Reviews: Life Is Strange Before The Storm

Throws away what made the original game so appealing to me (episode 1 review)

Life is Strange was, to me, one of the best surprises of 2015. Its branching story, many choices that affect things ranging from who your friends and enemies are to who lives and who dies, and the amazing ability to rewind time, along with characters I liked and cared about, came together to form a surprisingly compelling experience in a genre I normally hate. To date, I've played through it twice. Due to its totally story-driven nature, it doesn't lend itself heavily to replay, but I still enjoyed revisiting it.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a prequel that focuses entirely on Chloe, who is widely considered the most interesting character of the original, and is easily my favorite character. She's now the playable character, and this is her story.

There's one major problem though. She doesn't have the ability to rewind time to "cheat" on conversations or solve tricky puzzles.

Instead, Chloe's occasionally used special ability is "backtalk". That is, you start an argument, and based on what the other person says to you, you quickly choose an appropriately snarky response (before time runs out). Do this enough times, and you win the argument. Yay.

Chloe has her own life problems, like she did in the first game. Tussles with various never-do-wells, being in debt to a drug dealer, having to deal with her asshole stepdad, and having no friends except for Rachel Amber - a relationship that's rather rocky, for that matter.

While I do find some interest in these problems, the first game had these types of teen issues in addition to supernatural elements such as the strange weather and various other odd occurrences going on like all the randomly dying animals. It also had some major mystery elements that I really liked as well, as the disappearance of Rachel Amber was a major focal point, providing plenty of tense moments and some interesting dangerous villains to deal with.

Before the Storm, at least in the first episode, is lacking these details that I found so appealing.

And finally, how much control over the story do I really have? In the first game, there were a huge number of characters whose livelihoods or even very lives were determined by the player's actions. Fail to do the right thing, and a character may die and be permanently gone from the story. Even though rewinding time only affected actions that occur on the spot (players would have to reload a previous chapter to change major choices whose long-term consequences they'd just discovered), it still felt like I was making major changes to the world around me. I don't get that feeling with this game.

In short, Before the Storm threw away a large chunk of the appeal Life is Strange had for me and replaced it with... what? Really, not much. I like Chloe, and I'm interested in her problems, but Max's game had so much more.
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