World begins with Chloe and Rachel facing the fallout of skipping class in the first episode, but ultimately Chloe is the one for whom the punishment comes down harder, as in my playthrough she was suspended from Blackwell Academy. The two split up, with Rachel finishing the school day and Chloe getting into it with her mother and David. Knowing the relationship between Chloe and other characters makes roleplaying and making certain decisions difficult as events in Before the Storm are starting to feel a sense of inevitability. As references to the future of Chloe’s life in the original Life is Strange become more prominent, it’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m operating within very specific lines.
Across the board, I felt like I was using the Back Talk mechanic—an inclusion I found questionable when playing through the pilot—significantly less this time around. Both because it was less prominent and because I found the opportunities to use it even less appropriate than the previous episode. Dinner with Rachel’s parents? I don’t have much of a desire to cause a scene. In the midst of being disciplined by Blackwell’s principal? It’s easier to just lie low. I understand this is a way to differentiate Chloe from the time-traveling Max of Life is Strange proper, but along with its problematic framing of Chloe’s arguments as “back talk,” I’m finding myself at odds with the use of it in general when other options just seem more sensible, especially when in very few instances does it feel like there’s enough at stake to merit making use of it.
The bulk of Brave New World takes place in Blackwell after Chloe has been suspended. The first half is for her drug dealer Frank, who asks Chloe to steal money from one of his clients in exchange for wiping away her debt. After I had acquired the money, the situation escalated as a separate dealer attacked the kid I was stealing from, putting Chloe’s situation into perspective. This was followed by an extended segment dedicated to Rachel’s stage play, which while funny, and featured some sweet moments between her and Chloe, took up much of Brave New World’s time, which Before the Storm doesn’t really have enough of to piddle about as it does.
With only one episode remaining, I’m left wondering just what new things Life is Strange: Before the Storm has to tell me. So far it’s done a good job at contextualizing Chloe’s angst in the original Life is Strange, but this is our first chance to really get to know Rachel, and she’s absent for a large chunk of Brave New World. Based on what I know is left to explore of this relationship, there’s a lot Before the Storm has to cover within one episode when the finale drops later this year, but it’s hard for me to picture a finale that is able to wrap up everything specific to Before the Storm and really elaborate on what we already know.
I was really optimistic about Before the Storm after the pilot, but right now I feel like it wasted an episode on things that don’t matter when its time was already limited from the outset.
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