It was the morning of December 19th, and my alarm was set for 11:55 – five minutes prior to Hell Is Empty’s global release. Enthusiastic, and looking for an emotional episode, I was unfortunately met with disappointment and linear feelings. Like the first season, it was expected that we should prepare our heartstrings, but personally, the finale didn’t live up to the hype.
Weird Decisions and a Lack of Interactivity
* Obligatory Spoiler Warning * After episode 2 finished, questions that ran through player’s minds included: “How does Jefferson come into play? Does Rachel ever meet her mom? What happened after dinner?” Some of these were answered in the final episode, but the most important and expected interaction of all didn’t quite unfold in front of our eyes.
For most of the second half of the 2ish hour episode, Rachel was in the hospital and not totally an active character – an odd decision on D9’s part, but she was the motivation behind Chloe’s actions through the entirety of this part. However, when Chloe ransacked James Amber’s office, and went to go pay off Damon, the storyline became fuzzy.
After Frank came in and scurried off with Damon in a fight, Chloe woke up and appeared in a dream-like atmosphere, only for us to find that it was a real interaction. Sera all of a sudden didn’t want to meet Rachel because she wanted her to have a picture-perfect image of her father. Damon and Frank were gone.
Loose Ends Made the Story Descend
Where did Damon and Frank go? Why did Sera come to Arcadia Bay, make a year-long deal with James, only to back out 3/4ths of the way into the episode? Is Damon Pompidou’s former owner? (Not a hard-hitting question, but: puppy!)
The episode starts off strong, allowing us to take a quick, interactive look through Sera’s life when she met James, and why she wasn’t in Rachel’s life anymore. Unfortunately, we don’t get the same level of interactivity when it came to Rachel and Chloe after Sera’s story faded.
Let’s not forget that in the original season, we found out that Rachel was having a relationship with Frank, and that was never really touched on in Before the Storm – it was almost ignored entirely, besides the one or two instances where Frank seemed interested in Rachel.
Didn’t James Amber wonder who broke into the office? What happened to Eliot’s stalkerish intentions after the cops were called? Why did Rachel’s “adoptive” mom look so much like Samantha – joking aside (sort of), there were an incredible number of loose ends for such a highly anticipated episode.
Students Sneaking Away Without Explanation
Speaking of other students: there were never any backstories given as to why a majority of Blackwell (that we met this season) wasn’t in the first season, since most were in the same grade (or implied). Did Steph Gingrich, Mikey North, Samantha, and Eliot, all transfer or graduate?
The season one scene where Max and Chloe find Rachel’s body in the junkyard was one of the reasons why I wanted to play Before the Storm. The backstory about her mom was the primary bulk of the season, rather than the disappearance of Rachel. I get that they wanted to give off a bit more depth behind Rachel, but since they threw in a small scene with Rachel’s phone ringing in the dark room, it almost felt like a cheap way out to connect the two.
Why focus so much on Sera for most of the season, only for (most) players to have to lie to Rachel about Chloe meeting Sera, and Sera going away? Sera knew that James wasn’t that great of a guy to begin with, especially since he gave her hush money for quite some time. Her changing her mind after the drugging incident seemed rushed. They should have made the Jefferson plot the forefront story if we knew they were just going to do that with Sera.
Immediately upon finishing, my first thought was to pull up the sub-Reddit and see if anyone else was disappointed. While there were naturally many praising the “happy vibes” the ending gave off (pre-credits), many were either disappointed in the lack of content, or completely gutted that they randomly threw in the dark room scene at the end.
After doing a bit more research on other player’s experiences, most players weren’t given the option for Rachel to meet her mom, which felt like a lazy move on their part to some. The only way to meet her mom was to make the correct decision in the second episode – supposedly choosing the bracelet over a kiss.
- Wraps-up some things from season one
- Got to learn a little more about Rachel’s back story
- A slight Life is Strange post-depression fix
- Graphically great, soundtrack also good
- Lots of loose ends – room for an episode 4
- Game isn’t nearly as interactive as the original LiS
- Rachel can’t meet Sera unless you make the right decision in episode 2
- The conversational fight system was non-existent in most of episode 3
Deck Nine came in so strong with Before the Storm, only to leave many hanging. While watching the AmberPrice ship was heartwarming, the episode ultimately lacked in giving us the drama and interactivity with the real meat of the original story: Rachel’s disappearance – a mostly dormant story line in Before the Storm.
There are a hundred loose ends running through my mind, and how there is still so much to learn. If by some miracle Deck Nine comes out with a surprise saying, “Hey! There’s actually a fourth episode”, thrilled wouldn’t even begin to describe my emotions. But for now, we’ll just have to wait for the Farewell bonus episode with Max and Chloe – both roles reprised by the original voice actors, which supposedly takes place five years prior to Before the Storm.