*Spoilers for the end of Episode Two inbound, please read this after finishing that episode.
After the excellence of Life is Strange it was understandable to be nervous for Before the Storm. It followed the unlikable secondary protagonist, Chloe Price, which spoke volumes for how bad things could turn out. To the surprise of many Before the Storm started out strong with a more likable Chloe at the helm, benefitting from a change in voice actress, and the second episode was even better, filled with great character moments and memorable scenes. It’s unfortunate, however, that the series climax was disappointing.
Episode Three picks up directly after the previous events, following the cliffhanger of Rachel’s real mother, Sera, being the woman she had seen kissing her dad in the first episode. Things started well with a bittersweet tale of Sera’s depressing downfall and how it affected Rachel’s father. This section was handled really well, allowing you to feel sympathy for Rachel’s dad and why he withheld the truth.
This moment also helped better solidify the growing bond of the two girls, and how Rachel has grown to lean on Chloe over the course of a few days. This bond continues to be charming to watch as Chloe finds unique ways to make Rachel happy while helping her through heavy ordeals.
It is a shame however, that this bond is more or less sidelined for the majority of this episode. There is still plenty of weight to their bond as Chloe mentions Rachel in every other sentence, and Rachel is the driving force behind the events, but this episode features more time with Chloe alone and without many of the great character moments which made episode two enjoyable. The story still has its nice moments, if you made certain choices in the previous episodes to get a good resolution.
Some of the ideas explored are excellent. There’s brilliance in the exploration of how you perceive people, as Chloe faces the challenge of accepting that people you hold dear are not perfect, and that life is simply theater. There was also the question of whether Rachel was always putting on an act for Chloe, which brought her to a head with an old friend. These thought provoking moments are always lovely to sit through and are powerful to consider the best options for.
Unfortunately things are not always like that, an example being how some characters feel like they get a raw deal. It’s understandable that certain characters need to vanish to make sense in the overall continuity, but certain confrontations and tough moments feel forced. It often felt like the developers were trying to wrap up stories that were never properly dealt with in the first place, such as with Chloe’s old friend Elliot.
Similarly the conclusion to Before the Storm feels rushed and pointless. The big event of this episode is helping Rachel find her real mother, and there is no real conclusion here. Some expected build up occurs, which is then quickly dismissed for a moment that could have been real nice if it didn’t feel pointless and make other points redundant.
The episode also ends poorly, Chloe and Rachel end on really good terms which you expect because of Life is Strange, but the binary choice system at the end is disappointingly weak. You don’t expect the perfect storm of Life is Strange’s ending where both choices carry weight, but either choice should at least feel satisfying. There is only one scene change between the two endings’ which make no sense behind the weight of Chloe’s final decision. The ending could have been really good but Deck Nine failed to add any real weight behind the conclusion, and nothing impacts you as the player.
It’s a shame Episode Three just couldn’t stick the landing, it started out with so much potential and excellent moments, but fell prey to bad pacing and feeling rushed. Looking back at prior episodes every moment felt strong and well-paced, but Episode Three feels like something important was just cut, like they had to conclude the story but couldn’t find a fruitful way to do so.
It also feels as if the story had untapped potential as many story moments end up feeling meaningless with what we know. The moment with David, for example, was sweet in the sentiment but feels pointless in the scheme of the greater narrative, particularly as it’s never mentioned again. It makes you wonder if they wanted to do more episodes, following narrative threads that tied further into the original series. There’s so much left untold, so much that could have been handled better to make the final act make more sense.
After a solid start to the series, and a brilliant second episode, Life is Strange: Before the Storm simply couldn’t finish on a solid note. Even with great character moments and a solid narrative thread, Episode Three couldn’t help but feel rushed, and ultimately, empty. The first half of the episode is excellent, but things fall apart as you head for the conclusion, leaving Before the Storm feeling worse off in the end.