When adding to a game that worked so nicely on its own in the form of prequels and sequels, there is always a high risk of just fucking up a good thing. Maybe more so with prequels, as with those you have a big chance of over explaining things that didn’t need to be explained. It is because of these reasons and the added uncertainty of another studio (Deck Nine) handling the project, that I was cautiously optimistic about Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
The first chapter of the Life is Strange prequel dropped last Thursday and after playing it, I don’t feel very worried anymore. Deck Nine has done a surprisingly good job in making the game feel like its predecessor by DontNod, and Chloe’s new voice actor does not stand out like a sore thumb, but feels like a younger less hardened Chloe. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights.
**MINOR SPOILERS FOR LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM FOLLOWS**
- Chloe’s Backtalk Mechanic
One thing that was a bit of a question mark was how they were going to flavor the gameplay mechanics this time around, as unlike Max in Life is Strange who had the power to rewind time to alter conversations and events to her advantage, Chloe does not have any special powers to rely on.
This gap is filled with a new conversation mechanic that suits Chloe’s punk character perfectly: Backtalk. This essentially means that Chloe can choose to provoke her conversation partner and get her way if she chooses the right retort – in other words one that takes into consideration what her conversation partner said to her right before – enough times to fill in her bar before her partner does.
- It Knows it is a Prequel
If you have never played Life is Strange but are considering to play Life is Strange: Before the Storm please stop right there. This game wears the fact that it is a prequel on its sleeve and the experience is greatly diminished if you don’t know what happened during Life is Strange. When you know what Chloe’s and Rachel’s situation is like later, it paints their beginnings in a Before the Storm in a bittersweet hue – you know what’s coming but you can’t stop it. This provides the prequel with a very strong emotional core.
Another thing that greatly benefits from Before the Storm being played after Life is Strange is Max. Max was the protagonist of Life is Strange and everything in that game was thusly experienced from her perspective. To us, Max was just a geeky awkward girl, who loves photography, trying to do some good in the world. The every day hero. We learn that Chloe is bitter about how Max moved to another city and left her alone when she needed a friend the most, but we never really blame Max for it.
In Before the Storm, we get to experience this neglect from Chloe’s perspective while it is actually happening. First the widening gaps between texts – with Max just occasionally telling Chloe that she is a bit busy now – and then the many texts from Chloe that have gone completely unanswered. Seeing it all from Chloe’s side stings. You feel conflicted because you don’t want to like Max, but you do because of the bond you formed in Life is Strange.
- The Mystery of Rachel
Throughout Life is Strange Rachel remained a mysterious character that you only heard about through other characters, especially Chloe. It was a double-edged sword in telling more about her now in Before the Storm, but I feel she was worth the gamble. There is something special about her, with the way she is scarily good at picking up lies and seems to know everything you were up to as Chloe – even when she wasn’t there. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in the next chapters and what we get to learn.
I’ll leave this here for now in order to avoid bigger spoilers, but I might add some thoughts here when more chapters get released. For now, I am definitely looking forward to more chapters and how the story unfolds!