NEED TO KNOW
Release Date: 31 August, 2017.
Genre: Story-Driven, Narrative, Choices Matter.
Developer: Deck Nine.
Publisher: Square Enix.
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, Windows.
Game Size: 14 GB.
Average Duration: 6 Hours.
Official Site: Official site.
Updated: April 26th 2018
If you were a huge fan of the original Life Is Strange game, featuring Max Caulfield, the Hipstery photography student then you’ve probably wondered whether Before The Storm is worth playing.
After all, it was Max who had the power to rewind time and undo or redo actions that had taken place. Not to mention the mystery of Arcadia Bay, the melancholic yet eerily calming soundtrack and her relationship with Chloe Price. What could there be to gain by going back, and three years before ‘the storm’?
It’s a question I asked myself, but my experience with the first game utterly sucked me back into Arcadia Bay.
Playing as Chloe Price, at this point a girl with a lot of anger issues and plagued by visions of her Father’s death two years previously. You get to see her isolation and feel her loneliness. Max is gone and in Seattle, seemingly ignoring Chloe’s attempts to contact her and keep their friendship alive.
Chloe is left with nothing better to do than smoke weed and drink, whilst playing truant from school.
Episode 1: Awake Review
The game starts with you having to help Chloe get into a gig she’s dying to see, as with the original game there’s much of the optional dialogue and plenty of clues to investigate. At this early stage of the game you can’t help but feel that any clue is going to somehow be important later.
Upon getting into the gig, you can explore around and talk to various people. Eventually, you head up to the loft, and you’ll soon be plunged into a dangerous situation.
This is when Rachel Amber arrives, the girl only mentioned in the first game. Rachel is confident, beautiful and wild. At this point in time, Chloe does not have the confidence she has when we meet her in Life Is Strange and you can’t help but realize how important Rachel is going to be in helping Chloe become the girl that she is in the first game.
The rest of the first episode centers around Chloe’s relationship with her Mom, her struggling to accept David – her Mom’s new boyfriend, and her new friendship with Rachel Amber.
At the end of the episode you’re left with a cliffhanger as the forest around Arcadia Bay goes up in smoke. Something that I found a shock since it was never mentioned in the previous game. You’re left wondering how bad it’s going to get, and who and what it’s going to effect.
There are plenty of highs and lows, lots of intrigue and all the atmosphere of the original game.
All in all it was a solid first episode to a game that has all the promise to be just as exceptional as the first. Sure we don’t have the kind of gameplay that allows us to rewind time, but does it really need it? I’m not sure it does, as this game stands up on it’s own merits and keeps true to all the best bits of Arcadia Bay.
Episode 2: Brave New World Review
The second episode of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm picks up where the first episode left off, with the fire beginning to rage and the fallout from that as well as Chloe & Amber ditching school the day previously.
Already in the second episode the mood has changed a lot, and you can feel things getting darker. This is backed up by the imagery, the subtle changes of lighting and of course the choices of music utilized as the episode progresses.
In Episode 2, even such a short time after becoming friends with Rachel, it’s clear that Chloe is beginning to grow more into her future self. Or perhaps that she’s just becoming more confident with who she really is.
This episode is a fair bit longer than the first episode, there was plenty of dialogue initially, with a good dose of exploring opportunities that followed. Fixing up the truck that we see Chloe using in the original game was an unexpected addition.
There were lots of these unexpected moments in the game, the developers did a great job in this episode of constantly changing the pace. Which is something we all expect from Life Is Strange, but that was perhaps lacking in the first episode. You don’t even really realize that until you’ve played through the second episode, such is the huge improvement of this episode over the first.
There was an interesting dream sequence again with Chloe’s deceased Father, and more references to the crow which is consistent throughout the game.
Shortly after this you’re accosted by Frank to help him recover some money that he was owed by a student at Blackwell. Chloe is tasked with a simple case of breaking and entering, that provides some interesting puzzle-like challenges.
