Life is Strange: Before the Storm Reminds Us The Kids Aren’t Alright [Preview]
Dontnod Entertainment surprised just about everyone with Life is Strange in 2015. The episodic mystery covered a range of topics from regret, sexual assault, mental health and suicide, bullying, and most of all, trying to survive as teenage girls in a modern high school. While the dialogue could be clunky at times, the overall package was one that won Dontnod a lot of fans, and the support to craft a sequel. While the French developers were moving forward, Square Enix tapped Deck Nine Games to look at Life is Strange's past. We got our first look at the prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, last week, and it looks like it has the same heart even though it's a different developer.
The central mystery of Life is Strange's first go 'round was the disappearance of Chole's friend Rachel Amber. We don't yet know what the sequel will focus on, but Before the Storm is going to give us a glimpse into the burgeoning of Chloe's friendship with Rachel. Just what drew the two together will be uncovered across three episodes starting this August. Deck Nine offered us a look at the first 20 minutes of episode one, which explored the very first time Chloe and Rachel met outside of Blackwell Academy, and sparked an intense camaraderie.
After watching the first scenes of Before the Storm, it's clear Deck Nine has a grasp on the characters and the world of Arcadia Bay. That comes thanks to the devs working closely with the team that crafted the original game, even though Before the Storm is entirely Deck Nine's creation. One thing that stood out though in those opening moments was how different Chloe sounded due to Ashly Burch not being able to partake in voice over during development. The new actor, Rihanna DeVries, does a solid job, and truthfully by the end of the 20 minute demo, we'd gotten used to her take on Chloe.
Burch is still involved as a story consultant however, which has helped Deck Nine shape Chloe into a more familiar character, and one that has a lot of growing to do before she becomes the blue-haired misfit in the original game. Her inclusion on the narrative side of things also gives Before the Storm additional credibility, as aside from the team at Dontnod, no one was arguably closer to the Chloe and her story in Life is Strange than Ashly Burch. Given that 20 minutes isn't a whole lot of time to observe a narrative, how all that will turn our remains to be seen, but the spirit of the original is definitely present.
Given that Chloe was the normal protagonist of the original Life is Strange, this prequel will be a much more straightforward story. Max had just moved with her family at this time in the story, so she's nowhere to be seen, and neither are her time-warping abilities. Before the Storm's focus will be less about changing the past to improve the future, and more about how Chloe became the girl we knew in the first game. As such, Chloe may not have any powers, but she will be able to impact the world around her with graffiti. Her impact on Arcadia Bay might not alter the lives of everyone in the town, but she will still leave her mark wherever she damn well pleases (so long as there's an interactive spot to do it).
Beyond that, Before the Storm plays almost identically to the original game. Players will have to make choices in both actions and dialogue that define what kind of person Chloe will be in their playthroughs. Some of those decisions will have lasting impacts across all three episodes, while others will be more short term in their application. At one point, Chloe has the choice to steal a t-shirt for a band she likes, or to steal the shirt and a wad of money. By stealing the money, she can then pay off her drug debt to the local dealer, Frank, or keep it for some rainy day down the line. It's all up to you how you want to proceed, but know that you can't walk anything back since Max isn't around to mess with the timeline.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm has a lot to live up to, and Deck Nine has to overcome some tough odds to make that happen. What we saw in the demo was certainly promising however, and shows that the development team has a grasp on what made the original game so appealing. Hopefully the final product is just as indicative of Deck Nine's commitment to the license, and these characters and world are done with the affection they so deserve.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm's first episode will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC on August 31.