Life Is Strange: Before the Storm - Brave New World Review

Not A Tragedy Yet
by Joe Juba on Oct 20, 2017 at 05:09 PM
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Publisher Square Enix
Developer Deck Nine
Rating Mature

Life is Strange: Before the Storm brings players back to the town of Arcadia Bay, though it isn’t exactly as they remember it. Set three years before the original Life is Strange, the first episode of this prequel series successfully leveraged players’ familiarity with the characters and their future circumstances, but also established interesting new conflicts. The second episode, Brave New World, follows up on those narrative threads, but its biggest strength is how it continues to help us understand and empathize with Chloe as her world gets even more complicated.

Facing academic consequences for their actions in the last episode, Chloe and her newfound friend Rachel start the episode in hot water, which spirals out to create new opportunities for them to deepen their bond. Though the general setup is the same regardless of what you do, I appreciate how developer Deck Nine creates moments of decision that balance short- and long-term repercussions. For instance, I took the blame for the day of school that Chloe and Rachel missed, which had an immediate impact on Chloe – but a big benefit for Rachel later. Of course, you also get the satisfaction of seeing characters reference things you did in the first episode. Whether you sabotaged a student’s homework or stole some money, expect those actions to have consequences.

This kind of payoff structure sounds standard for the genre, but like the first episode, your choices forge a powerful connection with Chloe, helping to build a bridge to the person you know she becomes. The story makes you feel like you are influencing the characters and their trajectories in meaningful ways between the major narrative convergences – something it implements better than most other episodic titles on the market. How does Chloe get along at home? Where does she draw the line between right and wrong? Almost like a page in a coloring book, the big picture is the same for everyone, but the individual shades and tones can create unique experiences. For example, is Chloe pursuing a romantic relationship with Rachel? The answer to that question doesn’t necessarily change what happens, but it dramatically impacts the context surrounding the events of this episode in ways I won’t spoil.

As this tale unfolds, Deck Nine’s decision to remain grounded in reality rather than integrating supernatural elements proves to be a smart one. The everyday activities feel authentic, and even the climactic moments are relatively mundane; many of your choices culminate in how well the school’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest goes. The trade-off for this approach is a lack of high-stakes conflict, since you aren’t rooting out a serial killer or avoiding a reality-destroying storm. By its nature, Brave New World doesn’t end on a dramatic cliffhanger that leaves the fate of the town in question – but since I’m more invested in the characters than an external mystery, that worked for me.

My biggest complaint is a carryover from the previous episode; the speed with which Chloe and Rachel’s friendship solidifies is so fast that it sometimes feels forced, undercutting the believability of their developing bond. Brave New World also reuses some of the series’ old environments, like the dorms and junkyard. The recycled backdrops themselves don’t bother me as much as the gameplay parallels within them, like having your access to the dorm’s front door denied. Also, considering the universal criticism leveled at the junkyard bottle-hunt in the original Life is Strange, I was surprised and disappointed to find another fetch quest in the exact same location, sending Chloe off scrounging for items to repair and improve a broken-down truck.

After finishing the first episode of Before the Storm, I was impressed at how well it retains the essence of the original Life is Strange, despite being handled by a different developer. That feeling doesn’t change with this episode; it draws you in with interesting characters, then builds them through quiet moments and big decisions. Even knowing the eventual fate of Chloe and Rachel, I am eager to see how the next (final) episode of this arc explores their legacy in Arcadia Bay.

As Chloe’s relationships with friends and family are tested, she and Rachel continue to find comfort in each other
Sometimes the character models have an eerie, animated-doll quality. However, they are expressive enough to deliver when it counts
This series’ reputation for fantastic music continues, with a great selection of tracks setting the tone
Navigating the world and interacting with objects works just as expected
Though tragedy on the horizon colors all of Chloe and Rachel’s interactions, it also makes the fun and hopeful moments more poignant

Products In This Article

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm - Brave New Worldcover

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm - Brave New World

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