Spoiler warning: Life Is Strange and Episodes 1 and 2 of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm
I cringe and shout in the anticipation of pain to come at the glowing screen. The truly terrifying moments come from the build towards an inevitable end that a character can’t see coming. Like a voyeur, the audience must sit in silence, an accomplice in the plot’s attempt to ruin lives.
In the case of the beloved, vulgar protagonist of Life Is Strange prequel Before The Storm, Chloe Price’s fate is a foregone conclusion carried in a whirlwind of teenage romance, melodrama, regret, and death.
That doesn’t make the twists and turns of the journey that delivered her to that end any more anxiety-ridden. Like listening to a voicemail or reading a text from someone long since passed away, the tension breaks our heart all over again, with the knowledge of inevitable conclusions hanging overhead like impending downpour.
Chloe walks down a street dipped in darkness with love interest, curious case, occasional pyromaniac, and misunderstood “cool girl” Rachel Amber. The only light showing the way for the two teens are the errant lamp post and the haunting hue of a forest fire glowing in the fictitious Arcadia Bay, Oregon skybox — A fire started by Rachel Amber in a fit of rage from discovering her father’s supposed infidelity.
The best parts of Before The Storm to this point are the smaller moments, allowing the two seemingly star-crossed girls be awkward and ablaze in the anticipation of romance… At least for a little while. After all, we know that the end result for both is a series of broken promises, regret, and their own deaths.
This allows for moments that verge on teen lit romance, as these two people find each other in that clumsy, wonderful way that any relationship worth starting often have, even as the haze of what’s to come hangs over every line of dialog.
Still, they walk and stumble, both over their words and over each other, all in the best ways. I smile for a brief moment, glad to see the small things work out for these two, though this moment is fleeting.
After all, I can’t help but cringe and spot for the monster laying in wait at the end of this story. Even worse, Chloe never receives any permanent redemption that doesn’t exist in the mind of Life Is Strange protagonist Max, as the timelines at the end of that game mean that Chloe is just another broken kid from a broken home who died too young.
So, they walk. I watch and wait, eager for the coming climax but knowing what is behind the proverbial door. The romance between Chloe and Rachel — in my game, at least — in Before The Storm fills in the blanks from the first game in a satisfying way, even as it reveals horrible truths that shade each interaction in different ways.
There’s a scene before the play in Episode 2 where Chloe is able to draw graffiti on a mirror, with one option showing a noose and X’ed out eyes layered over Chloe’s image in the reflection. Multiple scenes show the two talking about their plans to leave Arcadia Bay and moving on to bigger and better things.
Foreshadowing is a specter in Before The Storm, with each scene leaving me feeling like I should be tugging at my collar in an exaggerated manner and sighing in memoriam.
Regardless of how Episode 3 changes the story so far, or going forward, these scenes are much needed catharsis for myself and anyone else who needed to know the why and what of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. Their romance causes my teeth to grind as my body clinches in anticipation of furious shipping and broken hearts.
For now, I’ll remember their walk down a street at night and ignore the echo of a scream from the future that reverberates into the past. At least they’ll always have that moment.
Contact Will Harrison on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison or email firstname.lastname@example.org