Developer: Deck Nine Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1
Release Date: August 31, 2017
Shortly after a concept art leak, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm was announced in E3 2017 as a spin-off of Life Is Strange. The heavy critical acclaim of the original series meant the spin-off had pretty big shoes to fill. The first (out of three) episode, “Awake”, was released on August 31, 2017.
*Minor story spoilers follow*
Set two years before the events of Life Is Strange, Before the Storm follows the story of a sixteen-year old Chloe Price who is struggling in her life following the death of her father and the sudden disappearance of her best friend Max. Things are worsened by the fact that she has a hard time getting along with her mother's boyfriend, David. However, things start taking a turn for the better when she befriends Rachel Amber, one of her classmates from Blackwell. The rest of the episode revolves around Chloe and Rachel bonding.
The main attraction of Life Is Strange is its narrative. I felt like Before the Storm sort of fell flat in that department. The pacing of the story is all over the place. The story-telling is excruciatingly slow in the first half. The second half, on the contrary, is very rushed. Near the end of the episode, Chloe and Rachel say that what they have together is special. This felt very weird considering the fact that they have been together for less than one day.
I headed into Before the Storm expecting the exact same gameplay of the main series. To my surprise, I did notice some changes, both positive and negative, in the gameplay. There's a new mechanic called Talkback which are essentially the turning points of the plot of the game. In these sequences, an argument is started between Chloe and another character and the gamer has to make the proper dialogue choices to make the story go in a positive direction. There's a HUD that shows gamer's progress in the Talkback sequences. While the controls for controllers are unchanged, you now need both the keyboard and the mouse to make choices if you are not using a controller. I found this change in controls so annoying that I ultimately decided to hook up my DS4 with the PC.
Visually, Before the Storm is very similar to Life Is Strange. However, the switch from Unreal Engine to Unity is made quite obvious by the absence of the original's high quality lighting and shadows. Optimisation on the PC version did not feel that great as well since I faced increased loading times and occasional stutters despite meeting the system requirements.
Life Is Strange is known for its excellent voice acting and soundtrack. Before the Storm manages to deliver the same level of excellence in terms of the voice acting despite not having award-winning actress Ashly Burch in the cast. The soundtrack, however, is not nearly as memorable as Life Is Strange.
Since Max (and her time-rewinding powers) is absent, the game mostly boils downs to walking around and making obvious dialogue choices. Thankfully, the ending of the episode was powerful enough to still keep me interested in the series.
Nony Khondaker is an introvert who complements his non-existent social life with video games, Netflix and a whole lot of ice-cream. Send him memes and cat videos to cheer him up at fb.com/NonyKhondaker