I am a huge fan of the first Life is Strange from developer DONTNOD. It was an experience which in many ways was a direct copy of the very story-based games from Telltale Games – games that I also like a lot, although they could and should vary the format. Both Telltale Games’ games and Life is Strange are released as episodes not unlike a TV series but with months between each episode. You can buy a season pass and pay one time with a discount or buy the episodes as they are released.
When I heard that a prequel was being made I admit I was a bit skeptical as all who played the first game already knew the outcome of the story that Before the Storm would be depicting. It became a bit of a media storm (pun intended) when it was revealed that a new studio would take up the reins AND the main character Chloe Price, would be voiced by a new actor. Fans where not happy and my hype began to fade.
At the time of writing, I have just finished the third and last episode (Not counting the bonus episode coming early 2018). It took me two days to play through here over Christmas about 4 months after initial release of the first episode.
There will be spoilers for the first Life is Strange in the following, so please come back when you have played that 🙂
What is Life is Strange: Before the Storm about?
As you play through the first Life is Strange as the protagonist Max you quickly meet her old childhood friend Chloe. Chloe is both strong, independent, cool, outspoken and energetic but also so very fragile. During the five episodes, you learn that Chloe lost her dad in a car crash when she was still a kid, got a stepdad who does not understand her, hangs out with people you wouldn’t introduce to your parents and is in many ways trying to figure out her place in life. Shortly before Max, who left the town and Chloe to move to Seattle years ago, returns to Arcadia Bay a third girl – Rachel Amber – has vanished and no one seems to know where she is. Rachel was the beautiful, clever and very talented girl that everyone wanted to befriend. She became Chloe’s best friend after Max left and of course she is doing everything she can to find Rachel. As the first game ends you learn the sad truth that Rachel was killed by an accidental overdose of some kind of rape drug by a classmate.
The story of Before the Storm centers around Chloe and Rachel meeting each other and their growing friendship and potential romance. There is a lot of returning characters from the first game but also a fair share of new faces to interact with. The whole experience is a lot more grounded than the first game where you basically were trying to save the whole town and everyone in it (Or your best friend *ahem*). This time around you get a more personal story about a confused girl – Chloe – who has a hard time fitting in at home, in school and everywhere else. It will be emotional, and there might be tears – consider yourself warned!
The Gameplay of Life is Strange: Before the Storm
If you have ever played a Telltale game or the first Life is Strange you know what you are getting yourself into. The gameplay can also be compared to games like Heavy Rain, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) or Beyond: Two Souls. You might say it’s the modern type point’n’click games that were so very popular in the early 90’s.
To break it up, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, like its predecessor has two types of gameplay. The first one is classic adventuring. You can walk around in an enclosed environment and interact with different objects and people to fulfill a given goal. When you interact with items, you get insight into the world, the characters or just Chloe’s thoughts on the item at hand. This helps develop and understand your surroundings and you would miss out on a lot of knowledge and game if you ignore this part of the gameplay to rush through.
The other type of gameplay in Life is Strange: Before the Storm is also the most interesting one. It starts off when you engage in conversation with one of the many people around Arcadia Bay. There is nothing groundbreaking here, it’s ‘just’ a dialog tree where you pick one of several topics or answers. Depending on your interactions people will respond differently towards you and the whole story might change direction. We have seen this in many games! The first Life is Strange spiced the whole thing up with the ability to turn back time and change choices and answers. But this was Max’ power – Chloe can’t do that. However, Chloe being the rebel she is can use the BackTalk mode to manipulate people.
BackTalk is basically just the power of being an annoying teenager. You pick words or topics in the lines spoken to you and choose an answer that best reflects how to twist the conversation to your benefit. Win these little duels more time than the one you are talking to and you ‘win’ the dialog. It’s kinds fun and also challenging figuring out what to pick.
And that is about it. This is a game centered around the story, dialogue, and emotions of the main cast. If you want action or interactivity this might not be for you.
Should you play Life is Strange: Before the Storm?
It boils down to personal preferences whether Life is Stange: Before the Storm is worth your time. It’s not a long game being only 3 episodes (+ 1 bonus episode) of about 2-4 hours of gameplay depending on how much you explore. I highly enjoyed the game but I agree with some critics that the ending episode is a bit rushed trying to tie the loose ends and ignoring some of the plot details that fans of the first game wanted. If you did enjoy the first game and especially Chloe you might enjoy this game a lot. Even if you are disappointed by Before the Storm it’s always best to base your thoughts on your own first-hand experience while you support the development of Life is Strange 2 (Which has JUST been hinted by DONTNOD).
On the other hand, if you didn’t like the first game, you don’t like Telltale Games or you just aren’t entertained by interactive novels/adventure games and the likes stay away from this game. It will just give you more of the sort of gameplay that you dislike. You might want to have a look at DONTNOD’s next game, Vampyr, which looks very interesting!