It has taken me a while to finally sit down to play the finale to Life is Strange: Before the Storm thanks a long Christmas break. Episode 3 ‘Into Hell’ has quite a lot to do to wrap up all the story-lines for this prequel mini series and going into it, I was not sure if it could succeed in doing so. Up to now this has been a series that has failed to fully grab me as the original Life is Strange so effortlessly did, but with a dramatic ending to Episode 2, there is a lot still left for Chloe and Rachel to battle through.
*Warning: Results of choices in previous episodes will be naturally discussed during review*
To say that the relationship between Chloe and Rachel has been an intense one so far is a major understatement with so many big emotions influencing player choices. One was the choice to have Chloe and Rachel run away after both their situations becoming as they saw it untenable. For Chloe, being expelled from Blackwell Academy and the further intrusion of David into her home life with her mother, pushing her to the limit whilst at the same time Rachel is full of rage with the belief that her father is having an affair leading to a confrontation that would change everything for both her and Chloe. Episode 3 continues right where episode 2 had left off, with Rachel and Chloe learning the truth about the mysterious woman they believed was having an affair with her dad and that she was actually her birth mother, someone who her father was trying to protect her from due to her drug addiction but she had returned to make contact with Rachel which her father did not want to happen.
Episode 3 is the big emotional hitting chapter of this mini series which manages to bring all the themes for both Chloe and Rachel together but suffers yet again from a pace to cram the story into just three episodes meaning the focus still remains on Rachel, whilst what Chloe is going through, is pushed to the side far too often for my taste. That said, the main themes of devotion, love, pain and sacrifice are used really well to start the process of setting the scene for events in the first Life is Strange game. For a relationship that is only really a few days old in this story, the pressure on Chloe is massive as she is still dealing with the loss of her father, the chaotic mess her life is currently in all compounded by her feelings for Rachel which are raw and driving all her decisions good or bad. Her devotion to keeping Rachel safe does force her to put her own issues aside as she tries to support Rachel who we already know, has a tendency to burn things down when her temper gets the best of her emotions.
The writing and voice acting performance of the cast again also stood out in this episode with so much asked of Chloe from both Rachel and her father. The father actively asks Chloe to dissuade Rachel from reaching out to her mother only for Rachel to both need and ask Chloe to find her mother so they can make contact. This more than anything else in Before the Storm really shows Chloe at her best as she is willing to go to any length to help Rachel which leads to the discovery of some horrible truths about just how far her Father was and is willing to go to protect her. Through this Chloe herself begins to look into her own life and is able to reconnect to her own mother and begin the process of separating her grief for her father and what must do to help her mum start to move on. But it also brings out the rebellious side which know Chloe to have in the first game and in dealing with the harshest of situations throughout Before the Storm, she is taking ownership of who she really is.
But some of the issues I have had with the previous episodes do return here such as the pacing which at times can move so fast that it feels in a hurry to bring together all the characters met along the way back into Chloe’s path to have a form of closure to end the game on. This means the “Chat back” mini game makes a return and feels just as out of place now in the finale as it did in the first episode. I still feel that the limitations of only being made up of three episodes has meant that this finale episode has to fit in so many aspects in order to tie it off as well as set everything in position for the original Life is Strange Story. It is also hard to get your head around that this is literally just a handful of days in the relationship for Chloe and Rachel, but with all that has happened and included the most important player decision in this mini series at the end, it goes a long way to show just why Rachel’s disappearance in Life is Strange is so impactful on Chloe.
Which is why ultimately for me, Before the Storm ended up being rather underwhelming. Whilst the story of how Chloe and Rachel came to be together was indeed interesting, this prequel story still leaves so many questions left unanswered for me as a fan of the first game. We know from the original game that Rachel ended up having certain connections with other characters that Chloe herself did not know about but is never hinted at or addressed here. Other than a short mid credit cutscene which gives a shocking glimpse into what happens to Rachel, this story leaves a big gap in the events of Before the Storm and how Chloe is when Max returns to her life in Life is Strange.
Though I did not feel as connected or immersed in this story as I was with the original Life is Strange story, episode 3 does complete this prequel tale well enough to give the mini series some purpose. There are some missteps throughout the three episodes and the attempts to recreate some of the energy and special moments of the original game can fall flat and the least said about the chat back skill and graffiti the better, but we do get to see where the feisty and rebellious Chloe began and playing this after playing the original does enhance both stories to a degree even though I would have preferred to see events lead more into those of the first Life is Strange.
If you have purchased the Deluxe version of Before the Storm then there is one final bonus episode to go which will focus on Chloe and Max as children which could be a nice little emotional tale for fans. Though this prequel never quite lived up to the impact of the first game, it is certainly a story worth experiencing for fans of Life is Strange.