Quick Thoughts on Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 3: Hell is Empty

According to the game's post-credits statistics screen, there's a fifty-fifty split (or 49% to 51%, to be precise) in the user base between people who chose to tell the truth to Rachel in the final scene of Before the Storm and those who chose not to. As far as metrics go, that's a pretty good indication that developer Deck Nine managed to create a meaningfully difficult choice for players to wrestle with and disagree about.

But none of that would matter at all without us being invested in the characters, and that is the true triumph of this unlikely prequel as a whole. Despite the developer-related changes and the first Life is Strange's near-apocalyptic ending, Before the Storm delivers a strong narrative experience which complements and to some extent surpasses its predecessor. It was a risky move to let players finally meet the near-mythical Rachel - whose mysterious absence cast such a long shadow over Dontnod's original episodic adventure - but the new writers and actors strike a near-perfect balance between mesmerizing charisma and authentic teenage angst in bringing this remarkable girl to life. Although Deck Nine doesn't do a whole lot with recurring characters such as Nathan or David, Chloe's newfound friends from Blackwell are better than most of the supporting cast from LiS and that annoying boyfriend-wannabe Eliot is a quintessential "nice guy" which the script rightfully exposes as a self-obsessed creep.

Most importantly of all, Before the Storm replicates the unflinching earnestness of Dontnod's game and treats its young protagonists with the emotional seriousness that they deserve. And to be honest, some of that dialogue which sounds cringeworthy to a 35-year old like me is probably just fine with the game's target demographic; i.e. just the kind of players who would agree with Chloe that there's nothing inherently wrong about dyeing your hair blue (even though their parents might wearily ask, just like Patty Chase did in My So-Called Life, if it died of natural causes...).

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