Photo Credit: BagoGames via Flickr
After the original Life is Strange wrapped up so perfectly, the announcement of a prequel was met with initial scepticism, and for good reason. A new developer, a change in voice actor for Chloe, and the removal of the rewind ability (not to mention the question of whether a prequel was necessary), had fans understandably concerned. Nevertheless, Before the Storm manages to put all doubt aside, and certainly lives up to its predecessor.
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, XBOX One, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: August 31st 2017
The first in a three-part series, Episode 1: Awake sees us return to Arcadia Bay three years prior to the first game. Just like the original, players interact with the world around them, making decisions which will have consequences later in the game. This time, however, we see the world through the eyes of Chloe, shedding a new light on an old setting. There’s a lot going on in Chloe’s life. It’s been two years since the death of her father, her best friend Max has moved away, and her mother’s new boyfriend is an unwelcome presence. This all adds to Chloe’s inner turmoil.
Without the time travel powers of Life is Strange, once you’ve made a choice there’s no going back. It’s been replaced by ‘Backtalk’, a mini dialogue game where you listen and respond to what is being said, manipulating others into getting your way in an argument. While it takes a bit of getting used to, this feature suits Chloe, who’s known for her sharp retorts.
“There’s a cosy element to exploring familiar settings, such as Chloe’s dishevelled teenage bedroom, the prestigious Blackwell Academy and the treasure trove of the junkyard.”
While you don’t need to have played the original to enjoy Before the Storm, the game visits locations and characters from the original game which can be appreciated by well-versed players. There’s a cosy element to exploring familiar settings, such as Chloe’s dishevelled teenage bedroom, the prestigious Blackwell Academy and the treasure trove of the junkyard. Each area is richly detailed, which leaves it easy to miss things.
With characters, old favourites return while new ones fit seamlessly into the world, most notable of which is Rachel Amber. Rachel will be familiar from Life is Strange as being a mystery, only mentioned but never seen. Here, despite her physical presence, Rachel still remains an enigma. It’s the relationship between popular, perfect Rachel and the unruly, angst-ridden Chloe which we become invested in and one which allows us to see a more vulnerable side to Chloe.
With just over two hours of gameplay, the length of Before the Storm is just about right, preventing it from feeling dragged out. It’s the real emotional heaviness and the heart-wrenching unexpected moments of tragedy which the player will find themselves pondering long after the game is over. After a promising start and the promise of twists and turns to come, Episode 1 leaves us eagerly awaiting more.