Life is Strange quickly became one of the most eagerly awaited episodic games of 2015. DONTNOD told an innovative, emotion filled tale with a sci-fi twist following the popular player decision making driven narrative favoured by Telltale. Deck Nine have now released the prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
The game takes place a few years before the original, in which new protagonist Chloe Price appeared as best friend to Max Caulfield. By taking the player into Chloe’s backstory, it’s interesting to see the defining moments of her character and provides a better understanding of the deep-rooted problems within her family following her father’s death.
One of the most anticipated aspects of this new instalment was seeing the infamous Rachel Amber and her relationship with Chloe come to life in more detail. Despite her prominence in the plot of Life is Strange, she remained a largely ambiguous character. Her fate being all too well established in the first game adds an emotional connection with the player, but feels almost too little too late.
The main issue with the game is the importance placed on decision-making. As a prequel, we already know the future, ultimately making our choices seem without consequence, taking away the high stakes of the previous game.
Not having the ability to rewind time like in the first game is a problem. Perhaps being able to play with alternate outcomes before proceeding was what made the first game so successful. Although this means you do think more about your choices, it stops you taking the same big risks as the previous game.
An interesting feature of the game is the new backtalk challenges that the player can initiate during dialogue. To win the challenge, or argument, Chloe picks up on words her opponent uses that can be used against them as potential responses. These are also timed, making an accurate mimic of the quick thinking needed in a real-life argument. The downside is that the dialogue used in these scenes really makes you cringe, which is a common theme throughout the game. It’s almost like the writers are trying too hard to make Chloe’s character seem like a hard-faced bitch, which detracts from its credibility.
When you are left to explore the environment yourself the meticulous detail of this game shines through. Small optional choices and interactions are what sets this game apart, and develops the depth of Chloe’s character, showing a softer side not seen previously.
The game still retains its unique watercolour art style combined with detailed elements such as drawings seen in Chloe’s journal. The soundtrack heavily features emotion filled tracks by indie-folk band Daughter, and is flawlessly crafted to reflect the mood and emotion of the moment.
Before the Storm has its good points. Playing through Chloe and Rachel’s relationship answers some questions from the first game, and it is nice to revisit old locations and characters, creating a welcome feeling of familiarity. But this is heavily outweighed by the players choices ultimately being rendered useless. Though cringeworthy, the dialogue and backtalk challenges need to be given more purpose in the next episodes. If you were a fan of the original game, it may be worth playing to fill your curiosity, but don’t expect to be anywhere near as immersed in the prequel as the original.