life is strange: be­fore the storm

Re­vis­it­ing the past is a char­ac­ter-build­ing ex­er­cise

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START -

Life is strange, but love is even stranger. Some­times it can be sud­den and over­whelm­ing, like a wave crash­ing over you, pulling you un­der, and other times it can grow slowly like a tall oak tree, and be­fore you know it you have some­thing that can weather even the strong­est of storms. It’s im­pres­sive then that Deck Nine man­ages to achieve both of these through­out their pre­quel to Dontnod’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed episodic ad­ven­ture game: The former in the devel­op­ment of the main char­ac­ters’ new­found re­la­tion­ship, and the lat­ter with how you’ll feel about the game at its con­clu­sion.

Con­sist­ing of just three episodes and set three years be­fore the events of Life Is Strange, we find our­selves walk­ing in the torn jeans of 16-yearold Chloe Price and wit­ness­ing the meet­ing and blos­som­ing re­la­tion­ship with Rachel Am­ber, whom we only learn about in the pre­vi­ous game through miss­ing per­sons pictures and Chloe’s sto­ries. In­stinc­tively it feels that this re­la­tion­ship de­vel­ops at such a speed as to seem un­be­liev­able, or pos­si­bly even forced, but as the story pro­gresses it all be­gins to make sense. Their first meet­ing is dur­ing a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion at a tu­mul­tuous point in both of their lives where, in Chloe’s case, we see a raw teenager still pro­cess­ing the loss of her fa­ther, and Rachel be­gin­ning to sus­pect that her lov­ing and faith­ful fa­ther is any­thing but. They see some­thing in one an­other that they wish to pur­sue with­out fully un­der­stand­ing it.

Rebel yell

Through these events Deck Nine does a fan­tas­tic job of flesh­ing out Chloe’s char­ac­ter into a more well-rounded in­di­vid­ual. Dis­ap­point­ingly, how­ever, this can’t be said about most of the other sup­port­ing char­ac­ters, such as Rachel’s fa­ther, James, who has a prom­i­nent role within the game yet doesn’t con­vey any sort of depth partly due to bad writ­ing and poor voice act­ing. Chloe’s soon-to-be step­fa­ther David Mad­sen suf­fers a sim­i­lar fate—his one-di­men­sional char­ac­ter­i­za­tion be­trays the com­plex­ity that was of­fered in the pre­vi­ous game. There are a few at­tempts at try­ing to build on David’s char­ac­ter and to garner sym­pa­thy, but these fall flat and fail to move emo­tion­ally. These is­sues may be in no small part due to the voice ac­tors’ strike, as none of the orig­i­nal ac­tors re­turned. Some make a valiant at­tempt at im­i­tat­ing the pre­vi­ous game’s coun­ter­parts, such as Chloe and her mother Joyce, but oth­ers are so dif­fer­ent it be­comes dis­tract­ing.

De­spite start­ing with very little, Deck Nine was suc­cess­ful,

“Ul­ti­mately this is a story of com­pan­ion­ship and the jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery”

par­tic­u­larly to­wards the end of the game, in build­ing a multi-faceted Rachel. How­ever, she can seem some­what un­sym­pa­thetic. The dis­as­trous con­se­quences of one of her ac­tions early on ap­pears to have little im­pact on her, or the story, spoil­ing an oth­er­wise in­ter­est­ing and com­plex char­ac­ter.

Teenage pol­i­tics

A no­table ad­di­tion to the game are the Back­talk chal­lenges that have you ini­ti­at­ing ar­gu­ments at spe­cific points to in­flu­ence the con­ver­sa­tion and di­rect the game’s nar­ra­tive. While the count­down timer adds a sense of ur­gency to the game, it forces your hand in choos­ing the op­tion you think will help you win the ar­gu­ment as op­posed to the one you think best suits the sit­u­a­tion or char­ac­ter. Only in an op­tional scene where you take part in a Dun­geons & Dragons game and dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly tense

con­fronta­tion did this me­chanic feel re­ally ap­pro­pri­ate.

Be­fore The Storm con­tains some gen­uine stand­out mo­ments, even com­pared with the first game. One of which has you tak­ing part in an adap­ta­tion of Shake­speare’s The

Tem­pest, which comes across as both funny and emo­tional, and an­other dur­ing a rev­e­la­tion at the end of episode two. These mo­ments make up for some of the more dis­ap­point­ing ar­eas of the game.

Ul­ti­mately this is a story of com­pan­ion­ship and the jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery. You’ll walk away lov­ing Chloe more than ever and cher­ish her re­la­tion­ship with Rachel, but thanks to a few is­sues with the nar­ra­tive and voice act­ing, you’re left with a story that has po­ten­tial to reach giddy heights, but doesn’t com­pletely get off the ground. Know­ing the fate of both Chloe and Rachel cer­tainly sets you up for a some­what bit­ter­sweet tale and on that front it de­liv­ers. To drive things home we’re brought back to re­al­ity with a sober­ing and hard­hit­ting post-cred­its scene that of­fers pos­si­bly the most pow­er­ful mo­ment within the whole en­ter­prise.

Re­gard­less of whether Chloe’s re­la­tion­ship with Rachel de­vel­ops into a ro­man­tic one or one of just friends, this is a beau­ti­ful story of two peo­ple find­ing so­lace in help­ing each other through grief dur­ing a very dif­fi­cult pe­riod in their lives.


Your re­la­tion­ship with Rachel de­pends en­tirely on your choices. far left

You can re­ally feel the mo­ment when their lives change for­ever. Left

Deck Nine man­ages to pull off heart­felt emo­tional highs.

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