The following contains spoilers for Life is Strange: Before the Storm's first two episodes.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm did something quite unusual, and more than a little brave when they decided to make a prequel story to the original. They removed nearly all elements of "gameplay" to focus instead on telling a dramatic story about a relationship between two characters. The first two installments built a solid story and the final episode, titled "Hell is Empty," brings the story to a satisfying, if bittersweet, conclusion.

At the end of the previous episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Chloe's friend Rachel Amber learned that the woman she believed was having an affair with her father, was actually her biological mother, a shocking revelation since Rachel had no reason to believe the woman she thought of as her mother wasn't. It seems that the woman, Sera, had a serious drug problem when Rachel was a baby, leading her father to separate the two and hide the truth from his daughter. While the news is certainly shocking to Rachel, she ultimately decides she wants to at least meet this woman, leading the pair to try and track her down. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as all that, and the two girls find themselves in pretty significant trouble and Chloe learns some things she probably wishes she hadn't.

While the first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm gave us a fun diversion into a tabletop RPG, and the second put us in the middle of a stage play, Episode 3 is much more straightforward. There are a few stops with characters we've met before, exactly what they include depend on what decisions you made previously, but nothing detracts from the main story too much. As such, I'm not sure if "Hell is Empty" is actually a shorter episode than the previous two, or it just feels that way. Either way, the game will likely go by quite quickly, though some of that is certainly also due to the compelling narrative.

There is one segment that does feel a bit out of place. One of the characters that Chloe has been interacting with throughout Before the Storm, for seemingly no reason, finally does do something that explains why they existed at all. The problem is that since the character has been an afterthought until now, when it does happen, it feels jarring and out of place. Maybe the game would have been even shorter without it, but it feels unnecessary. Also, it's the silliest use of the game's "backtalk" system in the entire series.

Before the Storm has suffered from the Romeo and Juliet problem from the start, as these two characters have become incredibly close friends (or perhaps more than friends) in an incredibly short period of time. That's still an issue if you stop to think about how little time has passed over the course of the game's story, which is only a few days. Still, the characters themselves are sympathetic and it's easy to get invested in their story. This makes the game's final decision one that you'll likely agonize over. Like the original Life is Strange, the final choice you're forced to make is one with no good options. If the decision you make doesn't break your heart a little bit, you haven't been paying attention.

Ultimately, Life is Strange: Before the Storm comes to a satisfying conclusion, unless the decision I didn't make is not satisfying. Though a final stinger that reminds those who played the original Life is Strange where the story truly goes for one of the characters almost feels like a cheap shot. It's unclear where the Life is Strange story goes from here. We know that DONTNOD is working on another game in the series, though whether there will be a specific connection to these characters has not been revealed. There's always the potential for another game that might fill in the gap between Before the Storm and the original title. Though we'll have to wait and see.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm has the same issue that most narrative-driven games of this nature have. Choice is mostly an illusion, as the story will always loop back to where it needs to be, regardless of what you do. However, Before the Storm tells a good story and the fact that a game even exists that's focused entirely on the relationship between a couple of teenage girls is the sort of daring decision that should be commended. Whether we get another chapter in this story or not, hopefully, we'll get more stories like it.

8 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed rating

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