- Developer: Deck Nine
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Genre: Action, Adventure
- Release Date: 31 Aug 2017
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
- Supplied By: Microsoft
As someone who is a massive fan of Life is Strange when I saw the E3 teaser trailer for Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I was in between fits of “Oh my god YES!” and “PLEASE don’t ruin this franchise!”. Counting down the days until the release date and then foolishly missing it, I played this game with an open mind fully aware that our beloved Max Caulfield would be nowhere to be seen within this prequel.
Okay, before I continue, I will warn you in massive capital letters SPOILERS GALORE. If you have not played Life is Strange or Life is Strange: Before the Storm this review will completely ruin both the ending of the first game and the beginning of the prequel. You have been warned, read ahead at your own peril.
For those who have played Life is Strange, we all know how the mechanics worked. You make a mistake, you rewind time, you rectify your mistake and voila, all is right with the world! And, as much as we all loved the game, the ending made us all sit back, push our controllers to the side for 5 minutes and decide what to do. I was there arguing with my partner as to whether the citizens of Arcadia Bay should pay for Chloe’s mistakes for about 10 minutes. “She’s the reason this has all happened!” I said, “But she helped you so much, and admit it, Max loves her!” he retorted. In the end, I rewound time and allowed Nathan to pull the trigger. Which don’t get me wrong, hella sucked. But at the same time, I didn’t really feel that close to Chloe as I understand other players did. She was awesome and a hell raiser and really helped put the murderer behind bars, but let’s be fair, she had a habit of getting herself killed!
The reason I’m telling you this is because the second game revolves heavily around Chloe, she’s the main character in the game and even though this game is a prequel, I hoped that she would be a bit calmer, less a danger to herself. But as usual Chloe fashion, the game starts up with her out at god knows what time, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sketchy looking individuals. God damn it Chloe! Do you know what I just went through for you?
The game’s mechanics work as usual, walk around, interact with different objects, it’s like a play-along movie where you can decide the outcome. However, one major change is, no superpowers. That’s right, the magic game mechanic that made everything okay in the first game is gone! You can’t rewind time and rectify your mistakes, you can’t save people about to jump off buildings, you can’t stop birds flying into windows and you can’t become the most popular kid in school! However, Chloe has a power all her own, being a belligerent teenager that can argue her way out of situations she doesn’t like. I know, amazing, right? Instead of rewinding time you are given this ability to start a “Backtalk Challenge” which basically allows you to pressure someone into doing something you want. As someone who went through her own “angsty teenager” period, I found it rather worrying how they got it on point. It’s a far cry away from the ability to rewind time, but it works. I guess.
The graphics have changed slightly from Life is Strange, this is due to the fact that they have changed the engine from Unreal to Unity. Within the normal gameplay it doesn’t scream out that it has changed. However there are little things that you notice here and there. For example, when moving around, the camera is at a closer 3rd person angle than in the first game. I also noticed that the characters now actually look like they’re saying the words rather than just opening and closing their mouths in sync with the words I was hearing. The lighting in the game seems a lot darker than the first, however I believe that it suits the mood of the game as Chloe is a much darker character than Max. All in all I think the graphics and the style suit the story and the main character a lot more than if they kept the “vignette” look that was popular in the first game.
The sound design, as usual within these games, is on point. Square Enix has once again brought ambient sound design into a game which is improving with each instalment. Simple things like traffic sounds, birds chirping in the background and students chattering down a hallway all make the game that little bit more immersive than others. The music within these games is always on point and this will more than likely be another soundtrack that I will be listening to on repeat for weeks after I’ve finished the game.
Early in the game you’re introduced to some familiar looking faces. Obviously, there’s the sketchy dealer Frank which makes his first appearance in a rundown mill hosting a heavy metal concert, and of course Chloe tries to buy drugs and get herself into trouble. The second familiar face you meet is the infamous Rachel Amber. That’s right! She’s still alive! This is a prequel of course. She’s also seen in the rundown old mill; however, she’s introduced thanks to Chloe getting herself into ANOTHER awkward situation with some sketchy individuals. Other familiar faces shown are Nathan Prescott (Grr), Victoria Chase, David Madsen (Grr) and lovely Joyce Price.
The story of Episode 1 revolves heavily around the introduction between Chloe and Rachel Amber. It walks us through how Rachel saves Chloe’s life and how Rachel seemingly has some form of minor personality defects which we, as the player, now should help Rachel with. For me, it all seemed a little too forced to feel right. Rachel almost pushes herself onto Chloe because she needs someone to be her “partner in crime” and of course rebellious Chloe Price is the perfect candidate. From being coerced into playing hooky to jumping on a train to a park in the middle of nowhere onto starting forest fires it feels like Rachel is herself adding fuel onto the fire that is Chloe.
As a player, I felt extremely helpless knowing that this was a prequel and knowing what will happen eventually. However, the game also allows you little “Easter eggs” giving you the joy of knowing what will happen to people when you see and meet them. Seeing Nathan Prescott getting pushed around by a fellow student knowing what he’s going to do felt weirdly good. But then, the game puts you in a situation where you are forced to choose, stop the bully, or let the bully beat him up. It’s painful to get involved, can’t I just turn my face knowing that he’ll get it good? No? This hella sucks!
All in all, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a rollercoaster. On one hand, the relationship between Rachel and Chloe seems slightly forced and as a character Rachel is one that I love to hate. However, as a game it has lured me in with the promise of further character development. So, I will be checking in again once Episode 2 comes out with (hopefully) a better review rating.