life is strange: before the storm
Revisiting the past is a character-building exercise
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.
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.
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.