Life is Strange is an underrated series that has achieved a cult status among the fans. The first game excelled at presenting a time travel narrative with the ability to rewind time for the lead character, Max. The announcement of a prequel where the time power was not a gameplay element was a curious one, however the lead character has also been changed to Chloe, who was a friend of Max in the first game. It leads to an interesting dynamic for the story where the focus is more on a teenager high school drama showing a teen with a rebellious spirit.
The relationship between Chloe and Max is hinted in this prequel season offering us an insight into what happened over the course of their friendship. You will learn more about their childhood and how both became close friends however this is mostly done through narrative exposition in the form of Chloe’s journal that you can access at any point in the game.
Chloe won’t be actually dealing with her friend Max in this prequel, but she seems to form an unlikely friendship with Rachel. Their relationship is thoroughly explored in this season giving you another perspective on the life of Chloe. This might be disappointing for the fans who were hoping to see more of the two, but Max is being planned to return in a bonus episode set after the season. It hasn’t been released yet so far so this review will mostly deal with the episodes released for this season.There are total of 3 episodes in this season making it a rather short journey if you skip most of the optional content. The developers have tried to solve this issue by focusing on attention to detail, and encourage the players to explore more of their surrounding.
One of the aspect of Life is Strange: Before the Storm that deserves praise is how it establishes its character. The character development is handled really well right from the beginning, as you are introduced to Chloe. You will begin to understand her unruly nature when she barely jumps in time ahead of a moving train. You will then learn more about her background including the death of her father. These details are not thrown right in your face, but are presented through neatly detailed photographs, text excerpts in Chloe’s personal journey and items that you might find if you explore around the environment. Sometimes, Chloe also offers her own commentary on a select item which helps you understand her point of view for the story.
Just like most of the TellTale developed games, Life is Strange is focused a lot more on the story leaving the gameplay in last. That is not to say you will go through multiple cutscenes one after another with no gameplay, but the game also gives you plenty of choices to make your own selection for the story and depending on what you pick, the outcome in the story will play out differently. The new ‘Backtalk’ gameplay is also an interesting twist on a conversation system that lets you bargain with others or present your point of view to a character. These are used as a gameplay element for many difficult situations during Chloe’s life, but while the game offers you a choice for them, it is not always the best way to ‘Backtalk’ since they can make the situation worse.
Exploration is fun because the developers have spent some time to add interactive points in each location. You can also see a commentary from Chloe as you explore and interact with your surrounding. It is possible to find a location that Chloe can Graffiti with her marker and these serve as the hidden collectibles. You can actually learn a lot more about the characters and story through these items found during exploration. They can also add new conversation options giving you further insight on them.
The choices that you make during the story can lead to different outcomes and make for an interesting case if you decide to replay it in the future. If you were looking for an emotional story like the first game, there is plenty to find here. The character development from the first episode for Chloe and Rachel, right until the end of the season, is easily some of the best that I have seen in a video game. Together, they will learn about each other’s weakness, struggles and sacrifices making for an emotional ride until the end.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm firmly stands apart from the time travel focused narrative from the original game, but offers a great story and excellent character development. The Backtalk gameplay segments are fun as you learn to exploit your opponent. It is a nice stopgap between the wait for a potential Season 2 of Life is Strange and even if you have never played the first game, it can work well as a standalone game on its own.
Life is Strange: Before The Storm Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic graphic adventure video game developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix. The three episodes were released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One between August and December 2017.
This short season acts as a nice prequel to the lead-up into Life is Strange. It attempts to expand on the same story concepts with a different gameplay dynamic.