Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 Review -- A Thrilling Prologue
Normally, I'm just as objective with writing game reviews as I am with piecing together guides. This is the game, this is what you can do in the game, and this is how impressed (or unimpressed) I am by it. However, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a special kind of episodic game -- and it deserves something just a bit more personal.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is what you remember from the previous game -- and it's not. Some things have changed and some things haven't. But like the BAFTA-winning original, it will pull on your heartstrings. Spoiler: I cried.
Spoiler: I cried.
What is Life is Strange: Before the Storm?
In this prologue to the original Life is Strange, you play as Chloe Price about five months after her best friend, Max, has moved away to Seattle. You're not socially awkward, you don't take photos, and you definitely don't have temporal powers.
Instead -- in a rather fitting twist for a badass punk like Chloe -- you can intimidate people, graffiti the heck out of everything, and finally meet the mysterious Rachel Amber. And just like the original, your choices impact the story here, too.
There's a new dialogue interaction unique to Chloe in Life is Strange: Before the Storm called 'Backtalk Challenge'. When you initiate one of these challenges -- you'll know it from the '#!@' symbol on the screen -- your goal is to use what your opponent said and twist it in your favor. Succeed enough times, and you'll be able to shut them down and get what you want. This feature immediately makes Chloe stand apart from the socially anxious Max Caulfield -- and it was always hella' satisfying to pull off.
Then, rather than collecting photos like Max did, Chloe has a collectibles page for her graffiti. There are graffiti spots just waiting to be scribbled on all over Arcadia Bay, and some of them are even kind of tricky to find. They all give you a choice of what to draw or write, too, which really gives each playthrough a sense of personal flair, complete with Collector's Mode for those who want to grab the graffiti spots they may miss the first time around.
And of course, this wouldn't be a proper Life is Strange game without the good old-fashioned power of choice. The only difference between the original and this prologue is that you can't rewind time to rethink your decisions. What you decide is ultimately the choice you're stuck with -- and you bet your cat there'll be consequences.
The Player Experience of Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Note: Some spoilers for both Life is Strange and Before the Storm follow.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to Chloe at all going into Before the Storm. With Max, I in some ways felt as if I were watching her portray social insecurities and mores that largely mirror my own. It made the entire experience of Life is Strange very personal.
And yet, shortly after the opening sequence of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I quickly found myself relating to Chloe far more closely than I had imagined. On the outside, she's a punk that does a lot of juvenile crap that, I admit, I had a hard time seeing through. However, past her hard, defensive shell, she's really just lonely in the aftermath of her father's death and her best friend moving away. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she's dealing with an abrasive new father-figure with whom she doesn't get along.
Being in Chloe's head for the first time hit close to home and influenced my decisions and feelings about the game. It got to the point where I felt as if I were the one experiencing Chloe's thoughts and feelings -- Deck Nine did an amazing job making her relatable despite her rigid outward personality.
Now, if you're wondering why we're playing the role of Chloe Price more than three years before the events of Life is Strange take place. That's because she's the connection between the two games. In Before the Storm, Chloe meets the mysterious Rachel Amber, an important, missing girl referenced all throughout the first game. This gripping prologue expands upon how they met and why Rachel is so important to Chloe.
And after meeting Rachel in Episode 1, I'm left with more questions about her than I had coming into this. The end of the episode gave me chills and left me begging to see more. I only hope that Episodes 2 and 3 live up to the high bar that Episode 1 has set for them.
Overall, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a masterfully executed episodic adventure game that retains all the emotional impact of the first game, even if it scrapped a few of the more novel ideas -- I'm looking at you, rewind powers. Whether you're a fan of the first game or just looking for a great new episodic title to sink your teeth into, you'll find great value here.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is now available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $16.99.
[Note: A copy of Life is Strange: Before the Storm was provided by the publisher for review.]