Initial Release Date: 19th October 2017
“How do you know when it’s time to take a relationship to the next level?”
Deck Nine and Square Enix are back with another chapter of Life is Strange: Before The Storm. Chapter Two, titled Brave New World, follows Chloe and Rachel in the aftermath of the events of Awake. As with most chapter-based games, Brave New World uses the decisions you made in Awake to shape the way the game progresses. For those players not waiting for all three chapters to be released, there is a short recap at the beginning to remind you of what happened and covers all the key plot points you will need to be aware of. This is handy, especially if you want to make sure your decisions going forward are consistent. Of course alternatively you’re also able to completely flip the script if you prefer. Whatever your choice, you will find yourself immediately having to make some tough decisions in the prologue that will affect Chloe’s – and Rachel’s – future in a big way.
After the prologue section you are treated to an excellent opening cutscene with Chloe showing off her artistic skills in the most quintessentially Chloe way. As with the first chapter, cutscenes and much of the playable sections are accompanied by another excellent soundtrack. The developers have put a lot of thought into how each track will affect the mood of the scene, and that really shines through. It can be easy to overlook the sound design of a game when looking at the bigger picture so details like this do not go unnoticed. Or, to be more specific, they are easier to overlook because good sound design melds so well with the visual elements that it simply becomes part of the experience. Bad sound design, on the other hand, can make or break a game.
Brave New World deals with some much heavier themes than Awake did. Whether it’s simply the interaction between the teens and their parental or authority figures, or dialogue options that are significantly darker, players will find Chapter Two eliciting a much more empathatic response. The writing choices made in this chapter show how universal some things can be. Players who were, or knew rebellious teens will definitely recognise many of the lines, or have heard very similar ones. The real kudos has to go to the voice actors, however, since even great writing can fall flat when badly acted. Fortunately Rhianna DeVries and Kylie Brown nail Chloe and Rachel respectively, and moments of high emotion become almost tangible thanks to them.
It’s unfortunate that there are still some issues with Before The Storm. Some of the animation elements, while consistent with the original, could be better. Many of the facial expressions or body movements look awkward, similar to seeing a robot trying to pass as human but just not quite getting there. Better references are definitely needed for the animation team. With Square Enix involved it could be expected that improvements on the first game could – and should – have been made, especially given how well gamers know they can animate. Regardless, these issues should have been raised at the quality control stage. Aside from the animation concerns, the control system is still a pain. As with the first chapter the sliding scale they use to allow players to change the sensitivity of the camera remains difficult to get into just the right spot between whiplash-city and snail-town. Not a deal-breaker, but certainly annoying.
At the end of the chapter you are again provided with a Collectible Mode. Like Awake, this allows you to explore alternative dialogue options and find missed graffiti spots without affecting the decisions you made earlier. This remains an excellent way for players to find out if they made the ‘right’ choice, but if you are looking to try several dialogue choices for a scene or if you’re really struggling to find a certain graffiti spot it can be frustrating at times. While you are able to skip through cutscenes or dialogue you’ve already watched, new choices can make a difference to how they play out so it’s often wise to watch them again anyway. For choice-heavy scenes this can mean sitting through the same scenes over and over again if you have a lot of different options to try out. That said, it’s still a brilliant way to allow players to try different strategies without changing the story, and something that it would be nice to see Telltale Games adopting in the future.
Brave New World is a truly exceptional second chapter to Before The Storm, and carries through the themes and emotions from the first beautifully. The story continues to be enthralling, and getting to know the characters and their motivations better is a lot of fun. Having the option to be the hero in some situations is also a refreshing change, though long-time fans of Life is Strange will know Chloe is nowhere near as misanthropic as she likes to pretend to be. Hopefully Chapter Three will round the story off nicely, perhaps with a happy ending even?
Verdict-8.5 out of 10
We were provided a copy of the game by Square Enix for review purposes on PS4.