For those of you that have yet to play the game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic graphic adventure video game and is the prequel to the hit game, Life is Strange. It was developed by Deck Nine and published by none other than the well known video game company that just about every video gamer has heard of, Square Enix.
Platform Reviewed: PC
Platforms Available: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix Holdings
Developer: Deck Nine
Release Date: October 19, 2017
MSRP: $16.99 (PHP 736.00)
This review is based on the review code provided by Square Enix
The events that transpire takes place 3 years before Life is Strange and instead of playing the shy and time reversing teen Max Caulfield, you get to play her edgy, foul mouthed, and all around badass childhood friend Chloe Price. Once you play the game, you’ll immediately know and feel that the gameplay is going to be different considering that you won’t have the power to rewind time as you once had in first game of the series. But before we get into that, let’s have a quick recap of the game’s first episode.
One night in the middle of a forest in Arcadia Bay, fifteen year old Chloe Price manages to get into a house concert in an old mill through sheer wit and clever insults. As she tries to enjoy it, she runs into some trouble in the form of two older and uncivilized men. Before Chloe is assaulted, she’s saved by Rachel Amber, her schoolmate and one of Blackwell Academy’s most well known and loved students. The next day, the two meet and Rachel convinces Chloe to ditch school and go on an adventure. The two then stow away on a cargo train, make their way to a lookout point, people-watch and spot a man and a woman making out, and steal wine from two unlucky picnickers.
They then head over to a scrapyard where Chloe realizes Rachel’s sudden change in mood. She confronts her about this but is given no answer. Chloe proceeds to tell Rachel that she’s afraid of screwing up even more than she already has and that she doesn’t want to screw up whatever she has with Rachel. The two continue to argue and Rachel leaves, leaving Chloe alone and frustrated in the scrapyard where she discovers a wrecked car. She realizes that it’s the exact same car that her father was killed in due to a collision accident. After venting out her anger by smashing the vehicle and just about anything else she could find, she then meets up with Rachel again.
Rachel explains that the sudden mood change was due to the man and woman they saw kissing in the park. It is then revealed that the two were Rachel’s father and his cheating partner. Rachel and Chloe reconcile and discuss leaving Arcadia Bay for good. Rachel then proceeds to take out an old family photo and throws it into a burning trash bin and in a fit of rage decides to kick it over, starting a wild fire which then ends the episode.
Episode 2 continues on from this point and I won’t exactly be spoiling any major details as it’s better that everyone experiences the game and story for themselves. However, let’s just say that it focuses on the aftermath of the forest fire, Blackwell Academy, money problems, the schoolplay, and the ever blossoming relationship of Chloe Price and Rachel Ambers. There’s also one major plot twist by the end of the episode that could either make you go “Ohhh!” or “…Oh” depending on how interested you are with the progression of the story.
This episode further develops the bond between Rachel and Chloe, but like in episode one, the situations that Chloe has to go through just feels like a build up to continue Rachel’s story. And just like in episode one, Rachel feels like the main character instead of Chloe and this is further emphasized near the end of the episode. While there are things that somewhat develop Chloe’s character further, it still feels as if Rachel is more of the main focus rather than Chloe. It also feels a bit slower and much longer as opposed to episode one, so players might not be happy with that. There even some options that don’t really matter altogether and makes you wonder why they’re there in the first place. Although, there are parts of the story wherein you’ll have to make very hard decisions. These are the ones that really make you wonder which option is the best; making things more difficult, thrilling, and enjoyable for the player.
One of the best ways to describe this game is that it’s an interactive teenage drama show, and that can be both a good and bad thing. On one hand, you immerse yourself with the characters and forget that you’re playing a game, enjoying the ride as you watch them develop as the story progresses. On the other, it’s the fact that you forget that you’re playing a game that might just be an issue. While there will be times where you’re prompted to make choices that directly affect the story, there are only a handful of these moments and instead you’ll feel as if you’re just going with the flow of the game’s plot and whether people enjoy this depends entirely on those who have experienced playing the game firsthand.
Now that we’ve covered the plot, let’s talk about visuals. Since the game was built from a brand new engine, there are a couple of things that could slightly bother those who have already played the first game of the series. There are some details in the textures of the game that don’t seem as refined and the lighting feels a bit off as compared to Life is Strange. But nonetheless, the game still looks beautiful and there are many well placed camera angles during the cutscenes that allowed you to fully appreciate the time and effort the developers placed into the game.
The game’s sound is also something to take note of. Things like how the water sounds when being sprinkled onto the grass and the sound of shattering glass is something that this game has done well and it should be applauded for it. The musical composition is also audibly pleasing. Although there aren’t that many songs placed into this episode, the times where they play perfectly goes with the mood. The British indie folk band “Daughter” did a great job in capturing the emotions that run through certain cutscenes and there are just a handful of them to allow the player to listen and appreciate every single one of them.
It’s now time to discuss the gameplay mechanics and as I mentioned before, you’ll immediately feel that it’s going to be completely different from the first game of the series. Since you no longer have the rewinding ability, you will instead have the Backtalk option during certain scenarios that take place during the game. In this mode, you listen carefully to what the person is trying to tell you and choose the appropriate response that will either convince the person to let you do things your way, or intimidate them into doing so. Since Chloe is a rough and feisty teen and that this game is going for a more realistic feel, it makes sense that the creators gave her the option to talk her way into getting what she wants. This does give the game a bit more tension as opposed to the first game as there’s no way for you to rewind time and undo your previous actions. However, even if you fail in this sequence, there are still other methods or routes that kind of take away those tense moments.
And instead of using the shift key to rewind time, it instead allows you to view a close up shot at Chloe’s hand which contains notes written via marker. This allows the player to know what needs to be done in order to progress the plot. Although this does make sense, the game’s story isn’t that hard to follow so it really feels as if this mechanic was unnecessary. One mechanic that I will praise that the developers changed is how you choose the interaction or dialogue options. In the first game of the series, you have click the right mouse button and drag the cursor to the option that you want to choose. In this game, all you have to do is hold down the right mouse button and click either the W, A, S, or D key. This makes things so much quicker and less tedious for the player.
The dialogue options are still here, and as I mentioned before, there are just some of them that feel unnecessary. Although, the ones that do matter, really make you feel the kind of character you want Chloe to develop into. Some of the choices you make can help show you the kind of person you are, as well as the kind of person you want to Chloe and yourself to be. That in itself makes for a good game.
Episode 2 was a very fun ride to go through and it had its own memorable moments as opposed to episode 1. As stated before, people may or may not enjoy the 2nd episode’s length, but it’s still something that fans of the Life is Strange series should enjoy playing through.
Overall, while Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a great game; it feels that it falls short to its predecessor. But nonetheless, it’s still a great game on its own and if you want a game that makes you feel as if you’re playing one of those teenage drama shows that you see on television, then buy it and enjoy going through life in Arcadia bay once more.