This Life is Strange: Before the Storm review was delayed because I wanted to see how all the episodes played out, before making any decisions. Before the Storm consists of only three episodes, each about 5 hours in total. It wasn’t developed by Dontnod Entertainment, which was the studio that developed Life is Strange. Before the Storm was developed by Deck Nine and both games were published by Square Enix.
As this is before Life is Strange, the story follows Chloe Price, a younger version of herself from the previous game. During the course of all the episodes, Chloe struggles with the death of her father and refers to his death several times throughout. In episode one, Chloe goes to see a rock band at an old mill where she meets Rachel Amber for the first time. This sparks the journey between these two teenagers throughout all the episodes. Spoiling stories on games, especially ones that revolve so heavy on the story, is not my thing. So, that’s all you get.
Before the Storm obviously didn’t have the same time travel system as the original. Instead it touted a new mechanic, “Backtalk”, which allows you to argue your way through conversations. Backtalk can help you if done properly, but can also get you into even worse situations. As the first, this game is made up of dialogue choices, some that have a lasting impact for the story depending on your decision.
Deck Nine also introduced the ability to jog, instead of just walking at a very slow pace through the entire game. This adjustment was, by far, one of the best additions to the entire series.
Another idea implemented by Deck Nine, was Graffiti. As Chloe is not a photographer like Max was, she tags objects in the environment for the sheer joy of messing with people. Personally, I find that to be way more interesting than the photos. Although, finding them is rather easy, and a challenge would have been appreciated.
Deck Nine did a relatively decent job with adjusting how this game looks. They obviously used some assets from the original game, but added several new areas which were never in Life is Strange. Also, characters didn’t look as if they were talking ahead of themselves. Timing of lip movements with the voice actors was greatly improved. Deck Nine was chosen to complete this project, because of StoryForge tools, which is what made the difference between Before the Storm and Life is Strange.
The UI is very much like the original, along with all the little details throughout like, the choices having the same etched pencil look, the journal type menu, and interacting with objects (which also still had the same “shifting etched pencil markings”).
Episode one really brings out the characters that are Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. You really get a sense of their personalities. Chloe has the same demeanor as she did in Life is Strange, although she is younger here, showing how vulnerable she can be. She still fights with her mother and David along with very combative dialogue with Principal Wells (from Blackwell Academy). However, she does appear to be more social towards the other, lesser, characters such as Mikey and Steph (who you even get a chance to play a tabletop game with).
Rachel is also developed quite nicely, showing how spontaneous and sophisticated she can be. She appears to care for Chloe very early on, which does seem quite forced for both characters. Rachel carries herself in a very “performer-like” manner, which is what you might expect from her. Because of Rachel’s charismatic personality, she is almost the exact opposite of Chloe, making their interactions extremely pleasant to be a part of.
During episode two, Chole and Rachel bond even further, becoming intense rather quickly. This transition is extremely fast considering how long their relationship has been. The whole “star-crossed lover” routine is quite unappealing and leaves an awkward taste in your mouth.
Though the development of their characters separately is on par with the first episode, you do start to feel for both of the characters and the different struggles they are enduring. Rachel has an effect on Chloe that brings her out of the shell she has withdrawn into since her father died. The dialogue between the two is always excellent. Episode two also has a serious cliffhanger at the end, which will make you second guess a lot of what you saw during this episode.
Episode three was… a bit of an oddball from the other two. Episode one and two focused on character development and included a bit of the Backtalk mechanic during each episode. However, this one only had one Backtalk conversation in it, which seriously affected its gameplay overall. They also had very few choices that would alter the way the story played out, which is a major part of this game. Most of the content in episode three includes long cutscenes.
The cliffhanger from episode two may have interfered with how the developers were able to move forward with the mechanics. The whole time you are trying to figure out this mystery with Rachel, making it difficult to implement the new Backtalk mechanic. Chloe also was so focused on helping Rachel, that it felt like Chloe was Max this time around. In Life is Strange, it always felt like Chloe was taking advantage of Max and her powers. I had a bunch of deja vu moments, feeling that Chloe was only helping Rachel because of how she felt towards her. Rachel was all about Rachel and didn’t really take Chloe’s feelings into consideration during this episode.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoyed the story of Life is Strange, you will like Before the Storm. It has a great story, with plenty of depth involved with the main characters. However, the last episode does not translate well with the rest of the game. It makes it awkward to play because of the lack of play. For the majority of the game, it plays and feels a lot like the original. However, it does have its flaws, including the very off-putting third episode and the overly fast development between the two main characters.