Name: Life is Strange: Before the Storm episode 1
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: 31st of August, 2017
Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Reviewed on: PC
As someone who has played though the original Life is Strange literally more than 75 times, and has kept my hair blue for three years because of Chloe, when I heard of a prequel where we would be playing as Chloe herself, I thought to myself; “Am I ready for such a game?” – hella, yes!
In Before the Storm we play as Chloe Price, the now 16 year-old punk, school-skipping rebel. Max has left for Seattle, William (Chloe’s Dad) died in a car accident, and step-douche is moving in – Chloe’s life is not going her way.
The game starts out with Chloe standing on a railroad, with a train pacing towards her. Already here new players will understand that Chloe is not having a good time. You proceed to go to the old mill to watch the fictive band Firewalk live (FIREWALK RAWKS, as Chloe says) – and during the concert you meet Rachel for the first time. I do not want to spoil too much of the story however, but I will say that Rachel too is having a tough time, and the start of the unlikely friendship of Rachel, the straight A-student, and Chloe, who’s about to drop out of school, is an important part of the rest of the episode. One thing I do want to mention which is really cool later in the episode is an optional game of Dungeons and Dragons – which actually takes a long time to complete, just as the real thing.
The fact that the game is a prequel is both its strongest and weakest point, if you played Life is Strange you already have a relationship to (nearly) all of the characters which is good. But because of this the game never tell anything about who this person is and how Chloe feels about them, other than a very brief comment from Chloe. Another problem is that everyone who played the original game knows how things end, so the whole “this action will have consequences”-thing doesn’t feel real. Your choices can’t change the story too much, because it has to end up the same way to fit into the timeline.
The gameplay is very similar to the original game, without the rewinding of time, of course. However, a very cool new addition to the game is the “backtalk”-options you sometimes get. This is when Chloe uses her sharp tongue in order to get what she wants in the given situation, such as getting into the Firewalk show. To succeed you need to make notice of what your “opponent” says, and use it against them – in my opinion it is a bit too easy to win them most of the times, but it is a gameplay mechanic that feels very true to Chloe. The journal Max kept in Life is Strange is replaced by “Chloe’s unsent letters to Max” which is mainly the same, however with a way more adult language.
I need to make a short comment about the controls though, as it has been troubles for people wanting to play with a controller (on PC) and the way you control looking at things and interacting with them is really clunky, why I have to first press and hold the mouse button to select something and then use WASD to actually select what to do with it is beyond me.
Unfortunately, this is where most of the bad news comes in, Before the Storm has mainly the same style as the original, but every person has a completely blank look in their eyes. And generally the whole game feels a bit empty. Where the original game was filled with object, and where every single object had a reason for being there, and something to tell about the situation Max was in, Before the Storm doesn’t have that same feel, it feels like the object are just randomly placed, without any real thought behind it.
I also feel like I have to address the audio, the soundtrack and all are pretty okay. The Life is Strange soundtrack was very fitting to Max’ person, and I think Chloe’s personality is more punk than the soundtrack in Before the Storm, that being said it is a good soundtrack, just not as good as in the original. The voice actors however is a different story – as far as I can hear, none of the original VA’s are in the new game. Rhianna deVries who plays Chloe honestly does a good job, and is very talented, but Chloe already has the voice of Ashly Burch, and it feels very wrong that she has a totally different voice in the new game. In Deck Nine’s defence I know that there’s a strike going on among many of the voice actors in the US, which Ashly Burch is a part of, but I still feel like this is something they should have tried to find a better solution to.
All the other voices however feels uninspired and it feels like all they voice actors had one shot, and that had to be good enough. Also, why is every single voice super nasal? I sort of hope it was a problem with recording and they can fix this, because I hardly doubt every actor had the same pitch of nasal voice.
The problem with this game is that it’s not welcoming to new players. If you didn’t play the first one you won’t have any reason for playing this one. That being said, if you did play the first one, and want to know more about Chloe’s past – this game is excellent for that. The story is really good so far, and it’s just as much feelings in this game as the previous. So if you played the original, or if you want to play the games in chronological order, and care mostly about story and not so much graphics and great controls – do try this game. All I know is, I am hella ready for episode 2!
Replay Value: 6/10
+ The story is really powerful
+ The game feels very in the spirit of Life is Strange
+ A better first episode here, than in the original
– Why is the world so empty?
– The voicing