Warning! Major spoilers for Life is Strange and Before the Storm lie ahead. This action will have consequences.
When Square Enix/Dontnod's Life is Strange was released back in 2015, it left gamers emotionally drained in the best way possible. A story of friendship, time travel and mysterious goings-on, the episodical video game captured the zeitgeist of teen angst in a sleepy Pacific Northwest town perfectly, and launched a cult following of devoted fans.
Earlier this year, Square Enix announced it was partnering with Deck Nine to develop a three-part prequel revolving around the character of Chloe Price, set three years before the events of #LifeIsStrange. Before The Storm Episode 1: Awake was finally released at the end of August and proved to be a worthy (and soul crushingly brilliant) follow-up to the original series.
The original game centered around Max Caufield, Chloe's former best friend who returns to Arcadia Bay to study photography at Blackwell Academy. Her sudden realization that she has the ability to manipulate time is the central mechanic of the gameplay, allowing you to manipulate the narrative by knowing what's going to happen, often with devastating consequences.
#BeforeTheStorm is set three years prior to Max's return to Arcadia Bay, and revolves around the budding relationship between an angsty 16-year-old Chloe and popular Vortex Club member Rachel Amber, the Blackwell Academy student who's disappearance drives much of Chloe's narrative in Life is Strange.
Awake has left us with a ton of questions, and the internet has been alive with theories. Does Rachel have powers? Is she the storm? What's up with all the references to "The Tempest?" Fortunately I've decided to spend the day combing through Reddit and YouTube to find the most intriguing #fantheories to get us through the long wait for Episode 2.
1. Rachel Is The Storm
While Deck Nine claimed there would be no supernatural elements in the prequel (but later claimed "strange events" would occur), Awake ended with Rachel possibly manipulating the wind to cause a wildfire which engulfs Overlook Park. This has led many to believe that Rachel may have the power to manipulate the weather, and therefore is connected to the tornado which destroys Arcadia Bay at the end of Life is Strange.
There are several points in Episode 1 which hint at Rachel's ability to control or embody the weather. In a perfect example of reading between the lines, Redditor Bloody_August laid out the reasons behind this interesting theory:
One hint is that when Chloe wanted to make small talk to talk about the weather, she said "The Rachel is nice" instead of "The weather is nice." Also, when Rachel screams twice at the end, wind picks up and makes the fire bigger.
At the end of episode 1, Rachel's father is with 2 policemen. The fire then is reflected in his eyes. The theory goes that her father knows she is capable of controlling the elements and is concern that it is his daughter started this fire. Also, Rachel shared that when she was 10 and went hiking with her dad and got hurt, she screamed like she was going to die. It started to rain when her dad carried her back to the car. It could also mean Rachel's scream and despair started the storm during their hike.
Lastly, in Life is Strange, Chloe said that the tornado is Rachel's revenge on Arcadia Bay. So that's another hint.
2. The Tempest
References to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" are rife in Before the Storm. Not only is Rachel starring in the Blackwell production as Prospera (a female Prospero), but a tempest is another name for a storm, which is a major reference as to what's to come. As nothing in LiS happens by accident, many have noted that Rachel's casting as Prospero is symbolic.
Geek Remix's theory is that Rachel's casting is responsible for the relationship that eventually develops between Chloe and Max, just as Prospero is responsible for the relationship between his daughter Miranda and Ferdinand in "The Tempest." If Rachel had not disappeared, Max and Chloe may not have rekindled their relationship, as it's clear throughout Before the Storm that Chloe is still very angry Max left just after her dad died.
Then there's the dream sequence which features Chloe in the poster for "The Tempest" dressed as a raven...
3. The Raven
Much like the butterfly and doe from Life is Strange, the appearance of the Raven throughout Awake is very symbolic. The raven appears throughout and has lots of different meanings in different cultures, including guidance and transformation. Geek Remix's Raven King theory explains that the raven gets involved with the narrative when he wants things to go in a certain direction, but others have linked the raven back to Rachel, thanks to this interesting find which also seems to reflect some of Chloe's doubts about Rachel's character.
Others have also linked the raven to Max's time traveling abilities, as the bird is the messenger linked to the ancient God Chronos, a.k.a. the personification of time. This could explain how Rachel and Max are linked supernaturally.
Whoever the raven is, their intentions seem to be good as its intervention is what's pushing Chloe and Rachel together, especially when it guides Chloe to the oak tree Rachel burns down at the end of the episode.
4. Can Chloe Unlock Supernatural Abilities?
Some have theorized that Chloe has some kind of ability to unlock the supernatural powers of the people around her, which is backed up by her lucid dreaming where she can somewhat predict the future. Both Max and Rachel undergo great emotional stress around Chloe — Max in the bathroom when Nathan threatens Chloe and then Rachel when she burns the photograph. This seems to trigger their powers. Perhaps Chloe is the catalyst for this to happen.
5. Who is the Woman in White?
The biggest question at the end of Awake is who exactly is the woman in white? She's the reason Rachel drags Chloe to Overlook Park, to catch her dad who she suspects of cheating. At the very end of the episode, we see the woman in white again, calmly smoking a cigarette and smiling while Rachel's wildfire blazes around her.
So who exactly is she? Some have theorized that she's the personification of the raven, not Rachel. Others have pondered that perhaps she is an older Rachel who manipulated the timeline, surviving being murdered by Nathan (we can only dream) and returning to the past to change it somehow. However, as the woman in white was kissing Rachel's dad, it's unlikely.
Now comes the long and torturous wait for Episode 2: Brave New World, which is thought to be released in 8 - 10 weeks. In the meantime, let's all analyse every inch of the Episode 1 and see if we can't discover any other symbolism hidden around Arcadia Bay.
Sound off! Which Life is Strange: Before the Storm theory are you digging? Let us know in the comments!