Life is strange: before the storm
The handling of Price and Amber’s dextrous
It’s cloudy with a chance of shaka brah for Chloe Price in this first episode.
The odds are stacked against this prequel so heavily, it’s a wonder that everyone doesn’t walk around at an angle. There’s an alarming amount of ‘no’, you see. No Max, no time travel, no photography, no storm (clue’s in the name!), no Dontnod, no Ashly Burch reprising her role as Chloe Price (who’s now the main character). In theory, the project has been gutted of everything that defines the world of Arcadia Bay. However, new developer Deck Nine proves itself a safe pair of hands from the first episode, handling the franchise with love and understanding. That said, things get off to a slightly shaky start. Dropping you into the rebellious shoes of the rebellious Chloe, the game tries a little too hard to emphasise how much of a wild rebel she is. She says rude words while distant heavy metal thrums in the background; she sees a sign on a fence saying she’s not allowed any further, but jumps over anyway, then gives the fence the finger! Wow, this girl is off the hook! Or, er, something.
Young Miss Price has just finished hitchhiking to an isolated concert, you see; naturally without her mum’s knowledge, and the bouncer on the door won’t let her in because she’s underage. This provides a good setup to introduce Before The Storm’s new elements. In lieu of Max’s photo opportunities, Chloe can find blank spaces just begging for some graffiti (hmm, that RV looks tempting…). By exploring her surroundings, you’ll also find something that opens up a new dialogue option. This comes in handy when talking your way past the bouncer using the new ‘backchat’ feature.
Backchat is pleasingly reminiscent of Monkey Island’s insult swordfighting. The basic idea is that you deliver a suitably witty/snarky comeback to everything the other person says, in order to ‘win’ the conversation and get them to, in this example, back off and let you past. Working with just a handful of seconds each time, you need to quickly pick apart their last sentence or two, and choose the most appropriate comeback from the options presented to you. Usually, this means a play on words. It’s a great idea, fits in with Chloe’s personality extremely well, and works brilliantly.
If you’re starting to worry that this is a game that relies on gimmicks for its appeal, don’t. As previously mentioned, Ashly Burch doesn’t repeat her incredible performance as Chloe, but she helps out with writing; and it the importance of this should not be underestimated. Chloe’s new voice is Rhianna DeVries, who achieves the seemingly impossible and proves to be a worthy replacement. The script is full of witty moments, interesting choices, and a flawless understanding of Life Is Strange’s universe and the characters who inhabit it. It does no harm that the acting is superb all round.
Though a prequel, this is best appreciated after playing the original series; not least because the only characters given any space to display depth are Chloe, and Rachel Amber. But what depth, where it is present. Chloe’s most vulnerable moments are sure to tug on the heartstrings, and Rachel proves fascinating. We approached this episode warily, and came out the other side hungry for more.
“New developer Deck Nine proves itself a safe pair of hands from the first episode”
Breaking the mystery of Rachel Amber’s character could have killed the episode, but instead it strengthens it enormously. Format PS4 (reviewed), XO, PC Publisher Square Enix Developer Deck Nine ETA Out now Players 1