A wise man once said… “And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain”. Well, Life is Strange fans listen up because the final episode of Before the Storm is now with us. Will it be everything we want it to be? Will it shock us with revelations and surprise us with twists and turns as the teenage romance story reaches its conclusion? Will it make us wish to start the whole adventure again, but with different choices? It all comes down to this final chance you see – have you made the right decisions?
If you haven’t yet played the first two chapters in this Before the Storm series, then please turn away now because there are spoilers galore to be read. In the last episode we found out a deep dark secret from Rachel’s family; one that threatens her way of life. The woman who she thought her father was having an affair with, is in actual fact her birth mother.
That was episode 2’s cliffhanger and in true episodic fashion the action in 3 starts off at this point. There is a rather clever little device used by the designers to give out all the exposition about Rachel’s mother and how we get to this point in the history. It’s a dark twisted tale, and you’re left feeling sad for your girlfriend, while not knowing who to trust and believe. You cheer up Rachel, only to head home to find your mum and new boyfriend have some rather disturbing news which turns your world upside down. It’s then back to the junkyard to fix the broken pick up truck and collect Rachel. A drug dealing fight occurs resulting in a trip to the hospital, then a break in and some lying to drug dealers. Then there is a final fight and heart to heart, with a massive decision to make and then, in a bang, it’s over.
In the last two episodes the production values are of a very high standard and this episode doesn’t let the team down in that respect. It’s all very polished, well written and acted. The main problem I’ve had with the previous episodes is in the pacing, and I’m afraid this problem raises its ugly head again. Too many scenes are ponderous, melodramatic and dull, so when an exciting scene suddenly appears it sticks out dramatically from the rest. In the original telling of this franchise, the game seemed to have more of an energy to it and more dramatic tension throughout, with the stakes much higher. I believe that’s maybe due to the superpower of time control, plus the serial killer storyline mixed with the problems of being a teenager. Now in this series we just have the problems of being a teenager, mixed with a “soap opera” type storyline. For me it’s all a bit… meh.
Episode 3 does however have some lovely moments of gameplay, like a sequence with Chloe and the drug dealer that involves good old fashioned puzzle solving and detective work. The series also gives out some brilliant pieces of storytelling with items dotted around; emails and posters in the hospital that build the world into a very complex and interesting dynamic. In the end the story finishes well, takes in locations from before and resolves the tale with an interesting decision to make. The story also brings a nice epilogue that is sweet and shows the journeys of all the characters, as well as delivering a haunting reminder of where the series goes next. You can never have ‘happy ever after’ if you know what happens in the first series, which is a problem with a satisfying conclusion. But maybe that’s a problem with prequels in general.
Before the Storm has a brilliant visual style and looks crisp throughout. The attention to detail in the documents and extras throughout the world is top notch. The universe itself and the overall design from the developers is interesting, considered and superb. The sound department is also excellent with an amazing soundtrack, a wonderful selection of atmospheric pop tunes and brilliant voiceover work. The actors give the characters an extra dimension and are the heart and soul of this game. They emote, express and bring the world to life, with some excellent direction from the creative team.
Overall I haven’t enjoyed my time with this prequel as much as I did with the first series of Life is Strange. I’ve found the pacing and parts of the story not strong enough to hit the high standards set from the first series. The design, some gameplay elements and the audio are excellent, and the ambition of telling a straight forward teenage love story with some family drama thrown into the mix should be applauded. Although Before the Storm has failed to deliver what I hoped it would, I would love to see where exactly things are going to go next with this world. A sequel maybe?