Developer: Deck Nine
Release Date: 8/31/17
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows PC
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 16
MSRP: $16.99 USD
Written by Jose Gonzalez / DicloniusGames
Before she reunited with her best friend and left the seaside town of Arcadia Bay, she was a 16-year-old badass with a mouth and an attitude. In Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, players take control of Chloe Price; the secondary protagonist of the main game. Sans Max Caulfield, and set 3 years previous to said events, Chloe navigates her way through the minefields of Arcadia Bay and Blackwell Academy along with familiar characters such as Nathan Prescott, Frank Bowers, Joyce Price, Victoria Chase, and David Madsen before he became Blackwell’s security guard. Episode one focuses on the burgeoning friendship between Chloe and Rachel Amber, who was only referenced in the main game and not shown.
While Before The Storm does nothing new in this department, that’s not a bad thing here. Sometimes fixing something that isn’t broken can be worse than leaving it alone. The obvious omission though is the voice acting of Ashly Burch as Chloe. Instead we get Rhianna DeVries voicing Chloe and Kylie Brown as Rachel. Both do serviceable work as the two protagonists but you’ll wonder how much better it could’ve been had Ashly Burch returned as Chloe. Seeing Rachel for the first time was great granted we got some information on her in the main game but not enough to form a relationship with her or even develop a basic background to her character. She has that teenage angst-like attitude as much as Chloe does, if not more than her in certain scenes. Here, we get to bond with Rachel on a formed basis and feel for her as those who played the main game already know her fate.
The town itself hasn’t changed much either as we visit familiar places like the school, Chloe’s home and the junkyard, but also visit new places like the overlook mid-game and the mill at the start of the game. Secondary characters like Nathan, David and Joyce also put on good performances as their character arcs develop and slowly show how they become who they are in the main game. The couple of dream sequences involving Chloe and her dead father William also set an excellent mood as it hardens Chloe’s character that much more.
While the gameplay isn’t vastly different to the original game, it also is. As Chloe, you can’t rely on the same abilities Max did. The one thing you’ve got as the barbed-wire teenage badass is her mouth. New to this game is the “backtalk” system. When given the opportunity to use it, outside of the tutorial for the mechanic, it’s up to you to determine what choice of dialogue to make. The system has a meter where you must fill a certain number of circles before your opponent does by insulting them. It takes advantage of Chloe’s personality as well as Max’s rewind powers. The key to using this ability is listening for key words in the conversation and then tilting it to your advantage. The mechanic forces players to watch the cutscenes in order to win backtalk conversations and the mechanic does work efficiently, though some choices seem to not always be cut and dry as others.
Familiar to the series is the choice-related gameplay. Unlike Max, Chloe has to be careful with her major decisions much more. While not giving anything away, Chloe has to make major decisions with characters like Frank, her mother Joyce, David, and Rachel that impact the experience later on. Even minor choices can force the player to think about their actions while others are no-brainers. Similar to Max taking photos of specific things as in-game collectibles, Chloe can graffiti tag certain areas in parts of the game like the back of an RV for instance. It’s a small little addition that allows the player to optionally venture more into Chloe’s character.
Overall, episode one starts off great and keeps the pace going, even if there are stutters here and there. Chloe and Rachel’s dichotomy hits a home run as the two gel well together even in the most tense of situations. The new backtalk system has its’ ups and downs as winning and losing arguments can both have an effect on how the story goes from there, even if it isn’t noticeable at the time. While Ashly Burch didn’t voice Chloe, Rhianna DeVries does an okay job filling in, but for fans of the original game, they might find this absence a downturn. Rachel’s character development deepens as the episode goes on as she goes from a faceless name to someone who pours emotion by the end. Seeing minor characters develop into what we see in the main game is an added plus.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5