Brave New World: Life Is Strange Episode 2 review

Episode 2: Brave New World opens the morning after the cataclysmic events that episode 1 left us brooding over. Called into the principal’s office to face the consequences of ditching school, the player can manoeuvre a variety of interactions based on their choices from the first episode, choosing a path that can lead to Chloe’s expulsion from school or Rachel’s removal from the school play.

Being brought jarringly into the ‘real world’, the player finds themselves once more dealing with Chloe’s home-life and her struggles to free herself from the grasp of her mum’s new boyfriend without causing further hurt within the family.

Travelling to the junkyard where Chloe and Rachel’s day off from school ultimately brought them, Chloe finds a truck and an old building which she begins to salvage and revamp, waiting for Rachel to join her and go over the previous day’s events. Wondering whether or not the events are real, the pair sit in the truck to play another game in which they learn more about each other and open up further. The fire that is gripping the town as a result of Rachel’s actions looms constantly in the background, a reminder of what has happened and how quickly things are changing for the girls.

After Rachel leaves, Chloe receives a text from her drug dealer, Frank, and we follow as she gets herself caught up in a dangerous errand in the seedy underworld of Arcadia Bay. A good contrast to the life she led before the events of episode 1, Chloe finds herself trying to remain on the peripheral while gaining information about the mysterious woman met in the first episode and gain money and pay off debts, so she and Rachel can run away together.
Returning to Blackwell Academy and paying a visit to the boy’s dorms, we once more have an opportunity to interact with Chloe’s schoolmates and even some familiar faces from the first Life is Strange series.

Chloe strikes a deal with her drug dealer, Frank, to pay off debts and make some money

The back-talk ability introduced in the first episode continues to be rarely implemented and often comes in scenarios where, depending on how the player is portraying Chloe, is better if not used at all. The biggest example of this comes at a pinnacle moment in the game where Chloe is faced with standing up to Rachel’s dad or letting Rachel do it herself. The played can choose to use the ability, causing a scene at the dinner table and eventually bringing Rachel into the argument, but this moment may be passed over by those who feel it kinder to let Rachel confront her father about what the girls witnessed last episode instead.

Given Chloe’s character, the back-talk ability could be used to greater effect to push Chloe onwards in the game, and having it used sparingly throughout for trivial interactions suggests the developers themselves are unsure of how to effectively implement the ability. Perhaps instead of using her abilities to make a security guard uncomfortable enough to let her pass, Chloe should have been given the opportunity to use her ability to face the angry drug dealer she faces as a result of being allowed in the building.

It is here that it becomes clear that the softer side of Chloe is being pushed through by the storyline, regardless of the player’s choices. While, for many, the appeal of Chloe’s relationship and seeing what lies underneath is the appeal of the game, it would feel more genuine for the conflicted, argumentative teen to struggle with both sides of her personality as everything around her begins to change.

Rachel surprises Chloe and the crowd by improvising her lines on stage

Following this confrontation, Chloe removes herself from the drama – to attend the school play. A quick search of the backstage area has her overhearing an argument between father and son of the wealthiest, most powerful family in town, giving a friend advice and witnessing Rachel’s understudy attempting to lace Rachel’s tea before the show. The player can choose to confront Victoria about this or try and outsmart her, once more coming to Rachel’s aid and ensuring the play stays on track.

Until, of course, a dramatic turn of events that forces Chloe herself into makeup and costume, walking across stage and reciting lines she has had mere moments to memorize. While on stage, Chloe is once more faced with Rachel’s unpredictability as she begins to improvise, speaking of their own relationship through the character of Prospera. With a variety of choices, the player can once more reveal to Rachel (and the crowd) how she really feels about her.

This declaration is continued after the show in a dialogue between Rachel and Chloe that allows the player the chance to push their relationship forward, a multiple choice allowing Chloe to ask for one of three things in order for Rachel to gain her complete trust; Rachel gives Chloe her bracelet, gets a tattoo of Chloe’s design, or gives Chloe a kiss. The choice leaves the girls promising to run away together and leave Arcadia Bay that night.

Chloe and Rachel discuss the days events and make further plans to run away together

A short and sweet respite from all the drama of the second episode, the player is allowed some moments to see Rachel and Chloe really take time to appreciate their newfound, fiery relationship, before once more facing hot tempers and an onslaught of emotions.

An attempt to pack their bags turns into being persuaded to have dinner with Rachel’s family, a confrontation, and an even bigger cliff hanger than episode 1.

Brave New World is a fast-paced, emotional episode that leaves the player desperate for Chloe’s life to get better, and remain so. The upswing taken in this episode with regards to her relationship with Rachel does little to allow the player to forget the outcome of the first series, but allows, perhaps, for hope that at least one episode will have good things for the damaged teen we have come to love.

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