After a short wait it’s time for the final episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and in my opinion this series still has more to do before it reaches the emotional highs of the original game. Does the finale of Before The Storm go out with thunder and lightning, or is it just a bit of light drizzle?
Before you continue, it’s best to read my reviews of both Part 1: Awake and Part 2: Brave New World as these cover the gameplay mechanics that you will find in Hell Is Empty, as well as giving you my opinion on the series so far. If you choose not to read them (Why Not!?) then you need to know that I think that there is too much focus on the character development for my liking. I was missing the raw emotional set-pieces that the original delivered.
Hell Is Empty kicks off right where Brave New World left us, teetering on the edge of an almighty cliff after some shocking news for Rachel. I criticized the previous episodes for spending too much time on character development, but Hell Is Empty definitely doesn’t make that same mistake. Finally, for the first time since the opening of Awake, both Chloe and Rachel are placed in danger, a situation that has been hinted at, with the return of the very much underused bad-guy. This is ramped up mid-way through the episode as one of them has to continue alone in order to resolve their big problem. These scenes are punctuated with moments of humour, especially in a hospital visit to a patient hurt in Brave New World.
The backtalk mechanic is seen much less in this episode, but is replaced with a section of gameplay that’s strangely very reminiscent of LA Noire, as Chloe has to do some investigative work in the DA’s office. This section also includes an encounter that is as creepy and as dangerous as anything else seen in the series so far, especially as it comes from an unlikely source.
In my opinion the whole series deals with grief, as Chloe’s whole story arc up to this point is about her struggling to cope following the loss of her father, but Hell Is Empty finally brings her out of this as she realises that her friends and family are also suffering from their own types of grief. It also does a tremendous job in making us question whether a lie told to protect others from that grief is morally right. In the end Chloe has to make a big decision, similar to those in the original game, which seemed to take an age for me to think about! Although here I found the decision to be an easy choice, I am sure others will spend a lot longer on the moral ambiguity!
Hell is Empty does a good job ending on a pretty positive note, but this does feel slightly convenient in certain cases, as Chloe’s relationship with her mum and David is so fraught throughout the first two episodes. And although it improves in part three it is far from resolved, but the ending montage hints otherwise, which doesn’t quite sit right. The first two episodes also featured the raging forest fire which gave a sense of impending doom to the proceedings, but this is dismissed with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it single line of dialogue along the lines of “oh yeah, the fires out” which felt like a huge narrative mistake. But there is a post credit sequence calling back to the impending event from the original game, and is a emotional punch to the gut after that somewhat uplifting ending.
Overall, Hell Is Empty is the outstanding highlight of the series, bringing emotion, fear, sadness and joy all in a two hour gaming session. Still not quite to the standard of its predecessor, but I think we all agree that would have unlikely anyway. Fans of the original will come away feeling very satisfied.
Thanks to Xbox and Dontnod Entertainment for supporting TiX