Life is Strange: Before the Storm review: The path to tragedy

Enlarge / Life is also very sad.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm began with the unenviable job of acting as a prologue to a very self-contained story. The first season of the episodic adventure series closed out the story of Chloe Price and Max Caulfield with two possible conclusions. So when Before the Storm promised to focus on the very different friendship between Chloe and Rachel Amber—a character that’s mostly only talked about in the first game—I had my doubts.

Thankfully, the first of Before the Storm’s three episodes nailed the approach. Chloe and Rachel might not get as much time on-screen together as the main season’s duo, but their relationship starts much stronger. An emotionally wounded and uncertain Chloe opens up to Rachel in a way that lets us see how she became the character Max comes to meet. It’s that meat of the story that navigates the prequel through some occasionally rocky B plots.

Whereas 2015’s Life is Strange has a strong conflict at its center—Max and Chloe’s search for a missing Rachel Amber—Before the Storm is more generally about the leading ladies’ search for their place in the world. Chloe is pretty much branded a delinquent from the jump. Rachel doesn’t like that everyone expects her to be perfect. The two outsiders naturally attract each other (romantically, in my playthrough) and barrel along from there.

Piling on expectations

A central mystery does eventually develop in Before the Storm, but it’s still mostly an excuse to push the characters closer together. That’s a good thing. That close relationship is exactly where the game shines brightest—particularly near the end of each individual chapter.

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