Life is Strange: Before the Storm- Episode 3 “Hell is Empty” Review

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Posted December 22, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Deck Nine

Publisher: Square Enix

Release date: December 19, 2017

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

And so the prequel arrives at the end. Episode 3 of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, titled “Hell is Empty”, provides a bridge to the events of Life is Strange (mainly through a post credits scene)), and it does so with better writing than the previous two episodes. Sadly, lackluster voice acting detracts from the good writing, undermining the dramatic impact this should have had. Those who sprung for the deluxe version of the prequel will be getting a bonus episode with the original voice actors (thanks in part due to the voice actors strike being settled), but those with the standard edition arrive at the end. While it does tie the two together, it still feels as if something’s missing.

“Hell is Empty” picks up right where “Brave New World” left off. Rachel learns a secret about her parents, and naturally Chloe has to help. Things of course don’t go as planned, with a dangerous encounter thrown in, along with a bit of violence and a race to attempt to make things right. The writing is for the most part spot on here, with the most realistic dialogue spouted in the prequel (one character encounter felt a bit awkward, but that was the exception to an otherwise fine script). If only the voice actors could have put some emotion into their delivery, instead of the robotic readings we got. The episode runs two to three hours, depending on how much time you take interacting with characters and items. Gameplay is really at a minimum here, with only one Backtalk sequence to deal with. The episode really only has you making choices in conversations, with the biggest choice saved for the end.

But again, the choices don’t have as much weight, as we know the ultimate conclusion here, somewhat hinted at in a post credits cut scene. We already know what happens to Rachel in the end, though there still seems to be a key scene missing as to what happened immediately following the end of this episode, which finds Chloe and Rachel in a happy place. That tends to be the problem with most prequels- we already know the outcome, so the suspense is completely neutralized. The key to making a prequel work is to make it interesting and give us information that satisfyingly fills in the gaps for us. Life is Strange: Before the Storm does that to an extent, but not in a very good fashion.

Episode 3 wraps things up serviceably, and serviceable is the best way to describe the whole prequel. While the characters are good, and the soundtrack by Daughter is terrific, the voice acting really brings this down, robbing it of the dramatic weight it should have had. Thankfully, this finale avoided the more cringe inducing moments of the previous two episodes. But it feels a bit empty and hollow, even as we can understand Rachel a bit more, and why Chloe was so attached to her. It does succeed in giving us a fuller story, when taken in along with the events in Life is Strange, but we have little action to participate in, as one big scene unfolds with us as a spectator and not in control of what happens. So we just have a couple of clues to seek out and make responses in conversations, with little else for us to do. Wisely, Deck Nine kept this short, as drawing it out any longer would have been even less satisfying. While this is worth checking out for those who loved the original game and wanted more, it just falls short of what it could have been. Hopefully, if Square Enix decides on a sequel, we’ll have Dontnod in charge again, and, even more importantly, the original voice cast.



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7.5

Final Score

7.5 /10

Pros

  • Great soundtrack
  • Good writing

Cons

  • Lackluster voice acting
  • Minimal gameplay



About the Author

Thomas James Juretus