By the time I’d walked out of Deck Nine’s closed doors presentation of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm at E3 2017, one thing had been made abundantly clear to me: Rachel Amber was not as perfect as the original series made her out to be.
Throughout the five episodes, Rachel Amber was always portrayed as the mystery girl, the enigma. The students of Blackwell talked about her like she was the perfect cool girl around school, that everyone looked to her for everything, and that she could do no wrong. For the majority of the game, we saw Rachel through Chloe’s eyes. Her view of the missing girl always felt romanticized, compounded by a moment in the game when she claimed that Rachel was always too good for Arcadia Bay.
You can get hints here and there in the game suggesting that Rachel isn’t all that flawless after all, but the message comes through loud and clear in Before the Storm.
During the presentation, we were treated to various scenes from the new series’ first episode. One particular scene features the pair hanging out at a park as they spy on various park goers while trying to act out what they might be thinking. At Rachel’s suggestion, of course. She’s a girl who loves games, acting, and lying. Without warning, she starts walking away from Chloe in a huff, impatiently complaining that she thought hanging out with the infamous Chloe Price meant getting wasted in the middle of the day.
The next scene places them at their iconic junkyard hangout spot, except it hasn’t quite become their hangout spot just yet. Rachel’s in a bad mood, and when Chloe asks why she’s being grumpy, she snaps at her, accusing her of being self-centered and only ever thinking of her own happiness. Keep in mind that this game takes place two years after the death of Chloe’s father, and she’s still dealing with that. Not to mention Max’s sudden move to Seattle without saying a word to her. Chloe’s going through some shit here, so her brusque mannerisms aren’t exactly unjustified.
Even as Chloe tries to cheer her up by giving her a baseball bat to smash up some trash (“She gets smashy when she’s angry,” says Chloe), Rachel ungratefully tosses the bat aside and walks away. From here, it’s pretty clear that Rachel Amber had some issues, and she certainly wasn’t the perfect girl of Blackwell.
Before the Storm takes place during a tumultuous time in Chloe’s life. She’s resorted to regular rebellious behavior after the loss of Max and her dad, and she’s obviously suffering from an emotional disconnection with people around her. Rachel is presented as the popular girl in school, complete with charismatic charm and flawless grades. She’s the exact opposite of Chloe, and when they actually connect (on some screwed up level) and become friends, Chloe’s finally able to open up a little bit and she does all she can to latch on to this newfound relationship. Compare Chloe’s attitude towards Max in the early hours of Life Is Strange to how she behaves around Rachel in Before the Storm, and it’s obvious that Chloe’s significantly less brusque with the latter.
The idea of a Life Is Strange prequel sounds rather unappealing on its own, but when it’s a brand new story about Rachel Amber, AKA the biggest mystery of all and the primary driving force behind the original game’s narrative, suddenly it becomes a whole lot more interesting.
Before the Storm promises to explore the relation between these two girls and finally give us the full story on what Rachel Amber was really like. That’s something worth looking out for.