Life is Strange: Before the Storm is one of those rare spin-offs that’s actually better than the original. With a richer story and deeper characters, its shorter three episode arch leaves a greater impact than Dontnod’s Life is Strange. With the bonus episode Farewell, developer Deck Nine is taking a shot at one of the defining aspects of the original – the relationship between Chloe Price and Max Caulfield. How did they do?
The Caulfield in the Room
The first thing to understand about Farewell is that it’s not really part of Before the Storm. It relies more heavily on your knowledge of Life is Strange than Deck Nine’s own game. The story picks up just before Max leaves Arcadia Bay (and Chloe) for Seattle, a jarring introduction to these two characters if you haven’t played the first game.
Another jarring change is the protagonist. Rather than playing as Chloe as you did in Before the Storm, you’re instead back in the shoes of Max. As I discussed in my video on Life is Strange, Max Caulfield was always the weakest link of that game – she was a bland, boring protagonist with no real life of her own, and playing as Chloe in Before the Storm drove that point home.
Well, for better or worse, Deck Nine remains true to Max’s character. She’s still as interesting as watching already dry paint just sitting there. The bulk of this episode she spends weighting a moral conundrum that anyone else would have seen the clear and obvious answer to the moment the problem was presented to them, but Max has a habit of drawing even the simplest issues into an insurmountable obstacle.
Some have compared her actions to anxiety, but in a series where the player supposedly has control over the plot and can make dialog options, it feels alienating to suddenly not have any control. It feels less like Max has to make a tough decision, and more like you’re being railroaded down a certain path, negating any point the developers might be trying to make about mental health issues. Sure, dialog options are still present in Farewell, but they don’t influence the plot at all, dictating only what lines of dialog are read by the actors.
Another change that might throw some people off are those actors. Before the Storm featured a different ensemble to Life is Strange due to the Video Game Voice Actor’s Strike, but now that the strike is over, the original actors are back for this episode. If you’re just coming off playing the three episodes of Before the Storm, it may sound strange to suddenly hear Ashly Burch voicing Chloe rather than Rhinna DeVries.
However, this is something you quickly get over, even if you haven’t played the original game, as this original cast is a vast upgrade over Before the Storm’s actors. The age difference between Chloe now and then helps as well. It’s great to hear the original actors again, even if it is just Burch, Telle, and Joe Ochman as William, Chloe’s dad – sorry Joyce fans, she only has a non-speaking role at the end.
A Story Worth Telling
Farewell is light on gameplay even for a Life is Strange game, but that’s okay, because the selling point of this hour long bonus episode is it’s story. As the name implies this is a farewell, as it chronicles the final time Max and Chloe see each other until the events of Dontnod’s game… I’m tired of saying Life is Strange so I’m trying to mix it up.
The plot is pretty heavy hitting for what is intended to be an optional extra, but both it and the grand farewell itself are disguised perfectly under a pirate adventure Chloe and Max go on, trying to find a treasure they buried somewhere five years prior.
Unfortunately, given this episode is so short, you can’t talk anymore about the story without spoiling anything. Suffice to say, Max remains an uninteresting character, leaving Chloe to carry the game singlehandedly, something she still does a great job of. This short hour of content reinforces my belief that Ashly Burch is the best voice actress in the business today, and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the industry and community realizes that as well.
But the Farewell of the title has a second meaning. This is also our last goodbye to both Chloe Price and Maxine Caulfield period. While development of Life is Strange: Season 2 is underway by Dontnod, they’ve already confirmed it will feature an entirely new cast of characters in a new setting. Max and Chloe’s story is now officially done.
In that regard, Farewell does a nice job of tying up loose ends that we didn’t even know where there, continuing on from Before the Storm shedding light on key events that well and truly deserve to be in that light. The writing is on par with Before the Storm, maybe even slightly better as you really get the sense that you’re hanging out with two thirteen year old girls, and let me tell you, as a grown man, I felt pretty creepy several times while playing this. I’m not sure if that’s a point in the game’s favor or not, so do with that what you will.
A Missed Opportunity
Ultimately, Farewell tells a fantastic story, though it’s not exactly anything revolutionary. If you don’t get this episode, you’re not going to miss any grand revelations. And in some ways, that’s a bit of a shame. One thing we’ve never done between the first Life is Strange, Before the Storm, and now Farewell is see this friendship dynamic through Chloe’s eyes.
Given you spend all of Before the Storm playing as Chloe, I was kinda stunned when Deck Nine said we’d be playing as Max again. Wasn’t the whole point of your three episodes supposed to show us the world from Chloe’s point of view? So why don’t we get to see this part of her history through her eyes, we have to go back to boring Max? Oh well, it’s never going to happen now. Again, this was meant to just be a bonus to get people to pre-order the game when it was first announced, or to get the collector’s edition now, it’s not meant to revolutionize the franchise.
And on that criteria, I’d say it does the job. Chloe is still great, her dad is awesome, and while Max is boring, seeing these two interact still almost makes me wish I had friends. The story is poignant and touching as always, and the ending did make me cry, even though everyone’s bound to see it coming a mile away.
- Chloe is still great, fun and interesting and Ashly Burch does a great job selling her as a 13 year old girl going through hell, yet trying to hide it.
- The story hits all the right beats, camouflaging its main story brilliantly behind a quest for “pirate treasure.”
- This is a great goodbye to a story we’ve fallen in love with over the years.
- Max is still boring.
- Not playing as Chloe feels like a missed opportunity.
Farewell simultaneously didn’t need to do a lot as a nice extra for those who pre-ordered the base game, but also had the monumental task of sending off not one but two protagonists fans have fallen in love with over the years. It straddles that line perfectly with excellent dialog, fantastic acting, and a nifty plot structure that elevates this episode to one fans of the game must play, even if it won’t blow anyone’s minds.