By Nicole Prieto | Staff Writer
Deck Nine’s prequel to the first season of Life is Strange officially concluded last December, leaving players to decide the fate of Rachel Amber’s relationships with her parents. But fans who bought the Before the Storm Deluxe Edition have been left clamoring for the game’s bonus episode, released March 6 — starring 14-year-old and 13-year-old Chloe Price and Max Caulfield, respectively. “Farewell” marks fans’ last opportunity to spend time with these memorable characters and does not disappoint in going out with an emotional bang.
It is September 2008. Chloe and Max, tasked with clearing out some of Chloe’s old things in her bedroom, have come up with a unique solution for getting rid of a few dolls: blow them up with firecrackers. Property damage and fun and games aside, it turns out the girls have more problems than either is willing to admit to the other upfront. Chloe just started high school at the prestigious Blackwell Academy and is dealing with its naturally attendant drama. Max is struggling to tell her best friend that she is moving to Seattle in only a few days. With the pair’s time together short, they make the most of the afternoon with one last adventure courtesy of their childhood selves: finding the mysterious treasure they hid away five years ago.
The episode marks the return of voice actors Ashly Burch and Hannah Telle as Chloe and Max, respectively. While Rhianna DeVries is a pretty amazing Chloe all throughout BTS, bringing back the original magic of Burch’s voice in an episode centered on the series’ main protagonists is fitting. Telle reinvokes the voice she used for young Max in the LIS photo flashbacks, sounding softer and more cautious than her older counterpart. The improved lip-syncing and facial expressions that Deck Nine employs in BTS carries over into “Farewell,” making Chloe and Max’s interactions lively and interesting.
Gameplay wise, Deck Nine has certainly honored its commitment to the series’ love of fetch quests. As Max, players are tasked with running around Chloe’s attic and backyard to retrieve items crucial to finding the treasure. In some ways, the episode is a lite version of Gone Home — minus any real puzzles. The charm is ultimately in Max’s propensity to snoop and reflect on every object she observes, which comes with consequences. Players can choose, for example, to dig deeper into the things troubling Chloe in her early days at Blackwell. Beyond that, try not to get too excited at the idea of picking up objects and shoving around furniture.
This is not an episode that capitalizes on mechanics like time traveling or back-talking; it is all about character development. The levelheadedness that Chloe displays in “Farewell” is almost jarring. She is still playfully foul-mouthed, but she lacks the defensiveness and emotional barriers that players have contended with from the get-go in the series. From Max’s perspective in LIS to Chloe’s abrasive personality in BTS, we have expected seeing Chloe occasionally react in excess to innocuous situations. It is a sad reminder (yet again) of how her father’s death and Max’s departure radically affected her life, and it gives us more insight on how Max struggled to get on par with Chloe in early LIS scenes.
Deck Nine leaves players various hints about the kind of person Chloe used to be: a nearly straight-A junior high report card, neatly scripted homework assignments from her childhood and a decidedly un-punk bedroom proudly displaying Max’s early photos. But some things never change, either. Chloe is endlessly sentimental and wears her heart on her sleeve. She has a hard time throwing anything out in her room no matter how much it makes sense to do so. And though Chloe might deny being gushy, she will not let Max forget about how much Chloe cares for her.
Not unexpectedly, the bonus episode is the shortest of any in the series with a runtime of about two hours. At the Deluxe Edition’s price, it would have been nice to see more content, particularly if it meant coming at the expense of Mixtape Mode or the Outfit Pack. At the very least, seeing Chloe and Max spend time outside of the bounds of the Price household — say, the beach, lighthouse or even Max’s home — would have been interesting. Deck Nine may have missed an opportunity to put the pair on a more memorable journey tracing their childhoods together, but at least it did not miss the mark in wrapping up their story.
Regardless of what can be said about the endings for LIS and BTS, Deck Nine’s biggest accomplishment in “Farewell” is giving us a polished product from start to finish. The story rewards players who take the time to interact with every object in each area. From a pair of concert tickets, we learn that Max’s awkward dance moves in LIS Episode 1 may have been gleaned from younger Chloe. And throwing around a ball in the backyard can trigger a particularly touching scene between the pair. “Farewell” is a serious reflection on Max and Chloe’s ironclad relationship that stays true to the characters whose shoes we have gotten to walk in. If you can bear the mood whiplash, it is an episode worth revisiting again.