Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2: Brave New World
In my review for Before the Storm's first episode, I talked about how Life is Strange was special as a series because of the sense of mysticism surrounding everything from the characters and the settings. Before the Storm's first chapter took a long time to bring me back into this mystic feeling, but the ending really put the chapter over the edge, making it feel as special and mysterious as the original series. Does that feeling carry over into the Chapter 2 - Brave New World? Continue reading to find out!
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Chapter 2 - Brave New World picks up right where the last chapter ended, with Chloe and Rachel facing the consequences for skipping school and causing trouble while trying to keep the fact that they started the fire a secret. The interaction between Chloe and Rachel in the beginning of the chapter feels more genuine than it did in chapter one, now that the characters have a little history to play off of. The first choice the player has to make is one that hurts either Chloe or Rachel. Although the consequences were greater for Chloe, I felt as if I had to stand up for Rachel. As Chloe and as the player, I felt a stronger connection with Rachel Amber than in chapter one, and so, I tried to take the brunt of the blame off of Rachel. I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do; Rachel was only going to lose her part in the play where as Chloe was going to be kicked out of school.
However, these sorts of choices are the driving force in the Life is Strange series and I found that many of my choices never felt entirely right. I longed for Max's ability to turn back time, but only for the sake of my own indecisiveness. In fact, as a result of being unable to turn back time, I found that there's more weight put on every situation. If somebody died because of a choice I made while playing Max in the original series, I could just turn back time and everything would be fixed. As Chloe, even less harrowing situations (like taking the blame for something or stealing money out of somebody's dorm) feel wrong or even dangerous. In this chapter of Before the Storm, these options feel heavier than they did last time, and turns the game from "mundane teenage life" to something a little more complex.
That's not to say the game doesn't have mundane moments; a large portion of the chapter is dedicated to a slow search through the junkyard for car parts. These moments have been in the series since the original installment, but they feel different in Before the Storm because of the history each location holds. The junkyard, in particular, is a place brimming with history. Rachel and Chloe share a bond in the junkyard and seem happier in it in Before the Storm and yet I know that this is where their tragic fates will guide them. However, if I hadn't played the original Life is Strange, I doubt I would get this feeling from the junkyard and other places like it. Instead, the game uses these slow moments to contrast with more intense moments, such as Chloe's dream in the junkyard. I won’t spoil exactly what her dream involves, but it’s sinister and unexpected after a much lighter toned moment.
But it isn't all dark, in fact, a lot of what I like about chapter two comes during more endearing moments. Chloe and Rachel's relationship really grows in this chapter and it feels much more relatable. Rachel does a few things for Chloe that make me really understand Chloe's obsession with Rachel Amber in the original series and these moments also serve to make Rachel an even more mystical character. Rachel and Chloe have a moment on stage where Rachel more or less professes her love to Chloe and asks her to stay with her as they run away from Arcadia Bay. This moment felt powerful, but because Rachel was playing the part of The Tempest's Prospero and Chloe the part of Ariel there were more nuanced layers of meaning behind their promises to each other, as well as their relationship as a whole. It's sweet, it's telling, it's foreboding, and I appreciate a good Shakespeare allusion, especially how it played with the crow motif Before the Storm has been using.
"What's Past is Prologue"
Before the Storm's second chapter delivers a sense of mythos I want in my Life is Strange games, cutting out much of that edginess which made the characters feel less believable in the first chapter. The parts where Chloe and Rachel's relationship was explored/expanded upon were the most interesting, but the time the player spent alone with Chloe was valuable as well. We see Chloe's motivations while simultaneously highlighting the more intense aspects of the game's narrative. Overall, chapter two was what I was expecting it to be and more, and I hope that the third installment does the same.