Life Is Strange: Before the Storm - Complete Season

aka: Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
Moby ID: 95380
Buy on Windows
$16.99 new on Steam

Description official description

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic adventure series. It consists of three episodes released gradually over time:

For PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the episodes can be purchased separately. For PC, the only option is the full season.

The game is set three years before the events of the first game, Life Is Strange, and it is done by a different developer. The player controls Chloe Price, a character from the first game, a teenager who lives in Arcadia Bay. It focuses on the period while Max Caulfield, the protagonist of the first game, has left for Seattle. Chloe is sixteen and the story focuses on the unlikely friendship with Rachel Amber, a popular girl who seems to be the opposite of the rebellious Chloe.

The basic gameplay is identical to the first game. The player guides Chloe through different environments with small environment based puzzles. There is a focus on developing a story and the conversations between the characters. Certain choices and actions have consequences that influence the story. The character can be moved around freely and just like in the first game points of interest are highlighted in white. Possible actions vary per context, with typical actions such as examining or starting a conversation. Game elements carried over from the first game are a journal that is updated as the story develops, a section with biographies for the different people in Chloe's life, and background information through texts on her cell. Max was able to take photographs of specific spots as an additional challenge. For Chloe this has been replaced by putting graffiti on specific spots. The time rewinding power of Max is not present.

Chloe has access to a new backtalking game mechanic. Sometimes the only way to advance is through a conversation puzzle system, where only the right answers are the way to progress. Correct answers need to be chosen by reflecting on words to pick a comeback with arguments and insults. Next to logical choices certain insults and answers can also be gathered through clues with then appear as new dialogue options. There is a timer and the responses need to be given before time runs out. This is similar in design to the insult swordfighting from the Monkey Island series in some ways. Next to regular conversations options Chloe often has access to an aggressive choice.

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Credits (Windows version)

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Critics

Average score: 80% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.0 out of 5 (based on 28 ratings with 1 reviews)

A powerless prequel that comes close to matching the original

The Good
* Good story

  • Fascinating characters

  • Perfectly captures the look and feel of the original game

    The Bad
    * Some story elements feel rushed

  • Choices feel reduced compared to original game

  • Few gameplay elements beyond dialog choices.

    The Bottom Line
    With its intriguing, twist-filled plot, well-drawn characters, and indie film flair, Life is Strange has become one of the standard bearers for the modern narrative adventure game. Many players have experienced the tale of Max and Chloe, and much discussion has been written about it, so it was only a matter of time before more Life is Strange came along. In an unexpected twist, a prequel was revealed in 2017: Before the Storm. Curiously, Before the Storm was developed by American developer Deck Nine games, with the original developer, Dontnod, working on Life is Strange 2.

    Before the Storm takes place several years before the events of the first game, with the player taking the role of Max’s friend Chloe Price. Chloe is struggling with both her school life and her home life, having recently lost her father and her mother falling in love with a new man, David. One day, she meets the school’s “perfect girl” Rachel Amber, who has seemingly everything that Chloe does not. Rachel and Chloe decide to skip school for a day, and a deepening friendship begins to blossom. Chloe soon discovers that Rachel’s world isn’t as perfect as it appears to be, as all of the pressures of life threaten to tear them both apart.

    The first thing that most players have probably noticed is the fact that Chloe is not voiced by the original actress Ashly Burch, who might have been too busy with a certain open-world action game to reprise the role. Instead, she is voiced by Rihanna Devries. I actually think the change of casting isn’t actually a bad thing. Despite her horribly rebellious nature, which includes drug use, swearing, and rejection of authority and institutions, Chloe still retains a level of innocence and naiveté, however slight that may be. She’s not quite the world-weary smart aleck seen in Life Is Strange, but she’s close. Thus, the new actor is more effectively able to capture this small, waning level of innocence.

    The original was hardly a gameplay-focused game, but it did offer a few nifty time-manipulation puzzles and even some stealth segments for variety. Those who enjoyed those aspects of the original should be warned that Before the Storm takes things even further into interactive movie territory than the first game. Most dialog choices only have two options, and it feels like there are less major choices per episode on average. There are basically no puzzles in the game. There are a few times where you might have to talk to a character a few times or explore a tiny area and grab certain items, but everything is extremely basic.

    That’s not to say that their aren’t any cool additions. There are a couple of parts where you get to partake in a tabletop role-playing session, which is surprisingly fun and seems to have different outcomes depending on what actions you take.

    The other gameplay element of note is “Back Talk”, a new dialog feature that is somewhat reminiscent of the insult fighting from the Monkey Island series. During conversation, certain dialog options allow Chloe to initiate Back Talk challenges. When this happens, you need to pay close attention to your opponents words, then choose a response that flips the meaning of their words back at the opponent. Choose the correct response enough times, and Chloe will win, but if you get too many wrong, the opponent will win the argument. It’s kind of fun at first, but it simply doesn’t compare to rewinding and manipulating time.

    Overall, the story is well told, and I was engaged throughout much of the game. There were a few situations that were a bit unbelievable and hard-to-swallow, especially near the end of the game when things start to get hairy. In particular, parts of the ending felt rushed, especially when you finally meet a major character for the first time. It also suffers from the same two-choice ending as the original, but given that people are still talking about the ending to this day, the choice you have to make doesn’t feel nearly as dramatic. It doesn’t help that since the game is a prequel that nothing too crazy can happen at the end. Some players may also find the post-credits scene to be in poor taste and incongruous to the rest of the game, especially since anyone who has played the original game knows what happened to Rachel Amber.

    Despite the switch from Unreal 3 to the Unity engine, it’s actually quite surprising how close Deck Nine came to capturing the look and feel of the original Life is Strange. Everything you remember about the original game is there, and even improved in a few instances. The soft, brush-like textures, the Polaroid-inspired cinematography and lighting, and the scribbly selection interface are all present and correct from the original. The lip-sync is also much better too. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the Unity logo that appears during the game’s splash screen, I never would have noticed the engine shift. My only complaint is that there seems to be an annoying micro-stutter that I had trouble fixing. The game doesn’t allow you to run it in exclusive fullscreen, so I couldn’t just turn on Vsync in my graphics card even if I wanted to. I found the best way to run the game was to run it an an un-capped frame rate, which gave me insanely high frame rates but also reduced the issue I was having. It’s obvious that the game was meant to be played at 30 fps given the look of some of the special effects and the FMV cutscenes which bookend the game.

    The soundtrack is primarily from a post-punk band called Daughter. It’s very drone-like and atmospheric, but it also flares up at occasional moments as well. Some of it makes for some powerful moments in the game. It’s a good soundtrack, though it doesn’t contain a song as memorable as “Waterfalls” from the first game.

    While it first appeared to be a cash grab, Before the Storm is a sincerely crafted extension of the themes and tone of the original Life is Strange, one that deepens and humanizes a character that some might have felt was a bit too edgy. I was worried that this game wouldn’t be as compelling since there is no cool superpower to play with. However, it managed to be nearly as emotional as the original, even if the plot felt more contrived at times to compensate for the lack of time powers. It’s obvious that Deck Nine carefully studied the aspects that made the original so successful and managed to capture most of its qualities. It’s ultimately a worthy addition to the genre of choice-based adventure games, though some will find its gameplay to be lacking.

Windows · by krisko6 (814) · 2018

Trivia

Awards

  • Steam Awards
    • 2017 — The 'Choices Matter' Award — Nominated

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Rik Hideto.

Linux, Macintosh added by t-rex91.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Havoc Crow.

Game added August 31, 2017. Last modified February 21, 2024.