Life is Strange was one those games that managed to resonate and speak to a lot of people. It was a game that stood out in a genre dominated by Telltale and in a way, far outdid anything they’ve done in quite some time. While the first game was made by Dontnod, Before the Storm was developed Deck Nine and takes place before the original.
Your enjoyment of the game greatly hinges on how much you like Chloe. Unlike the first game, there’s no unravelling mystery or deep time travelling sub-plots, instead, the focus will be purely on fleshing out her character and her relationship with that of the mysterious Rachel Amber. Chloe is still pretty much the same as how I remembered, only, her angst levels are turned up way past eleven. At first, it painted her in a very two-dimensional light, and the ‘badass’ factor wore off fast, but the game slowly starts revealing the nuance to her character.
I love how, beneath the tough exterior, Chloe’s still an insecure teen trying to cope with the aftermath of a tragic accident as well as coming to terms with the departure of her best friend. One moment she’s standing up to a bully, the next she’s displaying a deep longing for her friend. In a way, she’s much more of a relatable character than Max, and the way she deals with her pain and anger is very, well, human. All of her emotions come bursting out near the end of the episode in a spectacular, interactive scene that really drove home just how much she’s struggling inside and it honestly sent shivers down my spine.
The other major plot point is the developing relationship between Chloe and Rachel, whom we had only heard stories about in the first game. She had this mythical-like status about her leading into this game, and I was really excited to see what the fabled Rachel was like, but unfortunately, the game doesn’t do a well enough job of making her live up to her status. Sure, it’s the first episode and that could change later on, but even in this game, she is still put up on this pedestal, and I was always left asking myself, why, as she comes across as just another free-spirited, yet slightly damaged teen. My gripes with her character aside, I do think the growing relationship between the two teens was done really well and I thoroughly enjoyed their on-screen antics.
While the narrative is undoubtedly strong here, it only really shines near the end of the episode. There are some great scenes in between, like the tabletop game sequence, but the rest feels like fluff, and, for the most part, we don’t see anything new about Chloe, which, for a game focused purely on her character development, is quite the let-down. It’s forgivable in the end, considering how much of an amazing job they portray her later on, but I was a bit bored for the first hour or even two of this four-hour game.
To make matters worse, where the original game had the time-manipulation mechanic as a hook, here, Chloe’s speciality is back-chatting. You’ll get into these little verbal scuffles with various characters, and you have to use their words against them in a mini quick-time event. The dialogue, however, is extremely cringe-worthy and instead of making Chloe seem like a badass, it just comes off as awkward and stiff. If this mechanic is staying, I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Thankfully, there’re not many of those.
The visuals are also a step down from the original, but not so much that it’ll detract from the experience. There’s a distinct lack of softness to the look that was present in the first game and the animations seem much stiffer this time around. That said, it’s still distinctly ‘Life is Strange’ and I do still enjoy the art style. One thing I cannot fault this game for is the soundtrack and choice of songs. Like the first game, each track perfectly suits the scene it’s played in. For example, there’s a scene where you can choose to listen to Through the Cellar Door by Lanterns on the Lake, and the lyrics “And it’s a crying shame if you don’t come. Are you with me?” perfectly captures that moment where both Chloe and Rachel realizes there’s something between them and that they’re both kindred spirits seeking companionship and someone who understands them. I love it, so, so much.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm has some glaring issues, but at the end of it all, it still managed to make me fall in love with it and it’s something I have to commend Deck Nine on. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it still carries its predecessor’s banner high and carries on the tradition of being an endearing and human adventure.
Last Updated: September 7, 2017