Life is Strange was one of my favourite games of 2015. When I heard there was a prequel for the game coming out I was in two minds as to how excited I should be. With the main character now being the rebellious Chloe Price rather than the fairly timid every(wo)man with time travelling powers, Max Caulfield, I was curious to find out what would be done.

Part of the charm of the first game was that it felt like you were shaping Max into a more confident person. Although at times you still get to do that with Chloe, she has already established personality traits. Due to this, some of the multiple choice conversation situations you’re thrown into with Chloe feel a bit forced, as it feels like you’re frequently given an option Chloe would never say. Despite that though, the game does a good job in capturing the spirit of the “I can do no right” teenager that she is. Even if you pick the un-Chloe option you are normally met with some form of distrust still.

You’re encouraged to throw yourself into the way Chloe would react in Life is Strange: Before the Storm. A diary, amusingly written as if she was talking to her absent friend Max, helps bring you up to date with how she feels about the situations unfolding. The character biographies are all written from Chloe’s perspective too. This helps you know how you should be reacting, it’s just up to you whether you want to act that way.

One situation that often presents itself when you’re trying to get your way is Chloe’s backtalk ability. It presents you with multiple dialogue choices, like is often the case, but this time you have to try and make the right decisions to get your way in a simple timed dialogue mini game. If you win you get your own way with minimal drama. If you fail then you’ll still get to do what you want most of the time, but with a bit more drama. The mini game is not very fun and it feels like a mechanic thrown in for the sake of it.

Luckily the backtalk mechanic isn’t overused, which makes it forgivable to a degree. As with the first game the main thing that elevates Life is Strange: Before the Storm is the story. Unlike the first game though, there’s a lot less time to get the story across as the game is only three episodes long, compared to the five of the first game. Due to this there’s a lot of moments that feel a bit rushed and character development for some of the cast doesn’t feel fleshed out as much as it could.

The performances of the characters help make up for this for the most part and the lip sync issues that were there in the first game are gone, making it easier to immerse yourself in the scene. For the most part the story is focused on Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, a friend that Chloe makes that helps get her out of a difficult situation and helps her find out more about herself.

The tale has some tragic twists and turns and the way that the game portrays Chloe dealing with the trauma of losing someone close to her helps the player get a deeper insight into her psyche. The problem with the twists and turns of the story is that, if you’ve played the first game, you know quite a few of them. Also, much like the first game, not every episode is as strong as the others.

In the first game it was an upward trend, with each episode gradually getting better, building towards a climatic final episode that had a strong pay off. With only three episodes in Before the Storm they really needed each episode to be strong but, unfortunately, they’re not. The 2nd episode (Brave New World) felt like the strongest for me due to some truly great moments, whilst the final episode feels rushed and awkward. Don’t get me wrong, if you enjoyed the first game, or enjoy interactive dramas in general, then you’ll most likely enjoy Before the Storm even with its problems.

It never reaches the highs of Life is Strange, but that doesn’t stop Before the Storm being a memorable interactive story. The chemistry between Chloe and Rachel help drag the game up to a higher level, but it’s let down by a poor closing hour and a backtalk mechanic that feels like it isn’t needed. Chloe and Rachel will, rightfully, see themselves remembered in video game history as a truly lovable duo but Before the Storm seems destined to be remembered as a game that never quite betters its predecessor.



Author

Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2