When it leaked that a prequel to Life Is Strange, a game I absolute adored, was being made, I couldn’t help but groan. Then when it came out it wasn’t even developed by creator Dontnod, I was even more bewildered as to why it was happening. As someone who thought that Max and Chloe’s story arc was completely told within the original game, I just didn’t see the point in going back to Arcadia Bay.
After getting to watch a 20 minute gameplay presentation of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, I’m starting to come around to the idea. This wasn’t because of any gameplay mechanics that blew my mind, or any shocking story twists I saw. No, this newfound acceptance comes from how passionate the team at Deck Nine Games are about the game, and how they aren’t taking these beloved characters for granted. This still isn’t the choice I would’ve made with the franchise, but it’s happening and I’ll undoubtedly end up playing it.
The gameplay demo was largely the same as the one that Square Enix posted on their YouTube channel (I’ve embedded it below), although they allowed the audience at the meeting to choose what decisions Chloe made. This made my playthrough differ quite a bit, and I got to see how choices will manifest in the game now that there isn’t a rewind time ability. Instead, Deck Nine wants to focus on relatable drama that’ll get players to invest in Chloe and Rachel’s story (although they were clear to point out that this will end well before the beginning of the original game).
Not Gonna Get Us
As far as gameplay goes, not much has changed in Before the Storm. The only major difference between controlling Chloe instead of Max is that she won’t be able to rewind time. That’ll likely mean that the game’s puzzles won’t be as unique as the original, as it really used the time altering mechanic in some really neat ways, but there’s still plenty of solid adventure gaming going on here.
The demo started off with Chloe crashing an indie band’s concert at a bar. This was a completely new location created by Deck Nine, and I was told that the new game will alternate between fresh areas and familiar locales. Since Chloe is far more extroverted than Max ever was, expect to get into even more crazy escapades here, as she managed to ruin a t-shirt salesman’s car, got into a fight with a local drunk, and unsuccessfully tried to buy some pot in a 10-minute span.
Controlling Chloe, and getting to learn more about her past, is definitely the draw here. Some of her rebellious behavior will be at the player’s discretion, as the collectible replacing photos in the first game is doing graffiti, and I’m really excited to see how the game will deal with her troubled school life. The friendship between her and Rachel will also be explored, which is what the second half of the demo focused on, and can be seen in the video above. I just hope that it won’t be a total repeat of Max and Chloe, as they’ll have to have a different dynamic for it to make an impact the second time around.
How Soon Is Now?
The three scenes I saw of Before the Storm all felt like they belonged in a proper Life Is Strange game, although I can’t say they rivaled the most memorable parts of the first game. This is most likely by design, as they don’t want to give away any huge plot twists before release, and the game’s storyline is likely operating at a smaller scale considering its only going to last three episodes. I was told that the game will last anywhere from six to nine hours, so that means each episode will be two hours and some change.
During the presentation, I did notice that some of the background textures looked pretty rough. Life Is Strange wasn’t a technical marvel graphically, but it generally looked nice. There are still over two months until the first episode of Before the Storm releases, though, so it could very well be cleaned up before release. Another big change in the audiovisual department is that Chloe is voiced by a new actress as Ashly Burch was unable to reprise her role due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. This obviously sucks, and Burch is actually consulting on the game as a writer, but the new actress’ performance didn’t bug me any. It may be more jarring for other fans, but I’m not sure I would’ve noticed if I wasn’t aware of the change beforehand or put them side-by-side.
Deck Nine Games have been handed an incredibly beloved series by Square Enix, and that weight has not been lost on the developers. Before the Storm looks to further flesh out the world of Arcadia Bay, and all the right intentions are there. I’m hopeful that its shorter three episode run will provide some interesting backstory for fans as they wait for whatever Life Is Strange 2 will be, and can say without a doubt that this isn’t just an attempt to cash-in on a property that did surprisingly well.
The first episode of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is set to release August 31, 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Previewed on Xbox One.