Life is strange: be­fore the storm

The han­dling of Price and Am­ber’s dex­trous

Games Master - - CONTENTS -

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.

Smart parse

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

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