It’s been a while, but I still have pretty fond memories of the original Life is Strange. It had some strange quirks at the beginning, but very quickly evolved into what felt like a living world, with a good blend of social interaction and puzzle solving, all built around a time travel mechanic.
This time travel power was tied to the main character, Max, so this prequel starring Chloe doesn’t have this power at all. So to me, the challenge that Before the Storm had was telling a story within the world of Life is Strange without that supernatural element at all.
The main draw for Before the Storm is learning more about the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, something that wasn’t explored in considerable depth in the original Life is Strange.
Before the Storm occurs over a handful of days, starting with Rachel saving Chloe from a few jerks at a late night barn concert, and ending in a typical “choose how extreme you like” fashion.
Over the course of the few days, Chloe and Rachel become best friends, or even more if you like. At first, this struck me as odd… they talk as if they’re soulmate within 2-3 days? But I had to remember… these are teenagers, both of which are going through turbulent circumstances, and the story is focused on how these two people are right for each other at this difficult point in time. It’s rare, but sometimes people can just click that quickly- especially teenagers with little experience in how friendships actually work.
Speaking of those turbulent circumstances, the game has a narrative focus on Rachel dealing with her family drama. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but basically her story involves a lot of dishonesty and angst. While she’s considered the most popular girl at school, a lot of stuff happens in a short amount of time that makes her fate in Life is Strange believable (it sounds like a spoiler, but it isn’t).
There were still a few quirks that didn’t sit 100% with me. David, Chloe’s future step-dad, seems to be more of a condescending jerk in this that I remember. While he was written to be slightly antagonistic in Life is Strange, he turned out to be a well meaning and misunderstood character. In Before the Storm, he starts off really dickish, but at least he starts mellowing out by the end of it.
There’s also a theme of fire in the game, starting with Rachel kicking a burning bin over in a forest, creating a very large forest fire over the span of the next few days, even affecting events within the story. But there are so many allusions to the idea of fire that feel very on the nose, with plenty of obnoxious lampshade hanging about it at points.
The other side to the game is, well, how it plays. It’s not really a skill based game, so reflexes aren’t crucial. The rewind mechanic from the original game is completely absent, replaced with Chloe’s backtalk function, letting you use Chloe’s ability to be a witty smart arse in a pinch. This is slightly time based, and sometimes requires a bit of exploring to get the full picture to win one of these arguments.
There’s also the usual, point and click adventure style segments, requiring a bit of sleuthing and problem solving to get past. Nothing challenging at all, it just requires a sharp eye. Sometimes the puzzles are so easy and straight forward that you can figure it out without needing to try every single combination, which usually led to me missing a lot of extra little snippets.
As far as games go, this genre is pretty straight forward. There’s the story, and there’s the gameplay, and they work well together to make something more akin to a TV show than a traditional game.
I’d recommend Before the Storm to anybody who’s played the original, if only for seeing Rachel and her story. She’s a tangible presence in Life is Strange, but this game gives her and her relationship with Chloe a new depth, making me want to replay it all over again.
Is it worth the money? ($16.99 USD on Steam)
Is it worth the time?