Reviews

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review [PS4] – Episode 3: ‘Hell Is Empty’

“You’re the only one in the world I can trust.”

Ladies and gentlemen, here we are. Each ending requires collecting the loose threads.

We have experienced the quandaries of teenage life with Chloe and Rachel, and now the time has come to end an amazing journey. Before you continue reading, I should mention that this review probably contains some spoilers, because I feel it would be difficult to express my opinions to the fullest without mentioning some important factors in the game. However, I will try and keep the spoilers to a minimum. Also, this will be a longer review, as I will comment on the final episode, as well as the entire season as a whole. Are you ready?

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review

The third and final episode, titled “Hell is Empty,” picks right up where it left off in the previous episode “Brave New World, where we learn that the wife of Rachel’s father is not, in fact, her real mother. As my jaw dropped, the episode ended, so I was more than eager to continue on the final episode. The story of Rachel’s mother is long, dark, and sad – but in short, she got involved with drugs, and continually making bad decisions in life evidently leads to her losing custody over Rachel. Bad parenting is a reoccurring factor in the Life Is Strange-series, and their choices as parents clearly reflect the choices of the teenagers. Chloe and Rachel’s parents have made some bad choices in life, and making amends might be harder than one might think. We get to see several sides of the story as we learn about Rachel’s rough past.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
Sometimes you have to lie in order to protect someone you love.

The episode starts out in confusion, sadness and anger. As a consequence of the reveal of her biological mother, Rachel becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting her. After playing detective, Chloe finds out that this is not necessarily a good idea… But because she is a good (girl)friend, she wants to support Rachel in her decisions; whether they are good or bad. At the end of the road, you are faced with a solid dilemma, where you have to decide what is best for Rachel, and how you can do your best to protect her. The “power” that Chloe has – using words to persuade others in her favor – becomes even more important in this episode, as the outcome of these “verbal battles” decide whether we have to take the easy or the hard way to achieve what we want. Talking about things that one might go great lengths to avoid, is also an important aspect of this universe. Perhaps we might learn a thing or two from Chloe?

I’ve come to learn that when life gets hard for other people, you can count on Chloe to be there for you. Chloe is many things, but she is a damn good friend. Yet sometimes, a good friend can be taken advantage of. Slowly but surely, the player is made aware of all the things Chloe keeps doing for Rachel, without receiving anything in return. As such, the relationship between Chloe and Rachel is, in my opinion, highly romanticized. It doesn’t feel 100% believable, but it is nevertheless a beautiful and strong relationship that I guess everyone would aspire to have. The worst part of it is that it breaks my heart to see them now because I know how the relationship – unwillingly – comes to an end. The beauty of friendship and love seeps through the cracks of the dull and dismal surface, making the hard stuff a little easier to deal with, which I can appreciate. It doesn’t make the issues too heavy, just heavy enough to make the right amount of impact on the player.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…”

Doing and dealing drugs are some of the issues that our teenagers encounter – which often include violence, and this time around is unfortunately no exception. However, as the drama escalates quickly in this episode, we can always rely on a whole new round of Dungeons & Dragons as a nice change of pace. This sequence is even longer now than it was in the first episode, but you’re not going to see me complain about it. This scene made Chloe forget all the grief, despair, and anger that she was going through, if only just for a few moments. And realizing that she had more friends than she thought might have given her the shove she needed.

And one simply cannot make A Life Is Strange review without commenting on the soundtrack. For this season, the developers chose to cooperate with the London trio neo-folk band Daughter to compose the music for this season. They even released an individual album with the songs on their Spotify. The sound of the music has a lot of character that blends beautifully in with the theme of the game, and I have found myself coming back to it repeatedly – the band truly did a great job with the soundtrack, so kudos to them. And if you have only played the first season of Life Is Strange, and you, for some reason, find yourself reading this review, I can promise you that the music aspect of the game will not disappoint you.

Even though this journey is a fulfilling one, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. The game decided to give me a happy-ever-after ending, which I feel was unsatisfactory. Rachel’s fate is far from happy, and I think that the ending of this episode should have reflected that more than it did. I do sometimes enjoy when games give us the opportunity to create theories about what happens, but “Hell Is Empty” rather gave us too much to be interpreted.

The game left a gap storywise between the end of season 2 and season 1, whereas I hoped that the gap would be much smaller. When does Rachel meet the teacher that will inevitably murder her? What happens between Chloe and Rachel in between these events? All we know is what we learn from the first game, which is just bits and pieces told from a broken Chloe. Even though if you wait until after the credits have rolled, you do get to see a disturbing nod towards Rachel’s terrible fate. I just think it wasn’t enough. The second episode was by far the best one, because it had a fantastic build-up, with an amazing plot twist at the end. This was a fairly short episode of approximately 2-3 hours, whereas the previous episode was about 4 hours long.

I also found it interesting that the first half of the series is more about Chloe, but then the spotlight shifts to Rachel. All in all, I love this series, and if you are a fan of narrative-heavy games, I will highly recommend that you play this game. Just remember to play the other one, too.

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