January 23rd, 2018 by Stefan Adrian "AdminMas7er" Robu
Teenage Girl Simulator 2017
Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic story-based adventure developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix. It is a prequel to Life Is Strange and it follows the story of a 16-year-old Chloe Price and her relationship with Rachel Amber, her newfound friend. They go onto an adventure regarding their own personal problems, which is the main focus of the game: two teenagers trying to solve teenager-ish problems which can change their lives forever. Being an episodic game, the episodes were released over time, and this review comes after Episode 3: Hell is Empty was released, which is the final episode in this game. A bonus episode is scheduled for deluxe edition owners, but is not relevant to the plot of the game. For first impressions on the game, you can check the original review here.
Graphics-wise, there are differences here and there comparing it to the original. The characters look similar, the environments are very familiar, most being brought back from the first game, with some new areas here and there. Technical-wise, the game was developed for current generation consoles, moving from Unreal Engine to Unity. The game feels a bit emptier in some parts, while livelier in others, with a change from a red-pink hue, to a more yellow aesthetic. The lightning seems a bit downgraded, and so do the shadows. But the faces and lip-sync, which was one of the bigger issues of the first game, have been improved. The game has Xbox One X Enhancement support, as well as some smaller patched-in improvements for the PS4 Pro.
The story is based around a younger Chloe Price, set 3 years before the events of the first game, in a world where she has lost her father recently, her best friend Max has left her, and she struggles with school. It’s a world where we see Chloe from another perspective, not just the one of a reckless, brash, angsty teenager, as she was in the first game. She finds a new friend in the one and only Rachel Amber, a considerably popular girl at the school. They go into an adventure known as “being a teenager”, having different types of problems, such as identity problems, family problems, existential crises, and so on. Other characters also return, where we see a different side of them. Not only that but you can get a little but more involved with your friends, including playing a tabletop RPG with your friends and running into characters who are aren’t quite finished in terms of what they become in the original game. Compared to the first game, the story shows an improvement in some areas. It feels like a more lively story, with more in-your-face moments, the drama being a little bit more “normal”, and a bit more dramatic at the same time. One minute, you’re taking part in a school play, the next moment, a soap opera-tier plot twist jumps right out at your coming from almost nowhere. The writing is also an improvement, having less forced “hip” words which were a bit annoying, but it has more awkward situations. It is good in some parts and absolutely horrible in others, one such situation is the ending, being as mistreated as the first game. Overall, the story quality depends from person to person, which is both a good, and a bad thing at the same time.
Regarding the audio, let’s start with the obvious. Chloe’s voice actor has changed due to actors’ strike at that time (the strike ended and Ashly Burch will return for the bonus episode), being replaced with Rhianna DeVries. This change is subtle in some parts, while very obvious in other situations. Otherwise, some voice actors return, while others are brand new, doing an okay job at capturing the teenager vibe. The soundtrack is composed and written by Daughter, a British indie folk band, with the music blending in with the atmosphere for the game, being closely related to Chloe’s emotions. Though some tracks tend to repeat themselves, otherwise, it’s an improvement compared to the first game. Having a more focused soundtrack really holds onto the theme of the game more, and there are several moments in the game where you can just stop and enjoy a moment of zen as music plays while you sit around.
What made the first LiS unique to other story adventure games (I’m looking at you Telltale) was the rewind mechanic, where you can return back and review your choices, or see what was the other choice. Well, Before the Storm removed this mechanic, which had no explanation at all in the first place, and implemented “Backtalk”, which makes a bit more sense, and seems more realistic. Plus it brings a bit more emphasis on the whole “your choices matter” part of the game. “Backtalk” is a mode where Chloe goes into a sort of an argument with someone, where the player has to choose his words wisely, and pay close attention to what the other person is saying. This is used as an extra option, which opens another way to solve a situation. Otherwise, it’s pretty much just like every other story-based episodic game out there. Another great addition is the collectibles, which are Graffiti in this case, where Chloe can draw different graffiti, depending on what the player wants from the options given. Overall, it’s still good and playable but without the time-traveling spin, the experience is a bit more mundane.
“Fun” in this case, is a very subjective thing. I felt that the game was pleasing enough, it had its moments, both good and bad. Replayability-wise, the only reason to replay such games is to see the other choices. Once again, unlike the original, you can’t just view all your choices and pick what you want. You’ll actually have to play the game a second time to get more branching options that may or may not pay off in the end.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a mixed bag. Nobody asked for this, yet it was welcoming enough when it was announced. It had a decent 1st episode, that left me yearning for more, the 2nd episode was focused more on character development, especially the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, which was a high point from the all episodes. And Episode 3 was a low blow, having a lot of unnecessary, but intense drama, and a disappointing ending. Otherwise, this game was pretty enjoyable. If narrative experiences are your thing, this is a decent, bite-sized adventure. It also isn’t necessary to play the original in order to enjoy this prequel.
People frequently complain when the ending of a game ruins a series. Especially if said series is a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of experience. Why should I bother at all if the ending is the same? Sure. Why bother eating an apple, it eventually will become a core. Don’t eat that ice cream, it ends up being an empty bowl. What happens throughout the course of a game is far more likely affect than that silly little ending you encounter. [Minor spoilers for Mass Effect and Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2]
With the resurgence of the “AA” game being made possible through many avenues and possibilities of the new gaming environment, several games are starting to challenge the play on an emotional level, rather than how good they can point a gun at things. Listen for more.
September 6th, 2017 by Stefan Adrian "AdminMas7er" Robu
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.