Games & Apps

Game Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2 a Slow Burn

Photo courtesy of Square Enix

Minor spoilers follow:

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a three part episodic adventure game by developer Deck Nine. You can see our  review of the first episode here.

The second (of three) episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is aptly titled “Brave New World.” Protagonist Chloe Price, a rebellious teenager with a penchant for graffiti, starts to come out of her shell and become the character she will eventually be in Life is Strange. This is thanks to her recent friendship with the beautiful and popular Rachel Amber. Chloe Price hasn’t exactly had the easiest life: she’s not coping well with her father’s death years ago and the current news that her mother’s ex-military boyfriend will be moving in with them. To make Chloe’s life even harder, episode two begins with the repercussions of ditching school the previous day with Rachel Amber – and leaves you the choice to let Rachel take the blame or for Chloe to stand up for her. Immediately apparent is how grounded Life is Strange: Before the Storm is. While Life is Strange had Max Caulfield and her ability to turn back time, Before the Storm focuses on Chloe and how she navigates around the problems she’s faced with using only her wits, and sometimes, her ability to back talk.

Photo courtesy of Square Enix

Life is Strange: Before the Storm features a sort of dialogue sparring called “back talk.” This back talk mechanic is a timed-response where you get some many chances to choose the proper sarcastic, witty, clever or rude comeback to get the desired response. You have several speech options to choose from, and have only a few seconds to choose the answer that best fits. Your response has to make sense and reference what was being said, so it requires careful listening and quick thinking. The rest of the game play is the usual adventure game mechanics the rest of the games share. Chloe can walk around, inspect items, use stuff, etc. in her bid to solve puzzles and get through her troubled teenaged life. These are also grounded in reality – no off-the-wall solutions like old-school adventure games. Most of the rest of the interaction Life is Strange: Before the Storm offers is dialogue options and choices that have long-term consequences – like a movie meets a choose your own adventure book.

Photo courtesy of Square Enix

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is ultimately about Chloe and Rachel’s relationship. Both of them feel trapped and desperate for escape – unable to change their present circumstances in any meaningful way. Episode two is a slow build-up that doesn’t really have many great gameplay moments, but it does have some important, interesting and awkward story moments. In this episode, Chloe manages to put herself on stage in a Shakespeare play with little time to learn her lines and then have an awkward dinner with Rachel Amber’s parents. While setting the table and making idle chit-chat with Rachel’s parents doesn’t sound like riveting gameplay, it manages to convey the awkwardness inherent in such encounters. That is something Life is Strange has consistently done well – relaying story moments and emotion that are mostly unfamiliar to video games.

Photo courtesy of Square Enix

Chloe is desperate to have some control over her life in a world where she’s forced to endure a chain of unfortunate situations. Her story is a remarkably relatable experience for any person, whether they’ve been a teenaged girl or not. Before the Storm does an amazing job of telling a decidedly human and grounded story in a medium full of shooting and magic. Episode two offers up some pretty enticing story revelations that have me anxious for the final episode. Life is Strange: Before the Storm episode two is titled “Brave New World” and is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows.

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