‘LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM (2017) Game Review – A Beautiful Prequel Story
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is the prequel to one of my favourite games of all time; Life is Strange. It completely blew me away with the rich characters, fun gameplay, Twin Peaks references, and gripping emotional story which were all fantastically executed. The game is set three years before the events of Life is Strange where you play as Chloe Price, a then Blackwell Academy student and explores the development of her friendship with Rachel Amber. Despite being very excited for this game’s release I was a little apprehensive that it might not be able to live up to the level of gripping storytelling in Life is Strange. Also the fact that the game was not going to be able to take advantage of Max’s time-reversing abilities I wondered whether the gameplay would be as varied this time around. But after completing all three episodes I had an absolute blast with this prequel as the story is beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and does its best to emulate the same tone and themes in LiS [Life is Strange].
I will kick off by getting the gameplay out of the way which overall as far as the decision making dialogue goes is relatively unchanged and just as effective. Just like the first game it puts you in a couple of stressful situations that force you to make tough decisions, and because the characters are developed so realistically it makes each choice that much more difficult. I found the conversation elements between all the characters thoroughly engaging and any time there were optional conversations I explored those options because fleshing out the characters as much as possible helps with the strength of the story. Of course not having the time-rewinding element in this game does limit the variety of gameplay opportunities and at some points that absence is felt. Although Before the Storm does introduce a new game mechanic in the dialogue sequences known as “Backtalk” where the player engages in a timed argument with another character and must choose the correct responses to progress the conversation in a certain way. I like this inclusion as it does act as a decent substitute to the lack of time travel but still doesn’t offer as large of a variety of gameplay options. The world is just as fleshed out with small details and easter eggs and fun to roam around.
As far as the characters here are concerned I feel like the main duo Chloe and Rachel are by far the strongest and most developed here and the ones I formed the strongest attachment to. The Chloe here is different in appearance from the blue-haired girl we see in LiS but as far as her attitude, values, and mindset are concerned she still feels very consistent to her appearance in that game which makes for great connective storytelling. She’s a fantastic protagonist with somewhat different values than Max Caulfield and as a result the way you experience the people and events around you is also different which makes the story feel very fresh. As you should already know assuming you’ve played all of LiS, Rachel Amber is absent in that game as she is already dead so getting to know the girl that was here is one thing I was very much looking forward to. She’s also a great well fleshed out character here and the way her relationship with Chloe is explored is thoroughly engaging and very touching knowing what happens to her. Aside from the main duo and their enthralling relationship there are a bunch of new and returning characters that have various impacts on the story. One thing LiS did somewhat better than Before the Storm is fleshing out the supporting characters a tonne, almost to the level of the main ones. Here you get a bit of time focused on the various supporting characters but I didn’t feel as strongly for any of them as I did in LiS. It’s not handled badly here, it’s just handled more effectively in the first game.
The story itself though is very touching, very beautiful, and I couldn’t wait for all of the episodes to be released to play the entire season without waiting eons between each part. It’s very unpredictable and goes places I never thought it would be able to go considering it is tied into having to lead up to a certain point. But I guess setting it three years prior to LiS gave the creative team some leeway when deciding what twists or big events could occur. Every moment spent exploring Chloe and Amber’s relationship I loved and each chapter has moments that bought me “close” to tears and are deeply emotional. The Twin Peaks easter eggs and references were an element of LiS that I loved discovering and that is no different here. I mean, the idea of this prequel is a direct reference to Twin Peaks in that both Before the Storm and Fire Walk With Me are prequels based around the life of a character who is already dead at the beginning of the initial project.
I loved this story from beginning to end and it’s nice to revisit these characters for one last time as future LiS instalments will probably focus on a new group of characters. Whatever the series has in store for us in the future I am very excited for and if it’s as good as what we’ve gotten so far I will have absolutely no complaints.