• James Hewlett

Before The Storm


Last week I wrote about Life Is Strange and how good I was, I said I would do an update when I finished the prequel game, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm so that’s what I’m going to do today.

This isn’t going to be a full review or anywhere near as in depth as I got for the original game, just my general thoughts and impressions. I’m going to have to very lightly spoil Life Is Strange at a couple of points but nothing that is too much. If you read my review and want to play both games unsullied though, go do that now.

This one is shorter, consisting of only three episodes rather than five. There is also a bonus episode that I haven’t played yet that goes even further back to the day Max, the player character from the first game, is leaving town and saying goodbye.

In Before The Storm you play as Chloe Price, Max’s best friend and break out fan favourite from the original. The game is set about three years earlier and deals with… quite frankly a little bit too much considering it follows the same pattern of each chapter basically being a consecutive day in the story. That is a very minor niggle though, and something that I notice in a lot of things. I can ignore it, it makes for an exciting story.

Chloe is already rebellious and her relationship with her mum is even more on edge than it is later on in the story. Her dads death is still quite fresh and she is still very much trying to figure out how to grieve for the loss of him and her best friend leaving. The journal from the first game is replaced by unsent letters to Max this time round and I found myself reading them more often, they feel less like a recap and more like a true inner monologue giving you deeper understanding of where Chloe’s head is at. It actually did help me in making a few decisions though the course of the game.

A lot of characters return from the original, some with more significant parts that before and some just as cameos. A few new characters are introduced but if you looked at all the posters on the walls around the Blackwell campus you can totally see that, while these people might not have been involved in Max’s story that week, they were probably around somewhere doing their thing.

The most important character we get to know is Rachel Amber. We heard a lot about her in the original game and her disappearance and fate were a major plot point. As we meet her in this game her and Chloe aren’t yet friends but the development of their relationship is the crux of the entire game. It really did add a lot of emotion and connection to some of the character moments and motivations in Life Is Strange.

Before The Storm suffers from the same thing as all prequels; we know where all of the key characters have to end up. Sure the story of how they get there is interesting, especially as we as the player and as Chloe are responsible for some of it, but in general for a lot of characters, what we do “doesn’t matter” as they have to end up where they are when Max gets back to Arcadia Bay in three years time.

For some this would probably effect how they played the game, they might try and subvert that as much as possible or they might use knowledge they have about a person from the other game, set later, to influence decisions they make in this one. I didn’t do that. I made a conscious choice early on that I was going to play this game and make decisions as if I was Chloe at that time, playing as I thought the character would act, not how she should probably have acted if she knew what she would later learn. I’m pretty sure that no mater the choices you made the game is written in such a way that it all makes sense anyway, but I feel like I got the story there more naturally.

Time manipulation was a core mechanic in the original game and it is not present at all in this one. There are a few dream sequences where Chloe talks to her dead father but that is as close as we get to it. For this reason, actions that I took and choices I made felt like they carried a lot more weight. With Max, for most part, if I didn’t like the immediate outcome to a situation I could roll back time and change it. I didn’t have that luxury with Chloe and so even when there was a simple choice to make I had to be confident in my decision. I think this was very intentional as it shows the different personalities of the characters. Chloe was always brash, head strong and confident in Life Is Strange, Max was the cautious over thinker.

We learn through the course of Before The Storm that Rachel Amber was a big part of what made Chloe into the person she was. Neither of them were perfect and both have a lot of skeletons in their closets but they were there for each other and propped each other up and Rachel gave Chloe the love she required to become that confident person we had previously gotten to know.

Chloe's teenage rebellion does feel quite tropey and somewhat cliche, but it really worked for me on a personal level. I could relate to her home life struggles a lot. I too was a somewhat rebellious teen who had lost his father, enjoyed weed and punk rock and didn’t get along with the man my mum was with. There were plenty of differences of course, my mum and dad had been divorced for years before he died and Paul was never a bad guy, I just struggled with a lot of the changes that all took place too close to each other. Chloe is going through the same shit and despite that fact that she’s a fictional character, my own life experience gives me hope that there is a happy ending out there for her. Maybe we’ll start to get there if a Life Is Strange 2 happens.

Oh yeah, the very end of the mostly positive ending montage I got for this game was such an overwhelming kick to the nuts and that I literally started saying “Nooooo, no. I don’t want to see that shit. No.” So be warned.

I went longer with this than I intended, I only have four lines of notes from when I was playing the game but I guess that just shows how good these games have been and what an effect on me they’ve had. I really really hope all of you check them both out. I know a lot of you are picking up the original after my review of it so I hope you pick this up after.

I think I’ll have a brand new game review out next week, it depends on how much of it we end up playing at the weekend.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring though, you’ll just have to come back to check it out.

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©2017 by James Hewlett.