Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a 3-episode long adventure game set prior to the events of the original game, Life Is Strange. This time around we explore the story of fan-favourite Chloe Price and popular troublemaker Rachel Amber. The 3 episodes total around 7 hours, and all are packed with gripping, emotional situations and dialogue.
As soon as I started the game, I was pleased to see that the graphics and intro were similar the original game, as this is something I was worried about. When game developer Deck Nine revealed they were releasing this game, I was apprehensive about their approach. But Life is Strange: Before the Storm feels less different than I expected. Max isn’t in the game, as she had moved out of Arcadia Bay during the time the game is set, but because we already know Chloe and some other characters, it puts us in familiar territory, and the game almost feels nostalgic.
Before the Storm paints a more intimate picture of Chloe Price, the troubled best friend of the original’s protagonist Max Caulfield, three years before the events of Life is Strange. Unlike Max, Chloe does not have special powers. This gives the game a very different feel, and it makes it a whole different experience than the first game, as you are unable to rewind time to change decisions you have made. Even though we already know what happens in Chloe’s future, the game really does give you the freedom to choose her attitude and her style, and ultimately, her future.
One thing that the game does is introduce us to Rachel Amber, who is one of the biggest mysteries throughout the original game. Fans were worried that meeting Rachel after only hearing about her prior to Before the Storm would spoil her appeal, but it turns out that spending so much time with the character behind all the rumours and mystery is every bit as interesting as you’d hope it to be. As a character, Rachel is a beautifully nuanced individual, and she is as strong and as vulnerable as she is deeply damaged and ultimately unknowable. The chemistry between Chloe and Rachel is obvious from the beginning, and their story is captivating and electrifying. Experiencing these events enriches the experience of the original Life is Strange in ways I didn’t think possible. It changes how you interpret different events of the original game and, surprisingly, how you feel about Max. In all honestly, after completing Before the Storm, I found myself preferring both Chloe and Rachel over Max. In my opinion, compared to Chloe and Rachel, Max seems a bit boring. Her personality isn’t as interesting as the other characters and she just seems a bit bland. The two teens falling in love is a very moving, emotional story filled with cringy dialogue and romantic cut-scenes, but we already know what Rachel’s fate is, which is a detail that hangs over us throughout the whole game. But I loved Before the Storm, and I loved Rachel and Chloe together, and seeing them so happy together almost made me forget about Rachel’s eventual demise.
A new feature of the game is Backtalk, a unique skill for Chloe where she can turn an opponent’s words against them. The Backtalk options are not compulsory but can reveal new dialogue which can result in different consequences. Like the first game, the answer must be given in a short time-frame, and they also range in difficulty, sometimes allowing you room for slip-ups and sometimes immediately failing should you give one wrong answer. However, this feature is only used a handful of times throughout the game, and considering the game is already lacking in Max’s special powers, I thought this new feature would have been included a lot more than it was.
The game isn’t very difficult. The only mildly challenging feature thing is Backtalk. Apart from that, the game is very linear and straightforward. The controls are the same as the first game, and the overall soundtrack is very similar. In terms of the game being replayable, it is, because you can make different decisions. However, it just depends whether you would want to replay it because the game is always going to have the same outcome.
Beneath the weird ‘Is this how teens talk?’ moments, there’s a core that resonates with something real. Life is Strange is relatable. It taps into some sort of shared memory-space many people can identify with. Stumbling through Rachel and Chloe’s relationship, coming to terms with Chloe’s dad’s death, navigating her complicated relationship with her stepdad, they’re all relatable. This whole genre is new-ish when discussing biggish-budget video games. If nothing proves that there should be a ‘coming of age’ genre for video games, Before the Storm proves that maybe there should be.
Now, for the negatives. There aren’t a lot of negative things I have to say about the game, but I’ll start with how fast-paced and short chapter 3 was. I felt like the previous 2 chapters were really detailed and emotional, and even though the last chapter had some of my favourite Rachel and Chloe scenes, I still felt underwhelmed. My only other negative point is the odd character movements, especially when they are running or walking. One of the first scenes is Chloe dancing, and it just looks unnatural and jerky, and no one would dance like that in real life. Considering the characters moved the same way in the first game, I thought they would have made some changes, but unfortunately not.
Apart from those two negative points, I absolutely loved Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. Despite fears that it would ruin memories of the first game, the game changes how we see not only Chloe and Rachel, but the rest of Arcadia Bay. The story is more mundane than the original – and by that, I mean more relatable, more significant, more painful, and more beautiful. Before the Storm is not a fantasy mystery story, it is an everyday tale of two people coming together at the exact right time in their lives. The game is about capturing those moments, the ones that change who we are as people. Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is completely heart-warming, and excellent character writing makes up for the moments when the overarching story drags, or when the dialogue gets too cringy. Everyone who plays this game will apply their own experiences and prejudices to each situation, conversation, and confrontation, and what you answer may tell you as much about yourself as it does Rachel and Chloe. Before the Storm does what every worthwhile prequel should – it tells its own story and but provides us with the context we need, and it connects to what came before in a way that enhances both experiences for the better.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.