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Life Is Strange: Before The Storm

Posted by GG Goblin On January - 19 - 2018

The prequel has wrapped up.

As previously mentioned, my enjoyment of the original Life is Strange by Dontnod Entertainment took me by surprise. The episodic adventure game which followed Max Caulfield and her friend Chloe Price as they dealt with the not so average teenage drama, shady goings on in the town of Arcadia Bay, and the emergence of Max’s ability to manipulate time, all proved to be very compelling and easy to get lost in. A sequel is on the way and I can’t wait.


However, fans of life in Arcadia Bay didn’t have to wait too long to get back into town, as Dontnod Entertainment passed the torch to developer Deck Nine for a prequel tale. Comprising of three episodes, Life is Strange: Before the Storm moves back in time and focuses on Max’s best friend Chloe Price. More importantly, the prequel allows players to get to know the almost mythical Rachel Amber, the girl who was missing in the original game and whose disappearance provided much of the driving force to move the game forward. It’s an exciting opportunity for fans of the original game to actually come to know this girl. Of course, players will already know the outcome, but what we came to know of Rachel in Life is Strange tended to come from either discovered secrets, or from Chloe’s possibly skewed point of view. In Before the Storm, players will have more chance to make their own minds up about Rachel and here motivations, possibly changing the way they feel about the girl all together.

Being that Before the Storm is set prior to the return of Max Caulfield and here time twisting powers, there is a lack of supernatural element here, and the absence of that important gameplay mechanic. Before the Storm is much more down to earth, relying more upon conversations between characters, with the occasional bit of investigation or simply puzzle solving to keep the player engaged. That being said, there is the excellent Back Talk mechanic requiring some input from the player, in which Chloe will trade insults with other characters, the success of which relies on the player choosing the right replies in response to whatever the other character says. It’s great fun, despite having little bearing on the overall direction of the story. The back talking features quite a lot through the episodes and can almost be seen as a training ground for the Chloe that we come to know in the main game.


There are, of course, decisions that the player will have to make through the course of the game that will have an impact on what happens further down the line. Sometimes the impact is small and negligible, but there are some that are quite substantial in their consequences, particularly one decision in the final episode. This type of decision making and consequences is par for the course with this type of game now, but Before the Storm handles them well and it gives fans of the game more reason to go back for a further play through.

However, Before the Storm is a game that relies mostly on the narrative, more so than even the original Life is Strange. In this respect, there are some hits and misses, although I should imagine most of these are subjective. The first episode, “Awake”, is quite comfortable to slip into. Players are introduced to the younger, less “angsty” Chloe and then the mysterious Rachel, while also being given time to come to terms with the new mechanics of the game. It is relatively slow moving, especially when coming in off the back of finishing Life is Strange. The relationship between Chloe and Rachel begins to blossom, although it is easy to see that there are some secrets there that are just teasing the player. The first episode essentially sets the game up, which is what would be expected, and happily leads the player into episode two.

The second episode, “Brave New World”, puts much more emphasis on Rachel Amber’s family life, adding more detail to the character, while still keeping her feeling mysterious and unknown. Those who played the original game will already know some of Rachel’s secrets, which further enhances the enigma. Episode two feels much more engaging than the first episode, with a lot more happening and the obvious leading towards some kind of conclusion. The episode concludes with a rather large revelation regarding Rachel’s family life, leading neatly into the final episode.


Episode three, “Hell is Empty”, does its best to wrap things up. Considering the fact that this final episode is quite short, it will come as no real surprise to find that some of the narrative threads are glossed over at speed as the game comes to a close, and the direction of the episode feels much less in the players control. Given that players will know some of what will happen to Rachel and Chloe in the future, there are only so many places that the decision making can go in the series as a whole, and especially in this final episode. Towards the end there is a tough decision, but it is a decision which doesn’t really carry any consequence. The final ending is nice, for the most part. However, it does feel like the narrative is rushed, and it is possible that the developers could have got an extra episode out of it.

While Life is Strange was a game about relationships, decisions and supernatural powers, Before the Storm drops those supernatural powers, and they are missed. It is easy to get sucked into the world of Arcadia Bay and the lives of these two girls, but throughout the entirety of the game, I found myself missing that gameplay mechanic. The narrative twists and turns, bringing new characters into the world while further exploring old characters. There are times through the game where the narrative can feel a little forced, and times when characters may not act entirely naturally, but overall Before the Storm presents players with a plausible set of “what would I do?” situations.


Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an emotional, often quite touching and occasionally familiar exploration into the relationship between two teenage girls, each of which have their own baggage and secrets to confront. In this respect, the narrative heavy adventure works really well. When compared with the original game, however, Before the Storm doesn’t quite manage to measure up due partly to the games’ length. Despite this, anyone who played and enjoyed the original Life is Strange will enjoy this prequel.




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