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.
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