Afterwards It's Pretty Odd Too
The end of August was a very exciting time for me and not just because it was my 21st Birthday! A prequel to the very successful choice based game; Life is Strange was released titled; Life is Strange: Before The Storm (a title which if you haven’t played the first game is kind of a spoiler!) on the 31st August, well just episode 1 that is. The game is comprised of 3 episodes all varying in a few hours long each – depending on the amount of investigating and interacting you do – and will be released one after the other a few months apart. Life is Strange: Before The Storm is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
So as I sit at my desk under my Life is Strange poster whilst listening to a compilation playlist of the Life is Strange soundtrack, I’m going to discuss some of the things I noticed whilst playing through episode 1 of Before The Storm.
Disclaimer: I will be discussing main elements of both Life is Strange and Before The Storm so be prepared to run into some spoilers in this article.
For the sake of those of you who haven’t played Life is Strange and don’t care about spoilers – here is a quick rundown of the series. Life is Strange is a decision based game where the player navigates a character through their world, interacting with other characters and their surroundings whilst making dialogue choices and decisions that all add up to different reactions and consequences later in the game – other games that use this type of gameplay include: Heavy Rain, Until Dawn, The Walking Dead (Telltale game), etc. In Life is Strange’s case; You play as Max Caufield – an 18 or so year old girl who has recently started at Blackwell Academy, a local University/College (depending on where you live). Max has a passion for photography and one day in her photography class she finds herself having a vision of a huge hurricane hitting the town of Arcadia Bay, a small town in Oregon, USA that she lives and grew up in. Max suddenly snaps out of this vision and decides to go to the toilets to splash water on her face to wake herself up. Whilst in the toilets, Max becomes witness to one student shooting another – killing them, this turns out to be Max’s childhood best friend who she had previously lost contact with; Chloe Price. Max then suddenly finds herself back in class earlier that day… again! She then heads to the toilets again and see’s the same thing happen once more – Max realises that she can rewind time. The rest of the game plays out with Max experimenting with her power and soon finds out the repercussions of messing with time. It’s literally a demonstration of The Butterfly Effect in a game – very clever, very fun, very emotional.
A Change in Hands
As some of you may know, many changes were put in place between Life is Strange and Before The Storm, for starters Life is Strange was developed by Dontnod Entertainment – French game developers based in Paris, however Before The Storm was developed by Deck Nine – American game developers based in Colorado, Both games were published by Square Enix. Another element that caused a slight uproar when fans found out was to do with voice actresses, in Life is Strange; Chloe Price is voiced by Ashly Burch, Burch was able to deliver a performance full of so much passion and emotion, she was a great casting choice. So why is it that in the prequel to Life is Strange - a game where Chloe is now the game’s main protagonist - was Burch replaced by Rhianna DeVries? In short answer; it’s due to the SAG-AFTRA strike – This strike meant that any actors in the SAG-AFTRA union were not taking roles within certain video game companies and this included Ashly Burch. Therefore the studio hired a non-union actress. Burch hasn’t disappeared completely though, she stayed on the project although this time serving as a writer and consultant for Chloe, so even though it’s not the same voice – it’s still the same Chloe! and if that hasn’t convinced you enough that it’s still the same character we all know and love, I just found out that the actress who plays Chloe in Before The Storm; Rhianna DeVries previously acted as Chloe’s literal body serving as her mo-cap performer for the original Life is Strange, so we’ve come full circle really! The last difference that isn't really that big of a deal is the episode number, Life is Strange was made up of 5 episodes that all varied at around 2 hours play time however Before The Storm only has 3 episodes that run at around 2 hours long, is Before the Storm a random spin off? Should we expect to see another full length Life is Strange game one day? Perhaps that's why Dontnod passed the reins, so they could focus on a full length game? Only TIME will tell.
The gameplay mechanics in Before The Storm are pretty much the same as Life is Strange apart from however some obvious differences for example; there is no time travel, I was surprised when I first found this out although it did make sense to me once I remembered that (as far as I know) Max isn’t a playable character in Before The Storm, therefore why would you use time travel with Chloe? Instead Chloe has the power of back talk – which in some instances can get you in an out of situations. A ‘Back Talk Challenge’ is a quick time event where you have to respond to what the other person is saying with arguments and insults in order to get what you want, you basically have to pay attention to what your opponent is saying and use it against them, there will be 3 come backs to choose from and you’ve got to pick the right one in just a few seconds – it sounds confusing but there’s a tutorial.
Another element that has changed due to the original protagonists absence are the trophies, in Life is Strange – due to Max’s photography hobby, if you snap photos of certain items in the game you unlock trophies, in Chloe’s case you graffiti on things. When exploring your environment you sometimes come across the option to ‘graffiti’ if you choose this option, you unlock a trophy! Speaking of graffiti, there’s a cool new element to Before The Storm that I don’t think was in Life is Strange in any form, now if you get stuck or forget what your objective is if you hold L2 (we’ve got a PS4 player here) Chloe will raise her left hand and you can see the objective scribbled on her hand for you to follow, I thought it was a nice touch.
“Are You Cereal?”
Even if you’ve only played an hour worth of Life is Strange, it’s pretty obvious that some of the dialogue within the game is pretty cheesy and cringe inducing, I for one loved the cheesy dialogue, I’m a big fan of the film Juno (2007) and that is full of dumb made up teenage slang, I’m also a big fan of cheese – the dairy product so perhaps they’re linked to why I didn’t mind the Life is Strange cheese. I do understand though how phrases like “Are you cereal?” instead of “are you serious?” and “hella” instead of “really” and even “let’s talk bidness” instead of “let’s talk business” could cause you some second hand embarrassment though. If the embarrassment reaction applies to you, here’s the good news; so far (remember only episode 1 of Before The Storm has been released) there is slightly less cheese to the dialogue, slightly. There are still some cringe worthy moments of Chloe trying to be as cool and edgy as can be but I believe it’s a quirk of her character, it’s why everyone loves her so much. You bet I’ve been trying to fit phrases like the ones mentioned here in my everyday dialogue ever since Life is Strange though!
As I mentioned earlier, there is no time travel in this game – although, Before the Storm is set 3 years before Life is Strange, meaning Chloe is 16 years old instead of 19. This also means that the events and things we find out in Life is Strange probably haven’t yet occurred which means [BIG SPOILER ALERT HERE, I WARNED YOU AT THE START] Rachel Amber is still alive. Before The Storm follows the story of Chloe and her new bestie Rachel who by the time the events of Life is Strange happen is “missing” therefore, you never meet Rachel in the original game, just see photos of her and hear stories about her. So seeing her come to life and seeing how much she meant to Chloe can be really heart-breaking, well it was for me anyway – I can’t seem to forget that fact whilst playing Before The Storm, Rachel can mention how she plans to move out of her small town and move to LA to live her dream of being successful and all I can think is “okay well, we’ll see...”. This can also be really frustrating at times much like in all prequels as you’re witnessing characters that you know turn out good at the end of Life is Strange, be bad in Before The Storm and vice versa – I find myself trying to sympathise with horrible characters because I know what they’re really like because of Life is Strange. I believe this affects the choices being made a little as I’m making them based on future situations and not the current one, whoa knowing what the future holds is confusing, how did Max cope with it?!
That’s all I have to say about Life is Strange: Before The Storm as like I keep mentioning there is only 1 episode out so far and no actual date announced for when the next episodes are due out! Perhaps I’ll write a review once all 3 episodes are out and completed. Until then find more of my posts here on Nerd Out Word Out as well as on my own blog hopeelizablog.wordpress.com