Review: Life is Strange Before the Storm Episode 2—Brave New World (Xbox One)

Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Adventure
Platform:  PC , Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Rating: M for Mature
Price:
$16.99 for whole season

The next episode of the three-part series Life is Strange: Before the Storm, “Brave New World” takes us back into the storm of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. The first episode, “Awake,” received praise and put the game series on its way to awards from E3 and Hardcore Gamer. Many players ended “Awake” optimistic, but will “Brave New World” live up our hopes for the series?

Content Guide

Violence

You can overhear someone getting beat up and there are some outbursts of anger.

Language

The f-word and other swear words are used pretty casually, but not constantly. The Lord’s name is taken in vain a few times.

Sexual Content

There’s a reference to porn. Rachel and Chloe can kiss.

Alcohol/Drug Use

Chloe has a pretty serious dependence on weed, and part of the game involves working with Chloe’s drug dealer to get money.

Positive Content

“Brave New World” continues Before the Storm‘s themes of friendship, family, and trying to make the best of what life hands you.

Review

I played “Brave New World” in much the same mindset as I did “Awake.”.It was already late into the night, I was tired and stressed from trying to do this “life” thing, and I was just along for the ride. Before the Storm‘s first installment is truly something to behold. It is relatable, well-done, and honestly beautiful, placing it on the path to be the same sort of artwork that the original game, Life is Strange, is by creating a compelling world, authentic story, and realistic characters. Playing through “Brave New World,” I’d say that Before the Storm is still on its way to greatness with its continued, compelling story-telling, attention to detail, and ability to capture what it’s like to be a modern teenager.

Starting “Brave New World,” you’re immediately placed in the principal’s office with Chloe, her mother, Rachel Amber and her parents. This scene sets the course for many others to follow: difficult choices, tense dialogue, and just trying to figure out what’s really the best thing to do in this situation. Especially in this episode, a lot of Before the Storm’s characters are simply people trying to make the most of their own shade of gray. No one is truly all good and no one is truly all evil. This is true of your choices as well.
The twists and turns of “Brave New World” are genuinely unexpected (like, my gracious, that ending line), but they still feel like a natural continuation of “Awake.” Nothing is rushed,  cramped, or too long in running. It also has the same pungency in the way of genuinely powerful scenes. There are a number of events that moved me, or at least, made me feel as I myself was there as if I were Chloe and I was experiencing the rush and the agony of the events unfolding.

“Brave New World” also continues Before the Storm‘s gift for pacing. While the beginning is intense, but not long after I found myself kind of relaxing in the moment. Before the Storm‘s mood largely follows Chloe’s very own; she goes from trying to navigate difficult situations by processing individual events. The Life is Strange series loves difficult choices and tense situations, but nothing feels genuinely overwhelming or deathly boring. Sometimes the story moves fast and sometimes the story moves a bit slower, but it always feels like it’s moving—just like Chloe’s just trying to move through her own life.

Recurring themes such as crows and fire, tie-ins with the Tempest, and underlying themes such as friendship, anger, and grief, are laced all throughout Before the Storm. My inner future English teacher is beaming at how much one could dissect and dig in to deeper elements of its story. I’m not even kidding; if this was a book, all this depth in the game’s story and themes would easily gain it a spot of a high school-required reading list some day. (Will we ever have required video games? I can only dream.) But just the sheer amount of detail and depth of Before the Storm‘s story tells me that Deck Nine really poured over this story.There is so much that I missed just playing through once and I’m sure that on the second, third, heck, tenth play-through, I would notice elements that I hadn’t registered before.

While there is a lot I probably would have missed element-wise, there’s a lot I would have missed story-wise if I hadn’t played through multiple times. And I’m not just talking about “Brave New World,” but the whole darn thing. While it may seem minute, there are significant changes in dialogue, how characters respond, and just how things play out when you behave differently in a playthrough. You can miss details of the story depending on what you do or don’t say. While some events will happen regardless of what you do, whether they happen by your doing or not does impact later events in the story. The how things happen is important in Before the Storm’s story, and it can change from play-\through to playthrough.
Finally, perhaps Before the Storm‘s best feature is how it genuinely captures what it’s like to be a modern teenager. While I may not be exactly where Chloe or Rachel are in their lives, I can understand where they’re coming from. What they feel. How they cope. After Chloe is told something that deeply hurts her, she rushes off to the junkyard she visited with Rachel in the previous episode. Upset and feeling like she’s desperately out of control of her life, she clings to a rundown truck. And for a moment, that rundown truck she fixes becomes her sanctuary. And I’m much the same way. Before the Storm‘s realistic and insightful depiction of how teenagers behave, feel, and process what’s going on around them is refreshing, honest.

A big part of being a teenager is just the ups, downs, and all-arounds of life and i’s events, and Before the Storm mirrors that too. In just one day, Chloe goes from serious moments to wild laughter, from mature, tense situations to high school drama (literally).  While Chloe does live a rather challenging life, her struggles and the way she just has to roll with what happens is fairly universal.

There is a lot to be found in Before the Storm so far, and I’m sure that there is more around the bend. “Brave New World” only continueds the depth, heart, and mystery of the prequel series and there is so much worth exploring here. Before the Storm is clearly a game made out of love and made to be loved. If you have any interest in the series, let me assure that it’s only getting better in my opinion. While I’m honestly scared for the final installment, “Hell is Empty,” my fear has nothing to do with how good it’s going to be. I’m honestly scared to see how things are going to turn, how everything’s going to go down, and to lose the Chloe I’ve connected so personally to. If you have any knowledge of how things played out in the original Life is Strange story, you should understand my concern for how things are going to go. Our brave new world is over, and hell is empty—the demons are all here.

 

The Bottom Line

"Brave New World" is a powerful and effective continuation of Life is Strange: Before the Storm and is just another reason to get into the series.

 

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Sydney Stoddard

A quirky teenager from Las Vegas who loves finding the adventure in the mundane, talking about everything, and bringing out the brilliance in others. She's trying to figure out this whole life thing while pursuing the Savior who so endlessly pursues her.

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