Episode 2 is titled “Brave New World”
“It’s okay not to be okay”
This single line of dialogue sparked forth a wave of emotions and reflections. It came at a moment where things seemed to be spiraling away, where your future hung by a thread. You weren’t ok, truthfully you hadn’t been for some time. You masked it, you hid it, you threw up barriers of anger, of rage, of sarcasm, but you weren’t ok. You were hurting, you were lost, you were most of all lonely. Then, from the most unlikely of sources you heard those words, “it’s okay not to be okay.”
This moment, this scene is one that some players never saw in Before the Storm’s newest episode. It’s entirely missable. You can walk on by the character in question. Ignoring one of the most brilliant and heartfelt moments of the entire season thus far. It’s quiet, it’s reflective, it’s understated. It’s there and then it’s gone. It is Life is Strange at it’s best.
There isn’t enough of it.
Before the Storm’s second episode, Brave New World is superior to the debut of this three episode mini-series, quite a bit superior in fact. Yet, it still is plagued by many of the same issues. It’s overly-long and plodding. I spent nearly the entire episode asking again and again what I was doing, what the point of the episode was. Then, out of nowhere moments like above would happen and I would, just for a few seconds at times, lose myself back in the world of Arcadia Bay, lose myself to these characters, these themes, and this story.
Chloe Price and Rachel Amber burn brightly together. Their relationship, in whatever form you create it, is brilliantly brought to life. The sparks fly, the dynamic is electric, and you can’t help but be transfixed. The scenes between the two during a performance of the Tempest is among the finest moments in Life is Strange’s stellar history. Rife with double meanings and larger observations on the two characters and their place with one another, it was a nerve-wrecking and simultaneously beautiful coming together of who Chole and Rachel are, one both resplendent in the moment and seeped with tragedy for the futures we know await them. Rachel and Chloe’s story together doesn’t have a happy ending.
Prequels are hard. That’s as much a fact of storytelling as anything else. Knowing how things end and where everyone is going removes a good deal of the tension and weight to proceedings and indeed Before the Storm never carries the same weight, momentum, or stellar pacing of the original Life is Strange. What it does carry though is a strange melancholy to everything.
Perhaps that’s just me. Perhaps I see Rachel and Chloe on-screen together, figuring things out, going on adventures and I just get sad. Perhaps I see Chloe slowly(a little too slowly for me) figure her way towards becoming the person we see in Life is Strange and I just get sad. The events of that story, that gut-wrenching and deeply, personally, intimately told story hang over Before the Storm and everything it does. You can’t help but think about them, at least I can’t.
My problems from before remain. I largely enjoy most of the cast in the original LiS more then here in Before the Storm. I still find Chloe a problematic young hero. I still think this is an almost, not quite there version of Life is Strange’s heart, soul, and powerful, must tell story. It’s almost like a lightbulb to LiS’s daylight, a mimic, a convincing, emotionally effective one at times, but a mimic.
That said this is perhaps far and away the best running episode of Life is Strange I’ve ever played. No technical hiccups or mishaps plagued my playtime and I was pleasantly surprised by how things ran throughout.
Brave New World is a step in the right direction for Before the Storm, yet even as I say that it feels like too little of a positive step. One that offers more of the magic that Life is Strange was able to offer but in far smaller doses then that series did. When this episode shines, as it does in the fantastic final act it is near breathtaking and captivating. When it doesn’t though, it falls face first into cliches and meandering pointlessness. Still far too long, still without much drive or purpose for large stretches of time, and somehow still largely ending on the same cliffhanger as before, albeit with an interesting new revelation thrown in, Brave New World is far from perfect and yet, in one key and tiny way it has captured me in the same way as Life is Strange did. Since I finished playing, I have thought of little else, the emotions I have felt and experienced in the past 24 hours are reminiscent of those conjured by Life is Strange, they may only be a slice of what that game was able to create but even that has left me abuzz and on an emotional rollercoaster. Life is Strange is an emotional experience like little else in games, in this at least Brave New World succeeds.