I have a lot of time for Life is Strange. I remember starting the original game and being a little worried that I would end up resenting the adolescent, hipster characters and ultimately would not finish it. However, I was sucked into the story and certainly enjoyed it overall so if you are considering picking up Before the Storm, I would highly recommend ensuring you have played Life is Strange first. This is mainly so you can get to know the characters as we did before going back in time to spend time with Chloe before Max returned to Arcadia Bay. In this review, I have decided to give a brief overview of what to expect in the episode as there are a lot of similarities to LIS and Before the Storm but I won’t focus too much on spoilers!
The first instalment of Before the Storm opens with Chloe showing us why she is considered the rebellious outcast as she flips off trespassing warnings and turns up to a rock gig in a big old barn which looks a little worse for wear and is clearly full of cool biker dudes and chicks that Chloe would probably feel at home with. I first encountered a familiar looking RV which Chloe’s dealer drives in the original game and I found the optional graffiti encounter which replaces the photos that Max could take in Life if Strange as your collectibles for achievements and trophies. Chloe is determined to get inside to see the band and talks to the bouncer who is having none of it which is a perfect time for our introduction to Chloe’s ‘power’… which isn’t so much a power as Max had with rewinding time, but is more of a game of chance depending on how well you listen to the conversation. Chloe essentially has the ability to insult people… or not. If you pick the wrong sentence, you’ll lose a chance to talk down the person you’re trying it on with which has consequences on how things progress. The first conversation highlights what you should listen out for in order to say the appropriate response to give Chloe the upper hand. If you hit these, then your ‘opponent’ will back down. I managed to backchat to the bouncer enough that he let Chloe in so we can see what trouble she will get herself into next.
After exploring the bar area a little and observing some folks along with a brief conversation with Chloe’s dealer who you’ll recognise from LIS, Chloe gets herself into a spot of bother but suddenly a pretty awesome looking chick who Chloe knows from Blackwell Academy to save the day. You learn that this is Rachael. Not only the coolest and most popular girl in school but also the girl Chloe was so heartbroken about during LIS. You get to enjoy the rest of the gig with her before the game returns you to Chloe’s room the morning after the night before where we get a recap on why Chloe hates everything and everyone. With this opening sequence of events, you’ll notice that the graphics and play style have been carried on without many changes. I don’t have any issues with this and it worked for me the last time around so I’m glad they haven’t been swayed to change things too much.
If you have played LIS, you’ll remember that Chloe’s dad died in a car accident and this game takes place after the event when Chloe’s mum is now at the moving in stage with David, the pornstache ex-vet who Chloe despises. You discuss this with your mum before she announces that he’s giving you a lift to school and she needs you to do better. David tries to do some bonding over his muscle car but as Chloe knows a little about cars, she’s not really having any of it especially when you realise that her mum has packed up most of your dads photos and things and David is starting to leave his things in the garage. You’ll get another opportunity to try and win the insult battle in a car chat with David before you get to school, another familiar setting as a fair amount of time was spent here in LIS. You’ll bump into a few characters, have some conversations which will require Chloe to win those backchat battles. The best bit of the whole episode for me was the table top Dungeon & Dragons style game you have the option to play with a couple of ‘nerds’. I highly recommend taking the time to play this bit as it was great and as someone who is in the middle of the D&D campaign at the moment, it made me want to get the group together and get back to it.
You’ll meet up with Rachael again and you begin to see that there is certainly some sort of spark between these young ladies. Rachael announces she wants to bunk off school and suddenly you are getting on a train with the coolest girl in school who suddenly wants to get to know Chloe. You play a game of Truth and Lies which gives you the opportunity to cheat at or play honestly (I played honestly) and Rachael accurately guesses your truths and lies. She takes Chloe to a park up to a view point so you can people watch. You have a bit of an explore, come across some stranded picnickers who mistake you for a beggar before you manage to get the quarter out and start playing a new game… spying on people and acting out what they’re saying and thinking. After spying on a few people, Rachael focuses on a girl in white dress under the ‘Lonely Tree’ who suddenly embraces a man rather passionately. Rachael starts acting odd, saying she wants to get wasted and after a short while you find an old junk yard… again a familiar setting and you confront Rachel on her sudden mood change which results in Rachel departing leaving you to smash the place up before it appears you find the car Chloe’s dad died in.
I felt really sorry for Chloe. While her teenage angst is a little much at times, she lost her dad, her mum has shacked up with a man she can’t stand, she has these feelings for a girl she’s only really just started to get to know and it’s all happening at once. There are a couple of dream sequences where Chloe’s dad appears to be driving her somewhere and they talk things out (in a cryptic way) before Chloe awakens and returns to the park to find Rachael. After a little conversation, Rachael announces why she is so upset and understandably acts out which results in a little montage before the episode closes off which I won’t spoil for you!
Overall, I did enjoy the episode and it was nice to get a bit more insight into Chloe’s past without Max being in the picture. I like to think I know where the story is going but if LIS is anything to go by, there will be some sort of curveball which will completely change the games direction. Everything happens quite quickly in this episode which seems quite appropriate as teenagers are always in a rush… to grow up, prove they don’t need their parents, to fall in love, to do crazy things and all that other stuff. Over the 2 1/2 hours or so I was playing through (I tried to explore everything after all), I didn’t find myself wanting to stop and in fact ended up going to bed really late because I wanted to finish it!
There is a lot of familiarity which isn’t necessarily a problem because we all know this is a prequel chapter focusing on the relationship of Chloe and Rachael which is something we have all wondered about since the first game. Exploring is encouraged and while it isn’t open world, you can miss interactions with people or items if you don’t take your time. You have your journal which is worth a read if you want to see how hurt Chloe is about Max and also it’s worth checking Chloe’s phone when you’re prompted to and interacting with everything is a must if you’re going to get the most out of this experience. I look forward to the arrival of the next episode and will be sure to return to give you my thoughts on where the story is heading!