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Life Is Strange: Before The Storm – Episode 1: Awake

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 13 - 2017

Return to Arcadia Bay in Life Is Strange: Before The Storm – Episode 1: Awake.

 
Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange was something of a revelation. The episodic adventure game was as much about teenage drama and relationships as it was about missing persons, an apocalyptic storm and time manipulation, and it was incredibly compelling. The narrative-driven adventure showed that there was a very real audience for the more down to earth, everyday decision making that didn’t have to rely on superheroes or zombies. I was late to the Life is Strange party, not even beginning until all of the episodes had been out for a while. But this meant that I was able to binge play through the whole game, playing one episode after another back to back, like the first season of Stranger Things. It left me, like many, yearning for more and I can’t wait for a sequel.

 
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But while waiting for a sequel, which has been confirmed, Dontnod have passed the reigns to developer Deck Nine for a prequel. Life is Strange: Before the Storm will take players into the life of troubled teen Chloe Price before her best friend Max Caulfield returned to Arcadia Bay. This is the Chloe that hasn’t quite reached the level of roughness found in the original Life is Strange, but is well on the way. She is having to deal with the death of her father in a car crash that was revealed in the original game, she is struggling to fit in at Blackwell Academy, and she is obviously lonely.

 
Even in this very first episode of Before the Storm, which is only running from three episodes unlike the original’s five, it is easy to see the person that Chloe will become, and it is almost comforting to see her well on her way. The obvious downside of being a prequel is that anyone who has already played Life is Strange will already know how Chloe’s character will turn out, and that limits the affect that a player can have through the choices they make. That being said, the choice and consequence mechanics that make games such as this so compelling still remains. Players will find themselves having to make decisions through the course of the story, and some of those decisions have obvious consequences that the player will be able to see, even in this very first episode.

 
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The other main character in Before the Storm, in the absence of Max, is Rachel Amber. Players of the first game will know that one of the main driving forces was the disappearance of Rachel, who was Chloe’s friend and, according to Chloe, was and awesome person. So here, in Before the Storm, we finally get to meet this almost mythical Rachel and discover the relationship between the two girls.

 
Rachel is a popular girl, which is why Chloe can’t understand how she has ended up with her as a friend. Again, we know how Rachel’s life will turn out, but being able to put a character to the name, discover at least some of her secrets and find out why Chloe was so enamored with her is well worth the ticket price alone.

 
This first episode, Alone, moves slowly but feels comfortable. With the absence of Max Caulfield, there is no time manipulation allowing players to change outcomes, and the lack of that gameplay mechanic is quite noticeable. Life is Strange was already light on gameplay and relied more on the narrative experience, which thankfully was brilliant. With Before the Storm losing that gameplay mechanic, Deck Nine have dropped in some new ideas, the most obvious of which are the back talk challenges. In certain situations Chloe gets to basically enter into a game of insults, where the player will have to watch carefully the replies from their opponent before choosing their own appropriate response. It doesn’t really have much bearing on the game, but it is nice in that you can almost see Chloe in training to become the character from the original game.

 
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There are plenty of nice moments in this first episode, such as playing some Dungeons & Dragons with a couple of geeks at school. That playing a game within a game sequence is really quite enjoyable. But really, this whole episode is just nice. It is nice to see the younger Chloe, it is nice to meet Rachel, and it is nice to return to Arcadia Bay. It does end on the sort of cliffhanger that just begs for episode two to be released as soon as possible.

 
Before the Storm feels more polished than the original game, which makes sense, but still carries the same visual style. The soundtrack is once again excellent, perfectly fitting in with the theme of the game, and is enjoyable to listen to even away from the console.

 
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Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake is a welcome return to Arcadia Bay. I miss Max and I miss her time manipulation, but the writing in this first episode of the prequel is a high enough standard to carry the game without any time traveling or supernatural storms. Chloe’s character is younger and not quite as acerbic as we know her character becomes, and it is nice to meet and get to know Rachel, the girl that had such an influence over the first game. The most important thing is that the first episode has left me wanting more. Before the Storm Episode 1 begins to fill the gap while we wait for the sequel to Life is Strange, and has started out what promises to be an emotional journey for fans of the series.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 



 

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