Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
On the surface Life Is Strange comes off as a game about the silly teen drama filled with awkward pop culture references and cheesy dialogue. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the game deals with much darker themes alongside plenty of emotional moments. If you played the previous Life Is Strange then you already know what I’m talking about when I say things can get a little grim as you play through the episodes. So let’s take a trip back to Arcadia Bay to see what it has in store for us this time and find out if you should play, pass or wait for a price drop.
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is a prequel to the original game released in 2015. In Before The Storm instead of Max you play as Chloe and experience what she was going through during the time Max was away in Seattle. The story begins with a pre-blue-haired Chloe right before she meets Rachel Amber for the first time. If you’re a returning player to the series then the name Rachel Amber should be all too familiar. Unlike Max, Chloe doesn’t possess the power of time travel instead she takes advantage of her natural ability to manipulate people in the form of back talk challenges.
During certain conversations you’ll be given a bonus dialogue option, choose the right responses and you’ll be able to finesse your way to the desired outcome or just piss someone off. Being unable to rewind time you find yourself being a little more careful with the things you say and do for fear of making a mistake you can’t take back. At the same time, the lack of rewind power takes away any time travel puzzles you had in the first game making Before The Storm a little less challenging in that regard. Other than Chloe’s lack of rewind power and drawing “graffiti” instead of taking pictures the gameplay hasn’t changed much.
Like the first game, there are plenty of emotional junctures to encounter thanks to the fearsome relationship between Chloe and Rachel. Even though you play as Chloe it feels like Rachel Amber is the real main focus of the game. After hearing so much about Rachel in the previous game it makes sense the story is more geared toward learning who she is and why Chloe had such a strong attachment to her. Soon after Rachel rescues Chloe from some dirtbags at a concert their relationship starts to take off rather quickly.
The story manages to keep the players’ interest thanks to its twists, turns, and cliffhangers. Despite continuing to be the rebel with an attitude that we’re used to, Chloe shows off a more vulnerable side in Before The Storm. Sure she can still be brazenly obnoxious most of the time but there are those moments where we are reminded that it’s really all just a front. We see this on occasion when she has conversations with her deceased father as she tries to cope with everything she has going on. Rhianna DeVries does an excellent job bringing Chloe to life during all her emotional breakdowns. In the same way, Kylie Brown gives us a fantastic performance as Rachel Amber.
Apropos to the title, Before The Storm doesn’t have some giant hurricane barreling towards Arcadia Bay that you have to try and prevent. Instead, the game is more focused on Rachel Amber’s story. Regardless of all that we’ve heard and what most Blackwell students believe, Rachel is not the perfect person she’s set up to be. In fact, she has some messed up things going on in her life that dwarf Chloe’s issues in comparison. The more I played the game the more I realized Before The Storm is actually about Chloe trying to solve Rachel’s life issues as she constantly ignores her own. For example, at times Chloe shows more sympathy towards Rachel’s mom but continuously blows off Joyce the entire game. Sure some people would pin that on teenage angst but a lot of the time it just felt over the top. As if the writers really turned up the knob on Chloe’s douche factor this time around for no reason.
Something else that bothered me about Before The Storm is the ending. Without spoiling anything the last episode felt kind of meh to me. By the time I finished it I was like wait that’s it? Episode one did a good job setting up the story and what to expect while episode two managed to build onto that with even more plot and interesting moments. But Episode 3 just didn’t grasp me all the way through like I thought the finale would. Don’t get me wrong It had its moments but the way it ended was just kind of boring in my opinion. Although I suppose I can’t be too harsh as it is a prequel and there’s not much you can do without messing up the continuity of the previous game. Episode two was my favorite episode simply because I had a great time playing it. It took me about two hours to finish but it felt way less than that because I was enjoying it that much.
There’s a lot of familiar faces in Before The Storm alongside some new ones. David, Nathan, Victoria and even Frank makes an appearance as a somewhat prominent character. We even get a deeper look into the lives of some of these people and learn a little bit more about them as you progress through the game. But it’s not just the well-known characters that add to the experience, there are plenty of new citizens in Arcadia Bay that help to keep the game fresh. For example Drew and Mikey North are so opposite of one another you never would’ve known they were brothers other than the fact that there’s a total of like 4 black people in this whole town. Even with the title given by like “queen of the nerds” Steph Gingrich seems like the only “normal” person in Arcadia Bay that isn’t wrapped up in some wild antics. And then there’s Damon Merrick, the tattooed drug dealer with a temper. There are plenty more characters to meet and I was happy to see that Don’t Nod added some new personalities instead of solely relying on ones from the first game.
The soundtrack in Before The Storm manages to completely capture the small town vibe and sell the atmosphere Don’t Nod was trying to create. Daughter did an excellent job with the music (along with various other artists), so much so I found myself looking into more of their music on Spotify. If I could only praise one thing about this game it would without a doubt be the music.
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm might not be as good as the previous game but overall I enjoyed my time with it. The excellent acting, fantastic music and interesting character design were more than enough to look past its just ok ending. If your a fan of the series or looking to try the game for the first time I highly recommend picking it up, especially now that all the episodes are out. You can get the full game for just seventeen bucks or the deluxe edition containing a bonus episode for twenty-five bucks. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm makes for an enjoyable experience that you might find yourself all in on if you willing to give it a chance.