Ahhhh Life is Strange: you were sorely missed, my friend! I remember my first time entering Arcadia Bay like it was just the other day and now returning back to it (albeit a few years before the original game) made me feel a bit nostalgic. Though there are a few new characters – and a few familiar faces here and there – it still feels like the Arcadia Bay I remember, which is a good thing. That is the main strength of Before the Storm: it feels familiar, despite it being made by a new developer.
Instead of budding photographer, Max Caulfield, we now step into the shoes of her best friend, Chloe Price. The game opens 2 years following the death of Chloe’s dad. For those of you familiar with the original game, you will know that her dad’s death had a significant impact on her life, causing her to become the angsty teenager that we know (and love). Chloe attends a rock concert at an abandoned mill on the outskirts of Arcadia Bay and soon runs into trouble with two guys after she accidentally spills beer on one guy’s shirt. She eventually gets saved by Rachel Amber, a straight-A student at Blackwell Academy that we only hear about, but never see, in the original game. Episode 1 follows Chloe and Rachel and the bond that the two eventually form.
Episode 1’s story starts on a very high note by getting us into the action from the very beginning. Once the prologue is complete the game then starts slowing down so that we can familiarise ourselves with our surroundings again. I personally do not think that this affects the pacing in any way. If anything, it’s a nice touch to reacquaint ourselves with the people and places of Arcadia Bay again so that we can have those “aha” moments. The story, overall, was absolutely amazing. The dialogue choices may feel a bit cringeworthy at times, but the overall writing was superbly done; ranging from heartwarming to emotional (with a touch of foreshadowing). Another thing that impressed me from the very beginning was the soundtrack. I feel that the music contributes perfectly to the overall tone of the game as well as Chloe’s personality (like the indie folk music from the original game perfectly fitted Max’s character).
Because Chloe can’t reverse time like Max did, the game incorporates a new mechanic called “Backtalk”. “Backtalk” serves as Chloe’s “persuasion tool” to help get her out of certain situations or to stand her ground against someone. It involves stringing the right phrases together by listening to what the other person says. If you choose the wrong phrases, however, “Backtalk” will backfire (no pun intended) on you and you might make a seemingly bad situation even worse. The second change is that instead of taking pictures of certain things, like in the original game, Chloe, instead, can graffiti on landmarks and walls. As an added bonus, you can even choose what you want to write (to some extent).
Overall, Before the Storm starts on a great note with its writing, characters and soundtrack. It took me 4 hours to complete Episode 1, which is a good sign given the fact that some people had a problem with the game only being 3 episodes long. For newcomers, I strongly suggest that you play the original Life is Strange before playing this one as you might not catch the importance and significance of certain characters as quickly as previous players will. I cannot wait for the rest of the episodes to be released and I am definitely interested to see what happens next.
Available on: PC/XB1/PS4