This article contains some spoilers for the game. Proceed with caution!
When I first played the original Life is Strange, I was at a low point in my life.
I needed a nice relaxing game to absorb myself with and take my mind off of things. But I was jarred back into reality how despite the game’s soft pastel palette and the quaint American high school setting, the game was not the stuff ‘chillaxing’ was made for. It was, however, one of the most engaging games I’ve played.
Life is Strange is known for having enough twists and meaningful choices to keep its players on their toes. In addition to having both possible endings thematically sound, both conclusions make sense, with one making more sense to the player than the other, instead of the standard binary of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ending.
So with the release of the new game, called Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I was excited to see what was in store for players. The game stars the troubled girl Chloe Price of the original game (a character that one of our members has written about before) and is a prequel.
For those who liked the atmosphere of the first game, this game won’t disappoint.
While the original developers did not work on this new installment, Before the Storm looks (pastel colors), sounds (I bill it as hipster alternative rock) and overall feels like the original. Chloe even keeps a journal and phone, same as Max. However, to keep the game fresh (aside from the story) some new features have been introduced.
Before the Storm has a small way of reminding players what to do with a press of a button that makes the camera pan to Chloe’s palm. The little note serves as a reminder of the agenda, such as where to go or what to do. Another, since Chloe had never encountered supernatural forces a la Max’s ‘Rewind’ abilities, we are introduced to Chloe’s ‘Backtalk’ skill. This new feature lets the player battle it out with snarky responses geared towards shutting people down. Pick the right statement to throw back, and Chloe gets her desired outcome.
The changes were effective in having Chloe grow on me as a main character. While it doesn’t feel quite as a superpower as the Rewind, Backtalk is distinctly Chloe’s thing. It suits her, and shows us the Chloe players remember from the first game who isn’t afraid to take people on with her biting wit. Through the new skill, the notes on her palm and the journal with drawings in lieu of photos, it’s clear it’s Chloe’s turn to shine, instead of just being the cosmic plaything sidekick from the first game. If Max’s talents shone in her journal, Chloe’s shines in hers.
Before the Storm is distinctly a game that depicts the life and troubles of a teenager.
The story goes into how Chloe met Rachel Amber and how their relationship progressed. In the first game, Rachel Amber’s disappearance was the epicenter of the entire story. This time, at least in the first episode, the conflicts arise from Chloe’s relationships and choices.
As she deals with her the loss of her father to a car crash and her best friend to a move to Seattle, Chloe’s everyday life spirals downwards as she attempts to overcome these issues. You see the world through her eyes. People evidently try to help her out, but not in the ways she needs. Thus, Chloe’s world begins to feel too constricting. She floats along, seeking cheap thrills like sneaking away from home, stealing and smoking weed, until the appearance of a wonderful person who makes her world a bit bigger and brighter, Rachel Amber. To fuel some teenage angst though, not everything proceeds with sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Players of the original game know how it all ends.
Notably, Life is Strange: Before the Storm doesn’t fail to frame Chloe in a sympathetic light.
Chloe has dream sequences of driving in her father’s car, which lends players a glimpse into her state of mind. On a ludological level, this also becomes a venue for the game writers to sprinkle in clues and reinforce narrative themes without feeling too obtrusive. Before the Storm, for example, uses crow motifs in place of the butterflies that floated through Life is Strange.
With the game a venue to Chloe’s mind, the game is able to fully depict her relationship with Rachel. This is great for old fans, as we only caught glimpses of her in the first game. From the get-go, Chloe has strong affectionate feelings for Rachel, but it goes hand-in-hand with Chloe’s shortcomings with handling relationships in general. This is, without a doubt, a common feeling everyone shares during their youth, and possibly until adulthood.
The first episode contains one of the more powerful depictions of relationship struggles in games.
During the last leg of the game, where a date occurs, Rachel comes across a scene that upsets her. Chloe fails to pick up on this until it’s too late. The choices Chloe is faced with then in order to console Rachel depict the teeth-pulling difficulty of balancing one’s own needs while keeping in mind someone else’s. The choices the game presents to you as a player as to what Chloe should do about Rachel reflects Chloe’s own confusion, mild panic and desperation. Neither of the choices seems to correctly balance what Chloe wants to do and what Rachel needs from her. It feels awfully too real.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm succeeds in being a homage to the first game. However, at the same time it has enough going on for itself to feel like a game that can stand on its own two feet. It’s a game about a teenager and teenage problems, and embraces this fact wholeheartedly, much to its benefit.
Have any of you guys played the game yet? Let us know what you think!