It was surprising that Deck Nine made a solid start to their Life is Strange prequel series. All things considered, the series should have started bad considering prior character problems with the original series, yet, lo and behold, it was the opposite. The design decision to spotlight the budding relationship between Chloe and Rachel made for a great adventure filled with genuinely funny moments and some spectacular character drama. If Episode One was anything to go by, Episode Two would be excellent, and, outside a rocky start, Before the Storm continues strong into the middle of its story.
Note that this review has spoilers for the end of the first episode, so look no further if you haven’t played episode one. There will also be references to the main series, which you should play prior to Before the Storm.
Brave New World takes a different path than the prior episode. While there is still emphasis placed on Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, in this episode it took a backseat for the majority of the time. In doing this, episode two was able to tell a different story focused more on Chloe and her newest struggle, which allows players to dive into her mindset.
The beginning of the episode sees part of the fallout from Chloe and Rachel’s actions in the first episode. For skipping school, Chloe is kicked out and Rachel loses her role in a play. These points are a backdrop to the events of the episode, with Chloe feeling guilty over Rachel’s play and overjoyed at freedom from school. This manages to push the leaving-Arcadia-Bay plotline forward as Chloe finds her iconic vehicle and gets it working.
A greater point of the episode is Chloe having to return to Blackwell so soon after being removed. Her drug dealer requests that Chloe obtain money from one of the students, putting Chloe into some tough predicaments.
Brave New World thrives in its newest choices, and Deck Nine does well building off the absence of Max’s rewind abilities. The choices in this episode, whether major or minor, are challenging.
Take, for instance, one major choice: a character is getting beaten by a bad person while Chloe is asked to look after his brother. You are given the opportunity to help by giving the guy the money he is owed, which Chloe previously acquired, or keep looking after his brother. This is followed by another tough choice, so the developers really make you juggle your options and try to find the best path.
Every choice in this episode had the same appeal. The challenge in making the right choice this time around is hard, and you never know if you have made the right decision on most occasions. The episode gets you invested through its heavy-handed choices that rival any from the greater Life is Strange series, except one particular moment. That we are unsure how our actions here will affect Chloe in the near future makes each choice exciting.
In saying that, Brave New World highlights one of this prequel series’ biggest problems: parts of the story played around with the idea of debts and making plans, and the problem with these and many of the greater story beats related to the future is that we know what happens. Those of us who played Dontnod’s series know exactly how the story ends. We may feel sorry for Chloe, Rachel and some of the supporting characters, but we know how their story ends, and it isn’t sunshine and rainbows.
Deck Nine handles older characters quite well. Even knowing the fates of major characters in the original series, it is interesting to see how they progressed to a certain point.
The biggest character to receive this treatment is Nathan Prescott, an antagonistic, messed up, drug-abusing character from the original series who is portrayed here much weaker. You actually feel sorry for him as it shows his eventual downward spiral. In the final episode it will be interesting to see if Deck Nine chooses to spotlight old characters further.
Another issue is a lack of payoff with the closing event of the first episode. In her frustration over her father, Rachel accidentally started a massive fire, and while it is constantly visible and referenced, it’s played out like a minor inconvenience that is used only to pit Chloe into some interesting moments. Hopefully the fire subplot has greater importance in the final episode, but it seems like it was ultimately meaningless outside of conversation and a particularly entertaining story beat.
On a lighter note, this episode’s cliffhanger ending is sure to translate strongly into the final episode. A great truth has been revealed to Rachel that will affect her going forward, and hopefully the developers can close out this story; given the importance of this cliffhanger it seems unlikely it will be pushed aside.
Outside of all this there are some really sweet moments which made Brave New World a wonderful episode to go through. The cornerstone of this series is Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, and while there was a lot of strength placed in the Rachel-free moments, it’s hard not to be entranced when the two are together. The moments they have together are some of the most beautiful parts of the story, from therapy sessions with Rachel where Chloe talks about everything bothering her, to a sweet and captivating moment between the two on a stage filled with promises. The relationship between these two characters makes every second they are together worth playing.
Deck Nine took a different approach with Brave New World. Giving Chloe more time alone created some great moments for the character, but the cornerstone relationship of Chloe and Rachel continues to be endearing and one of the greatest draws of the series. The choices in this episode are powerful and make you wonder whether you are making the right decisions, but, if you’ve played the main series, you already know that this story won’t end in happiness. Thankfully, it should be a great ride to the story’s conclusion, with a potential twist that will cause problems in the series’ closure.