Spoilers ahead for the episodic games Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Life is Strange.
Much of the mystery of the episodic game of Dontnod Life is Strange focuses on a demise. When the popular Rachel Amber disappears, her absence establishes the story, about a teenager named Max who can rewind time and her best friend Chloe, who is in love with Rachel, on the move. In the end, you learn that Rachel can not be saved, and Chloe can also be doomed, depending on how you play.
Last year, developer Deck Nine released a prequel game called Before the Storm, a bittersweet opportunity to see the fleeting happiness of the budding relationship between Chloe and Rachel, with the knowledge that it is not meant to last. To bring that point home, Deck Nine closed the game with a final divisive scene that provided controversy even among its creators.
Through the three episodes of the prequel, the players watch how Rachel and Chloe fall in love and navigate the ups and downs of their relationship. As the final episode of Before the Storm comes to a close, the montage of their relationship ends with a particularly gruesome reminder: Rachel has been captured, drugged and tortured off the screen. Players can only see how Rachel's unattended phone buzzes incessantly with Chloe's missed calls, while a camera's focus lights from the corner. The moment, instantly controversial among fans, with many who consider it "frustrating" and painful, has been difficult for the narrative director and main writer Zak Garriss as well. "I still wonder if it's the right move," he tells The Verge.
The end was not a "quick" or hasty idea, says Garriss. "I think we planned a version of that scene at least before we started writing a script for episode 3. Honestly, we could have had a version of that in place before we started writing the script for episode 1." The team wanted to play with the idea of photo booths and images, moments still spliced with animated shots of Chloe and Rachel, as a metaphor of what is Before the Storm: a snapshot of happier times, or a kind of "taste experience" for Chloe.
"One of the main themes of the story has to do with how we treat the truth and the ways in which we use truth and deception to manipulate the people around us," Garriss says, "and what that means and the type of the inherent value of the truth, but I think the game as a whole, Before the Storm, is a suspension of the truth for a moment. "The last picture of Rachel's phone, where players can see how many times Chloe has called, I intended to talk to her. tenacity. "You can imagine that girl putting posters on every surface of Blackwell," says Garriss.
"What we meant was the decision to essentially witness the truth"
But Garris feels that this moment, which some considered shocking, could have been portrayed slightly differently. "I'll tell you the bulb goes off, I did not want to do that," says Garriss. "I deliberately did not want to do that, other developers … they decided to do that in response to a very particular note we got, and when I saw it, it was really annoying, because it was like, and I know it sounds silly, it was too far for me I did not like to actively show that outside of the frame, something is happening at the moment, I felt a bit more visceral than I wanted to go. " Garriss adds that the team is probably "the least safe" about it. "I still think about that, I think I have not finished thinking about that."
The real tragedy of Before the Storm is that Chloe's happiness with Rachel exists only in this window. Garriss says that, for better or for worse, that was the team's thinking behind the end of the game. "What we came to the conclusion was essentially to certify the truth in the end," he says. Whether it arises as anger, bitterness or impotence for the player, everything is based on a simple idea: "With that final moment, [we’re not trying] surprise our players or hit them in the stomach or something like that, but just do something I think that this medium only really can do, what makes you feel like Chloe felt. "