Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic interactive story game made by Deck Nine Games and published by Square Enix. It tells the story of a younger Chloe Price, the blue haired punk rebel and main companion from the original game. In this, she tries to cope up with her personal problems after the death of her father, and her newfound relationship with the popular Rachel Amber.
One of the bigger changes of Before the Storm is in the graphics, it may not seem different at first but I did notice the disappearance of an odd pink-ish hue and more God Rays. It still has the artsy and cartoonish aesthetic of the first game. Another change is the transition from Unreal Engine to Unity, which may or may have not cause the reported performance issues, which also vary by machine and graphics settings. That said, the scrapyard scene really showcased the power of the new engine, with improved lighting and textures at their best.
STORY: 1/2 [SPOILER ALERT]
Episode 1 starts off in a weird way, showing off the rougher side of Chloe by going to a somewhat unknown concert of one of her favorite bands. Things do not go as smooth as planned but she does meet with a new friend, Rachel. My gripe with the intro is how bad it manages the pace, the first 5 minutes of the intro are slow and meticulous as Chloe tries to get into the show. But in the last part of this intro, things gets faster. Chloe gets into some conflict and Rachel saves her, taking her to the concert floor to have fun. After that, the game goes back into a slow pace, only to pick up a bit later. She ends up ditching school to hang out with Rachel and things close off dramatically.
The second gripe I have with this episode is how fast the relationship between Chloe and Rachel develops, it goes from a simple “let’s know each other” to “let me tell you about my inner family drama”. I do not know if the writers made these moments just to add drama, or if the characters really have a lot of trust in each other. Speaking about writing, the dialogue is a lot more improved compared to the previous game. It does not have as many “hip” elements or slang, thus being somewhat more realistic, which is a plus in my book, hell, it even makes a joke at one of the more annoying words in the first game, the famous “hella”.
Sure, the music may be still of the indie genre, but it is a little bit rougher. It reflects on Chloe’s attitude and perspective regarding life in general at the time. There are not that many artists so far, compared to the first game. Deck Nine resorts mostly to a single composer, Daughter, to make the score, meanwhile sneaking in some licensed music every now and then. The voice acting was well-done, lip-syncing wasn’t really an issue but the change of voice actor for Chloe was obvious in some cases.
Just like the original Life is Strange (and story-based games in particular), the mechanics are easy and somewhat intuitive. The rather interesting, yet unexplained, mechanic of time-travel from the first game, is replaced with a new mechanic called “backtalk”. It makes the player pay closer attention to what the person is saying, and then has Chloe use key words against them. The removal of the rewind mechanic also puts more emphasis on the “your choices matter” part of the game, something that I had a small issue with in the first game. Otherwise, nothing is really changed, apart from the fact that there are more “break choices” as I like to call them. They are more apparent, putting even more emphasis on “your choices matter”, and even some non “break choices” do matter. A bad side is that the rewind made Life is Strange interesting, so it’s somewhat good, and also bad, that it’s gone.
While this return to Arcadia Bay and its people was welcome, Life is Strange: Before the Storm has some adjusting regarding story and a bit on the character side. But it is good for a second replay to see what I missed in the first place, offering two distinct attitudes to Chloe in her choices, either be understanding to the people around her, or just giving everyone the middle finger, but I won’t call this “emotional”, or “fun”, or even “moving”. I would just call it “interesting”.
In conclusion, Episode 1: Awake, offers some improvement over the first game, refining what was already good and fixing some quirks, leaving me wanting for more in upcoming episodes.
WRITER NOTE: Because this is an episodic game, I will review each episode separately and then do a general review of the game once all episodes are out, scores may vary per episode. This review is solely based on episode 1, some comparisons with the first Life is Strange may be used.