Considering that Life Is Strange: Before the Storm's final instalment is all about the consequences lies can have on our lives, we'll be honest from the outset: Hell Is Empty is awkwardly paced. The third and final entry in Deck Nine’s prequel short story feels like it’s got a lot to say, resulting in an episode that tries really hard to tie up any remaining plot threads without ever taking the time to breathe.
It means that you may, depending upon your previous decisions, end up playing tabletop games in a hospital room while Rachel Amber waits desperately for you down the hall. You can choose to ignore some of these sub-plots, of course, but the series’ story-telling is so strong that you’ll want to spend the extra time with your friends; the story probably could have benefited from an extra episode.
Still, this season must be applauded for achieving the impossible; those who played the original Life Is Strange will be aware just how much of an impression Miss Amber left on Arcadia Bay before her disappearance, and the developer had to demonstrate just what made her special. In actual fact, it’s created an enormously nuanced character, who’s both a star-in-the-making and a damaged teenager all at the same time.
Rebellious protagonist Chloe Price is the conduit for peeling back those layers, and the pair’s love story is one that will leave a lump in your throat – especially when you know where it ends. Episode 3 is all about the trust between the pair, and whether you decide to be honest about the revelations you uncover regarding her home life – or spare her the heart ache. There’s no real right answer, and that’s perfect.
Unfortunately, as mentioned, there are a few threads that seem to get in the way of Chloe and Rachel’s story. Eliot, who’s been sliding into Chloe’s DMs since day one, finally emerges as a meaningful character, but his creeper story arc feels forced and unnecessary, and you get the impression the developer could have done more with this if it had additional time.
Similarly, the plot involving Rachel’s family seems rushed, with major revelations happening at a pace that's far too forced. An extra episode would have helped the story to breathe, although we respect Deck Nine’s decision to stick with a three act arc. And considering the constraints it’s had to navigate, it’s done an incredible job of revealing Chloe’s backstory – although her charged relationship with Rachel has left us questioning why she’d be so drawn to the comparatively dowdy Max, despite them being childhood BFFs.
Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is more down to Earth than the main campaign, and it’s actually better for it. Deck Nine’s done an incredible job of working within the boundaries that DONTNOD’s story set, and its biggest achievement is characterising the enigmatic Rachel Amber, who’s both intoxicating and fragile all at the same time. Episode 3: Hell Is Empty feels like it could use a little more breathing room, but it crescendos with a gorgeous conclusion that’s as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking. After all, we already know where this story ends.