I’ve spent many hours (re)playing the whole Life is Strange series over the last couple of months. Even though I liked the original game very much at the time of its release, it’s one of those rare games that I’ve come to appreciate more over time, and I think Before the Storm helped in that regard, retroactively giving more nuance and weight to the events of the first game. Unlike, say, the Metal Gear Solid series, the Life is Strange ‘universe’ (forgive me) is very lean and focused despite this expansion; one of the reasons for this being that rather than adding ever more ‘lore’ or ‘content’ to the ‘universe’ (god I’m so sorry), it essentially stays focused on one period in one person’s life: the teenage years of Chloe Price. Still, there’s a cumulative effect that is greater than the sum of its parts, layers of stories creating an illusion of the weight of memories and the passage of time that is rare in games (or perhaps any medium).
For a series that has accrued such emotional power among players over time, a Farewell episode may seem like a sensible, but also a potentially dangerous move. Too strong, I suspected, might be the temptation to create something self-indulgent, kitschy and overly sentimental; in other words, trite fan service. Luckily, Farewell is not that. And while it may not be the strongest story or episode of the series, it is a satisfying if painful ‘conclusion’ that also happens to be quite thought-provoking. I always thought that there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Life is Strange, and especially Before the Storm, and that in some ways, they have received less attention than they deserve. The same will certainly be true for Farewell, seeing as it’s sadly a bonus episode exclusive to buyers of the “deluxe” version.
What struck me the most while playing Farewell was its ambiguity, its refusal to tell you definitely how to feel about the events that unfold. Is this the story of a life destroyed by a callous universe, of a teenage girl stripped of her future? Or is it a story of hope and companionship against all odds, an invitation to focus on the positive amidst the tragic? I’m not here to answer this question, but to show how Farewell keeps this ambiguity from collapsing in on itself throughout the entirety of the episode.
On the surface, Farewell gives us a chance to experience an episode in the lives of Max and Chloe in a state of ‘innocence’, prior to their separation and William’s death. We see the two girls goofing around, blowing up dolls and playing make-believe in their pirate world. After the heaviness of Life is Strange and Before the Storm, this is a refreshing change of pace away from all the high stakes and the drama. There’s a light-hearted silliness that pervades the better part of Farewell; awkward roleplay and cheesy pirate-speak. It unabashedly embraces the charming ‘cringiness’ of the series, even acknowledges it by letting Max point out how dorky and ridiculous their make-believe truly is.