Life is Strange; Before the Storm (Complete Season) – Review (PS4)
Life is Strange Before the Storm is everything that a prequel should be.
Life is Strange isn’t it?
Imagine that you’ve set up a studio to focus on story driven games and you’re shopping some ideas around to publishers. Then imagine that one of these publishers, oh say SquareEnix for instance, says “how would you like to work on a follow-up to Life is Strange instead?” Almost sounds like an absurd hypothetical, yet that is exactly what happened to Deck Nine and enabled them to make their first game under their new banner. Out of this was born one of the best prequels in recent history on any form of medium.
While we will do our best to keep Before the Storm as spoiler free as possible there will be some fairly big spoilers ahead from the original game.
Like any prequel, we know exactly where the events in this story eventually lead. For Rachel it ends in the most tragic way possible. Chloe is forever changed by meeting her and, based on your decisions at the end of Life is Strange, her fate could mirror Rachel’s. Deck Nine was given an incredibly difficult task and they rose to the challenge and succeeded in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
When we meet Chloe at the beginning of the game she is exactly what you would expect her to be. Though not as physically rebellious looking as she is in the first game you can tell by her actions that she is on the path to be that woman. We meet up with her as she is trying to sneak into a concert at a shady venue in the middle of the woods. In these first few moments we are introduced to the game’s two biggest new additions- Graffiti and Backtalk.
Throughout the game Chloe can explore Arcadia Bay and leave personalized tags on various items as she goes through the game. By finishing the game and completing all the graffiti locations in the game you’ll be able to receive all the trophies, including the platinum.
Backtalk is a new mini game that allows Chloe to bend the will of her “opponent” by using their words against them. As you progress throughout the game, specifically in the third episode, how you use this mechanic changes. Rebellious Chloe, at the start, is trying to get what she wants from various adults and uses this to manipulate them. In Hell is Empty Chloe shows growth as she now is more focused on showing people, like Mikey, their self worth. While the gameplay is the same, Chloe is no longer trying to get what she wants and is instead trying to help others and in one spot help herself. To the naked eye this could look like they ran out of ways/people for her to argue with by episode three, but it actually feels like a conscious decision to show her growth throughout the game.
Once you backtalk your way into the concert things really take off. It’s here that you finally meet Rachel Amber. As we progress throughout the events of Life is Strange we feel as though Rachel should be important to us. It is here that we finally find out why. Deck Nine takes us on a journey with these two girls that we won’t soon forget.
The death of Chloe’s father is much fresher here than it was when Max makes her return to Arcadia Bay. Chloe has regular conversations with her father from beyond the grave and he is her voice of reason as she goes on this journey of self discovery. Abandoning the rest of the people in her life during this time period her focus is completely on Rachel. A big discovery at the end of episode one leads to an interaction that causes a huge forest fire, one that is still blazing when the final credits roll at the end of episode three.
Each episode ends with just enough of an emotional punch to gut that will leave you breathless yet longing for more.
Rachel brings out the best in Chloe. She pushes her to do things that Chloe could never have imagined herself doing. She confronts bullies, gives the performance of a life time in The Tempest, and even saves multiple lives. During the events in this game we see Chloe at her best. We see a Chloe that has gone through loss, but is beginning to heal. As the game comes to its climax we have grown to love Rachel and Chloe in ways we never knew were possible, which only makes what we know is yet to come even more unbearable.
We have always felt bad for Chloe for losing her friend in the way that she did, but now we are DEVASTATED. It’s incredibly rare that you have a chance to learn of someone’s death and then have the opportunity to go back and meet them. In the real world it’s actually impossible. There are those who will be angry at the way things end in Before the Storm, but they should check that anger at the door. It’s always been apparent that Rachel meant more to Chloe than we could understand and now we have been given a glimpse behind the curtain and know why. The only problem with the game in that regard is we wish there were more episodes to play so that we could see this fleshed out even more.
Life is Strange Before the Storm is everything that a prequel should be. It takes nothing away from the original game yet what they have added makes that game even better. If you have played Life is Strange this is a must play. If you haven’t we recommend playing it before jumping into Before the Storm. While you can play and enjoy the game on its own merits, you’ll appreciate it even more this way. Deck Nine has given us a beautiful game and we cannot wait to see what they create next.
Author: Phil Neyman
Philip is better at buying video games than he is at playing them. He was once told “it must suck to love something so much and be so terrible at it.” As a boy he would write terrible poems about himself and Ross Perot. He enjoys the best and worst of all forms of media, but nothing in the middle. Puyo Puyo Tetris has almost caused unreconcilable differences between him and his wife. He’s never had a hangover, but not from lack of trying.