Life is Strange is known for many things, amazing symbolism being one of them. Life is Strange: Before the Storm is rife with symbolism, including what I believe is the main tie in between both games. I caught the initial, small connection at first but didn’t realize how far it went. The Tempest is a storm. The game is called Before the Storm. I thought that was it. It’s not. Let’s take a look.
In Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Blackwell Academy is putting on a high school production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In case your high school didn’t put on a show of The Tempest, or if it did and you just forget, or if you weren’t into theater because you were big hair glasses kid like me, here is a really quick refresher. Prospero is the Duke of Milan who is betrayed by his brother Antonio out of the desire for throne and title. Prospero, along with his daughter Miranda, is then marooned on an island. Prospero is also a sorcerer, and he conjures up a storm (The Tempest) which shipwrecks his brother and King Alonso on the island with them. Miranda meets Alonso’s son Ferdinand, and they begin to fall in love. At first, Prospero isn’t too happy about it, but then he hides in the background and let’s happen whatever will happen. While doing this, Prospero is manipulating other things to get what he wants while basically serving as creator and focal point of what happens on the island. He’s his own version of God, per se. After all, he’s a sorcerer.
It can’t just be a coincidence that Deck Nine Games chose The Tempest as the play in the game. They could have picked any Shakespeare play. After all, they did cast Rachel in the part of a male Prospero and changed her character name to Prospera when there are prominent female characters already in Shakespeare. Just as Prospero is the focal point of what happens on the island, Rachel (Prospera) is the emphasis of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Chloe’s entire story revolves around her. In the original Life is Strange, Rachel is also the focus of the game even though she’s not there. You know, as if she’s hiding in the background like Prospero was. Rachel’s disappearance is what allows Max and Chloe’s relationship to come to fruition in the first place. It’s almost as if she’s giving them her approval, just like Prospero did with Miranda and Ferdinand.
Now, let’s look at the pictures of the show hanging up around campus for The Tempest. There are two people on there. One is Prospera who is played by Rachel. The other is Caliban. In the play, he is the half human-half demon son of a witch. He becomes Prospero’s slave after attempting to rape his daughter Miranda. Caliban then gets pissed off and tries to get everyone else to kill Prospero, but the plan doesn’t exactly work. Here’s the kicker. You ready for this one? Caliban is played by Nathan Prescott. That’s right. The same guy who has a part in killing Rachel in the original Life is Strange is playing a role in a production. In this production, he tries to kill a character being played by the very person he has a part in killing in real life. Coincidence? I think not.
Of course, there is still the most obvious part of the symbolism – The name ‘The Tempest’ – the very thing which wipes out Arcadia Bay. At the end of the episode, we see Rachel kick over a flaming garbage can and set a tree on fire. This is an intentional act, and ironically ties in with what Michael says earlier in the game about how 90% of fires are caused by humans. Rachel is overcome with emotion and let’s out two screams. They are powerful shrieks which sound like banshee yells and reveal that Rachel has some sort of power. Each yell causes plumes of wind to rise from the ground and grow the fire rapidly. It’s clear this is some sort of special power that manifests itself during times of intense emotion. It also seems as if Chloe doesn’t realize it. Take a look at it here along with the video.
As you may have noticed, the wind gusts are the same as the ones that appear in the tornado from the original Life is Strange. Take a gander.
I don’t think that Rachel created a storm as Prospero did in The Tempest. After all, there is too much time in between her disappearance and Max’s return to Arcadia Bay. I do think, however, that Rachel’s spirit became the Tempest, and this would account for the similarities with the wind gusts. Prospero created a tempest which brought Miranda and Ferdinand together in the play. He then manipulates other things on the island to get what he wants as Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love. Since Rachel has powers, I think she became the tempest which brought Max and Chloe together. After all, she loves Chloe, and this could be her way of approving of their relationship as Prospero approved of his daughter’s.
