At a recent event in San Diego, I was able to get my hands on the upcoming Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Anytime you get your hands on a sequel it’s inevitable to compare it to the original and here’s the difference I noted between this game and Life is Strange; virtually none. The biggest difference deals with the narrative because this time around I was playing in the shoes of Chloe Price, and I knew it. Aside from that, it felt like a true return to Arcadia Bay.
Before the Storm takes place three years before the events of Life is Strange. Chloe is still dealing with the death of her father and the departure of her best friend, Max. So how does she cope? Well, in true Price fashion, you visit an underground gig, where rebellion, drugs, and music are the words of the day. Contrary to the esteemed educational setting you start out with in Life is Strange, Chloe’s world is nitty and gritty. By the end of it, I was only more curious about the world I would explore beyond and the darker parts of Arcadia Bay I had yet to see
As I navigated the teen and rocker underworld, I found that everything functions as it does in the original game. This is Life is Strange, and it certainly felt that way. The visual aesthetic is the same, except the dubbing is more on point. Additionally, the graphics have definitely improved (not that it makes or breaks the game). You examine objects and people as you explore, and you discover them through the lens of Chloe, a very crass and cynical lens. Her usual clever quips and emasculating jabs color her narration even in her younger years. Therefore, the Chloe of the first game is very prevalent here, although she’s still growing into the character we’ll eventually come to know.
Fortunately, the character of Chloe isn’t actually set in stone. Before the Storm offers the same franchise-defining element of player choice. Again, everything you do matters and everything you do is up to you. You can be nice, you can be cold; steal the money or don’t steal the money. Want to buy some weed? You can, but you don’t have to. Either way, the decision affects what happens next and the game as a whole. Additionally, you can still make your mark. Whereas Max Caulfield had her camera and pictures, Chloe’s mark is leaving graffiti in certain areas. This makes a lot of sense. This just gives you another reason to explore (as if you needed any).
Then there’s Arcadia Bay, which doesn’t lose any of its intrigues. What sets this world apart, however, is the fact that with Chloe as the protagonist, it means no good can lurk around every corner. Rachel is present too and ironically, she’s practically the Chloe of Before the Storm as Chloe was to Max in Life is Strange. Almost. Together, they represent mischief and can make a spectacle of whatever comes next.
In a never-before seen section between Chloe and future stepfather David, I paid attention to the game’s rhythm. One of the defining characteristics of Dontnod’s design is pacing. I witnessed the start of a normal day, in a room where things feel warm – familiar. It transitions to an interaction, in this case with Chloe’s step-father. Consistently, every interaction with a person leaves you liking them less or more. In this instance, Chloe made the decision to be cold, and I liked David more. Every sequence can lead to a turn in the plot, and I was reminded of that. David is just one example of a character that’s very different than originally depicted in Life is Strange. Things inevitably change and/or escalate as the story progresses. Then, somehow, you find yourself back in Chloe’s home, and things seem familiar again… And I was left to wonder if the next scene would turn the world upside down. Although this irregular narrative rhythm is synonymous with Dontnod, it is adopted well by Deck Nine.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm arrives for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on August 31st.
Lastly, since Before the Storm is following a different character storyline, you may be wondering about the signature rewind mechanic. That’s not present, as you might have guessed. Chloe’s temperament is unhinged compared to when you play as Max Caulfield. Therefore, she doesn’t fall back on time manipulation in order to put herself out there.