After this, you end up at the theater production of The Tempest. Depending on your choices, this is where things will go a little different, so we won’t go into specifics about how our game went. But we thought it was a really cool addition to this episode, something that we really weren’t expecting.
After the play you end up walking back to Rachel Ambers house with her, and eventually staying for dinner. Tensions are running high in the Amber household and this is where a huge bombshell gets dropped at the end of the episode.
Basically, episode 2 is pretty much the Rachel Amber show. While you’re experiencing everything through the eyes and decisions of Chloe, and while she has a lot of her own shit going on during this episode… It all falls away in comparison to what’s going on with Rachel.
Whether this is to signify a growing interest from Chloe toward Rachel it’s not clear. It could simply be that the developers are prioritizing Rachel as the character that Chloe just kind of ambles along after. Much like how Max was overshadowed by Chloe in the original game.
Episode 3: Hell Is Empty Review
The final episode of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm deals with the revelations of the previous episode…
The predominant plotline in the episode deals with the issues of deceit, lies and in a sense justice. The irony isn’t lost, considering this really revolves around Rachel Amber, much of which the premise of the first games mystery also does.
As Chloe you get to finally fix up your truck, which is cool, although the mechanics of doing so were simplified for this episode. This scene leads to a confrontation between Chloe, Rachel and that god damn drug dealing guy. I won’t go into details, as it’ll be big spoilers. However, this whole act is probably one of the best in the entire game, definitely the most action-packed in the episode itself.
From here you’ll be moved to a new setting, where dialogue dominates the next 10 or so minutes of gameplay. While this is ok, there’s not a lot to be gleaned from it. Really this whole part of the game serves to move you on from the junkyard scene to the following one.
As things begin to pick up speed, questions from the previous episodes begin to be answered quickly, leading to an ultimately confusing, but not so bad finale.
The final episode felt a little rushed all in all, and could probably have been built into another two episodes if more dialogue was created in order to have more plot-holes were solved…
Elliots story-line seemed a little pointless. The interactions between Chloe, David and her Mother in the episode also felt rushed to a conclusion that doesn’t necessarily fit the first game. While of course part of that comes down to your own choices, the fact it was a possible outcome seemed odd.
These plot-holes are bizarre given that they don’t match up to the original game, there was no mention of Elliot in the original. Another awkward thing that really bothers you throughout this episode is that Rachel seems to have finally completely let Chloe in. They share secrets that they’ve never done with anybody else, yet we know from the original Life is Strange that secrets ultimately end up costing Rachel her life. Strange when you consider the lessons taught to these two characters in this game and episode in particular.
The Final Say
Anyone that played the original game knows how important Rachel Amber was to the story of all the characters in Arcadia Bay before she disappeared. This made the prequel so highly anticipated as eager fans wanted to know more about this deeply nuanced character.
Using Chloe, a fan-favorite from the first game to do so was the best option. Knowing where it all ends though leaves a bitter-taste in your mouth. On one hand, there’s a blossoming romance between the two girls and a friendship that’s possibly even stronger than the one between Chloe and Max, but on the other, you know that despite everything, Rachel will ultimately betray Chloe in the same way she felt betrayed in the revelations of Before The Storm.
There isn’t as much sub-plot in this game as with the original, while we know Chloe was never much into school, the lack of anything going on in her life means that the game doesn’t have the same amount of charm as the first. I suppose this goes to show her devotion (or obsession) with Rachel, yet it still seems a little lazy in terms of the storytelling to simply chalk it up to that.
Overall the game was one hell of a ride, and we’re glad they made the prequel.
As always you leave Arcadia Bay with questions that you still want answering, and an unbelievable thirst for more. Here’s hoping that one day the developers decide one last trip to Arcadia Bay is a good idea as there’s still a lot of potential for finding out what happened between the events of Before The Storm and the original LiS.