Next up we have the raven in Before the Storm. We’re no strangers to spirit animals, right? Let’s recap. In the first game, the doe is the spirit of Rachel which is guiding Max. Although it was never stated why the form of the doe was chosen, it’s obvious that it was due to Max’s affinity for them. After all, she wears doe t-shirts in the first two episodes. The doe guides Max safely to the lighthouse in the beginning and reveals the storm will happen a short time in the future – October 11th, 2013 to be exact. There’s no connection to the date yet, but I’m waiting for the next two episodes to see if there is some tie-in for this being the storm’s date. Remember who told you.
The doe shows up when Max is walking through the junkyard, and is located precisely over where Rachel is buried. The doe is also not real. It’s not really there. Achievement hunters will remember this because you can scare the doe away and have Max take a picture. The doe is not there when you look at the photograph, and this shows that it truly is a spirit and not an actual doe being ‘possessed’ per se. Once again not coincidentally, the doe shows up in the junkyard when Max and Chloe find Rachel’s remains. In what appears to be a moment of peace, the doe lowers its head in reverence and disappears. The final time only happens if you chose to save Chloe as I did. As Max and Chloe drive away, you can see three deer next to the road. Basically, all three spirits are together.
Now that we’re caught up, let’s get back to that raven, shall we? This thing pops up everywhere, and we see it much more than the doe. It watches over and guides Chloe just like the doe did with Max. We see it outside of Chloe’s home when she first walks out to talk to David. It shows up in the junkyard to guide Chloe to where Rachel went before passing directly over the tree Rachel sets on fire. It’s then found sitting on the roof outside of Frank’s trailer. During Chloe’s second dream sequence, we see the raven appear on the hood of the car directly in front of her father’s apparition. The screen stutters and the raven disappears.
At this point, logic would say the raven is the spirit of Chloe’s dad guiding her to Rachel, and the dream sequence basically confirms this. Her dad’s apparition even mentions that sometimes people need you to help them, and he points to the apparition of Rachel outside of their car. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that. We then see the vision of Rachel catch fire, just as she will cause the tree to be a few minutes later in a bit of foreshadowing.
An image of the raven pops up on a poster of The Tempest production show in the car as well. This time, it’s on top of Chloe’s head as if it’s guiding her. She’s situated directly in between Rachel and Nathan. To me, this is showing that Chloe needs to get in between Rachel and Nathan to prevent her death. Now, obviously we know this doesn’t happen as Rachel ends up dying. Does this mean Chloe fails? We’ll need to wait for the final two episodes to see exactly how this guidance plays out.
When Rachel and Chloe first get to the overlook, there is a totem which resembles the one located outside the dormitories in the original game. In fact, Max even talks to Samuel about the totem and its correlation to spirit animals.
In Before the Storm, the totem is over by the couple eating lunch. It’s a totem of the raven, and it is accompanied by an interesting placard which you can see here.
That last line – “The Raven is to be respected, never trusted”. This caught me a bit off guard at first. Why can’t the raven be trusted if it is her dad’s spirit? Surely her father isn’t going to steer her in the wrong direction, right? I’m thinking this goes along the lines of “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. The raven shouldn’t be taken literally. After all, it is symbolic. He can only show her so much, and then it’s up to her to make her own decisions.
The raven guides Chloe to Rachel but she ends up dying. Rachel then guides Max to the lighthouse where she finds the storm. Max and Chloe end up at the lighthouse at the conclusion of the first game where you make your final choice. In both dream sequences of Before the Storm, Chloe is wearing a t-shirt featuring the Arcadia Bay lighthouse. This happens regardless of whatever outfit you are wearing in the game and is beyond your control. Again, this is a bit of foreshadowing of events to come.
There are still some questions that need to be answered in the final two episodes in order to round out the story. Deck Nine has already stated that this game does not lead into and won’t spoil the original game. Some things to look out for are:
- Will we see Rachel’s relationship with Frank begin to flourish?
- Exactly how far gone is Nathan Prescott at the end of Before the Storm?
- Could this just tie into the original, but end up with a completely separate ending where Rachel and Chloe actually get to leave Arcadia Bay?
The rabid, symbolic connection between The Tempest play and the tempest storm has got me churning. My stomach is already in knots just thinking about it.
Also, what’s the deal with the woman in white? And why is she so chill just smoking a cigarette while the forest burns?
Let us know what you think of the game and its symbolism below.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available now on the Xbox Store.