Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Farewell Review: The End at the Beginning
With Life is Strange 2 coming this fall and Dontnod moving forward with new characters and a new story in that game, it’s only appropriate that the final episode of Life is Strange with Max, Chloe and Arcadia Bay is called Farewell. As you’d expect from Life is Strange, even the title has some depth to it with this bonus episode being our farewell to Max and Chloe along with Max and Chloe’s farewell to each other. That doesn’t answer the question of whether we needed this episode to close the Life is Strange story.
Spoiler Warning: As usual for episodic games, story points from previous episodes will be brought up in this review. If you haven’t played Life is Strange or Life is Strange: Before the Storm, you are likely to have some of it spoiled.
Much like Before the Storm proper, Farewell is the answer to a question that never really needed to be answered. We didn’t really need to play the whole story of what happened between Chloe and Rachel (and we didn’t be we played a pretty important portion of their time together) and we don’t need to know what happened the last time that Max and Chloe saw each other before that fateful week at Blackwell Academy.
The problem with prequels is that there is a canonical inevitability that the writers have to flirt with in order to fit with the original story but they still have to tell a compelling story. Before the Storm’s three episodes accomplished this by establishing Chloe and Rachel’s relationship (albeit, a bit too quickly) with stories that Chloe didn’t tell Max and without completely retreading what we already learned in LiS. Basically, the writers made a story inside the blanks of the story of Chloe and Rachel.
So while Farewell takes place on a fateful day for Max, Chloe and their families, it doesn’t actually really impact or retread the story of the first game or Before the Storm so you get a properly standalone adventure. In fact, working inside the blanks of the LiS story, the folks at Deck Nine actually gave some meaningful decisions that result in this 60 to 90 minute bonus episode having different endings.
It’s really hard to get too far into the content of the episode without spoiling it. Fans of the original game will come away from this differently than those who only played Before the Storm because this is about Chloe and Max rather than Chloe and Rachel. Without the context from Chloe’s adventure with Max from LiS and the establishment of their friendship and story in the first game, I feel that this episode will fall flat for most who have only played BtS.
For those of us who have gone through both LiS1 and BtS, Farewell carries a heavy emotional weight, especially when you realize all that will happen in this episode. One the one hand, it’s unusual that a game that is so strongly based on your decisions and actions effectively puts you on a rail to these events. On the other, the episode is so much stronger because you know where it’s heading and the impact this has on the characters that we know and love without being able to change any of the major events surrounding this episode.
I don’t really praise Deck Nine’s writing of Before the Storm very much but I feel that they earned some kudos for Farewell. Because you know where the characters end up at the start of LiS 1, there’s always a danger of the story being hampered by prequelitis – the difficulty in writing a compelling story because you know the inevitable outcome from the story that follows the prequel as it’s already been told. Before the Storm proper suffered from that because I felt that the decisions pushed you in the direction of what you know (or suspect) of the relationship between Chloe and Rachel. Because of the time Max and Chloe spend apart, how much they changed in their time apart and that there were no major decisions that would hypothetically impact on the story of the first game, Deck Nine managed to dodge that feeling of prequelitis in Farewell.
One of the main reasons to pick up Farewell is because Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch return to reprise their roles as Max and Chloe, presumably for the final time. With the SAG-AFTRA strike coming to an end before the launch of this bonus episode, the pair could come back to voice their characters from the first game. Due to SAG-AFTRA union rules, Burch was on the sidelines for the main story of Before the Storm. I thought that Rihanna DeVries did a fine job as Chloe but it is appropriate that the story ends with the same voices that were with us at the beginning.
One of the main reasons to skip Farewell is the price. It’s only available as part of the Deluxe Edition DLC which is $10. Included with the Deluxe Edition are Mixtape Mode and some bonus outfits. I’m not sure I ever used the DLC outfits but the original concept of people reacting differently to Chloe’s different outfits didn’t seem to be included in the game so those don’t really add anything to the DLC package. Mixtape Mode is supposed to let you choose a song from the soundtrack to play alongside scenes from the game. If this was the amazing soundtrack from LiS 1, I could see some potential value but BtS’s soundtrack wasn’t on that same level.
Basically, Farewell is a $10 bonus episode that adds around an hour to a nine-hour game that you paid $17 for. I can sing its praises all I want but I can’t justify the price of it.
Interestingly, like I reported back in my review of BtS: Episode 2, there were instances of the dialogue audio being cutoff before a character finished speaking. I play with subtitles so it’s not that big a deal for me but it would certainly be frustrating for those who don’t use subtitles. It’s all the worse because Deck Nine got Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch back and their contributions were hampered by a bug that the game had last fall and was fixed before reoccurring. Of course, this happened at the launch of Farewell so it may have been fixed since.
I don’t want to throw out the whole “your mileage may vary” cliché but Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Farewell is definitely a case of that. If you haven’t played the first Life is Strange, a Chloe and Max adventure won’t mean as much to you as those who have played all eight episodes of Life is Strange released before this.
With the context of the preceding 25 or so hours of Life is Strange, the game proverbially hits you in right in the feels like many of the memorable moments of Life is Strange. It really is a wonderful send off for the characters of Max and Chloe, even if we had their story wrapped up almost three years ago.
Rating: 8.0 / 10
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Bonus Episode: Farewell was reviewed on PC but is also available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Your impressions of the game may differ depending on platform played on, PC specs and whether you think that we really needed to have this adventure told to us.