Before the Storm
Donning a hoodie, a face-full of spots and mooching around the local shopping precinct, Philippa Warr fits in well with the LinuxFormat team.
Donning a hoody, a face full of spots and mooching around the train tracks, Philippa
Warr fits in well with the LinuxFormat team as she tackles this teen-angst simulator.
This teen drama has that challenge peculiar to prequels of having to provide the build-up to a story which managed fine without it. Beforethe Storm takes characters from Lifeis
Strange and digs into their lives a few years prior. The main focus this time is Chloe Price – a gawky ball of unresolved grief, an exuder of teen rage and a serial player of hooky. We join her after the death of her father, William, just as class princess, Rachel Amber, crashes into her life.
BeforetheStorm offers a more streamlined experience than its predecessor. It prioritises conversation over puzzlesolving and fleshes out the relationship which is at the root of most of the action in LifeisStrange.
One of the things we loved about the original game was how it seemed to embrace the tropes of teen fiction. This means it can be overly dramatic, self-serving or steeped in wish fulfilment. You’ll also find spaces where people are figuring themselves out, writing their identities into being, having confrontations they can’t have in real life, conjuring up escapes from the frustration of adolescence, being their own heroes.
There are also some ace scenes. Chloe can have a foray into D&D that made us laugh out loud, there’s a people-watching improv segment and there are so many little moments of sincerity where the efforts of the characters to connect with each other feels just right. There’s also plenty of wish fulfilment. While Lifeis Strange wound its storytelling around a central mystery,
BeforetheStorm hones in on Chloe and Rachel’s story. The first game supported satisfying ambiguities with regard to relationships. This time we went headlong into romance. It was great. Dramatic and sincere and absolutely replete with iconic moments.
The previous time rewind mechanic has been replaced with a backtalk challenge. We found this to be mostly miss because you’re essentially arguing your way through a scene in an artificial way. Before theStorm sometimes wanders into simplistic melodrama with pantomime villains (as did its predecessor). Our feelings of annoyance are heightened partly because the game has played out against the backdrop of #MeToo.
On the overtly negative side, character movement – especially the running and walking animations – can be distractingly odd. In fact, characters generally have a very strange lack of physicality in the world.
Accompanying this is a stilted element of the dialogue. There are some unnaturally long pauses between lines and a propensity to tell, not show. We found our minds wandering during some scenes as conversations took on a stop-start quality.
Nods to and teasers for the original game are variable. Some add context to story and characters, others seem more about enticing players into picking up the other game. There are also points where coherence or logic are pushed to one side in service of emotions or aesthetic.
BeforetheStorm benefits from being more focused and more of a character piece than LifeIsStrange. It gets rid of most of the clunky puzzling, provides emotional payoffs for Chloe fans, and puts a teenage girl front and centre in a valuable way. LXF
Not everyone wants to relive those teenangst moments.
“What? My hoodie was in the wash, okay? Get over it.”