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Version Reviewed: PS4
Like many fans of the original Life is Strange, I was apprehensive when I heard about this prequel, developed by Deck Nine games as opposed to DontNod who developed the original. I was even more apprehensive when I heard that fantastic voice actor Ashly Burch wouldn't be returning to voice Chloe Price, this game's main character.
Then I played Before the Storm's first episode and all my worries and doubts were washed away. This installment is as much a Life is Strange game as the original was.
Warning, there very well might be spoilers in this review.
Reviewing an episodic game, episode to episode, it might not seem like there will be enough content to mention, but much like the original Life is Strange there is so much to talk about that I could easily write a whole separate article on the themes alone.
The gameplay stays true to the original; it's a character driven story, choices have consequences, and every action and piece of dialogue is fantastically delivered by the cast.
As stated above, the main character is Chloe Price, who is a 16-year-old girl who has recently lost her dad and is dealing with it the way she thinks is best, by skipping classes, smoking pot, and sneaking her way into secret gigs. If you have ever been a teenager, and I'm going to guess you are one now or have been in the past, you will relate to a lot of the angst that Chloe is going through, I sure as hell did. Chloe is a lot easier to relate to in Before the Storm than she is in Life is Strange; she's not driven by revenge or wanting to find Rachel anymore, she's driven by pure punk rock. Which bleeds into her version of Max's photography collectables, graffitiing as many things as she can find, from saw blades to statues.
The supporting cast, including Rachel Amber, are all written and voiced fantastically. It was great to see more of Joyce Price, Chloe's poor loving mother who only wants the best for her little tearaway. Joyce was a stand-out character before, and she stands even further out here. If you don't love Joyce, you have no heart.
Early on in the first episode when you arrive at school with Chloe, there is an option to join in with a small Dungeons & Dragons-esque table top game. This scene was easily my favourite part of the whole episode in terms of comedy gold. I had my partner's feet cut off and died on a Minotaur's sword. I assume there are different outcomes that can be arrived at, I chose my first attack poorly and Chloe rolled a natural 1 as far as I could tell. The way that the characters in this scene interacting, with me choosing the heaviest RP options for dialogue had me in stitches. If you played through this episode and skipped this, open up another save file and have your self a little dungeon adventure.
The other really standout scene for me was at the junkyard. Rachel isn't coping well with seeing her dad kiss a woman that isn't her mum and after a fun day of skipping school with Chloe, swiping some wine from picnickers earlier, so being slightly buzzed as well, starts being a bit less than fun. Chloe, not wanting to have a good day ruined by what she perceives as her actions, tries as hard as she can to cheer Rachel up, but it doesn't happen and Rachel storms off. This is where the scene picks up. Unlike the original Life is Strange we aren't looking for six bottles, we are smashing stuff up in a very Chloe way. As you make your way through the smashing, be careful about what order you do things in, do it right and you will be able to get one of Chloe's graffiti trophies/achievements.
When the smashing seems nearly over, Chloe comes across the car her dad died in, he was smashed into by a semi. The emotion in this scene is something that I can't even describe. I was heartbroken for her.
That's one of the greatest things about both of these Life is Strange games, they tug at your heart and make you laugh, they make you think and they make you feel. Empathy, heartbreak, confusion, laughter; it's all there.
Also, the soundtrack is fantastic, as is the art style. Again, these two elements intertwine and help create a feeling that we got from the original Life is Strange but Before the Storm differentiates itself enough from it to stand on its own, as well as work as a prequel. So far at least, two episodes to go and a mini bonus episode.
If you enjoyed the original, give this game a chance. It's shorter overall but it's also cheaper so it balances out. If you haven't played the original Life is Strange then play them both, in any order. You don't need to have any prior knowledge going in. Just play them if you want a nice relatively chilled out session.