Even a few years after its release Life is Strange is one of the few games to capture the storytelling appeal pioneered by the Telltale games. Deck Nine is the video game company behind Life is Strange Before the Storm which is a prequel to the original game. This gives the original developers, Dontnod Entertainment, a chance to work on a proper sequel while allowing fans to revisit the world of Life is Strange in a new story. As is often the case in such arrangements, the temporary hand-off to a new studio has met with mixed results. While the story and character remain strong the technology behind the game has apparently decided to take the prequel back in time in more ways than one.
Like the original Life is Strange most of this first episode is given over to world-building and establishing our cast of characters. It is only in the final few minutes of the episode that major plot revelations occur which will presumably drive the remaining two episodes. Also like the original, fortunately, the episode is held up by strong character stories, and it is easy to get lost in the world of our protagonist, Chloe Price. If you played the original you’ll recognize the character, but even if you are coming in fresh you’ll find an interesting character in her. Chloe is not the only returning character, and as such, I think you will get more out of this game if you played the original Life is Strange, but it is by no means a requirement. The game is at its strongest when it is exploring the dynamic between Chloe and the various characters around her, and the most important of these is Rachel Amber.
While the story and characterizations maintain the high quality of the original it is hard to say the same about the rest. There are times when this game shows off some truly beautiful moments, but then there are other times when you’ll wonder if they’re using a texture set left over from the PlayStation 2 era. The voice acting is equally variable, although it is worth keeping in mind there is a voice actor strike in progress right now and options are limited for game studios. Still, regardless of the circumstances, there is an obvious gap in quality between the original and Before the Storm, which does hurt the latter. The strike has also resulted in most, if not all, of the characters being recast, and the changes can be jarring in some cases. Lastly, the time mechanics of the original game have been replaced with a verbal sparring mini-game, which mostly just involves Chloe insulting people until they are cowed into submission. I get the idea behind it, but I honestly found it unfulfilling and a poor substitute for the time mechanics. For me, it was the single biggest misstep of this title, and I hope it only gets used sparingly in the remaining episodes.
Life is Strange Before the Storm Review Final Thoughts:
Life is Strange Before the Storm will be told in three episodes, down from the first game’s five. The first is available now, and the remaining two will come out in the near future. Like many other episodic games, I generally recommend caution before purchasing the game. Even if the first episode is strong there is nothing to say that subsequent episodes will maintain that, and it is always a gamble. That said, if you enjoyed the original then the early indicators are that this will live up to its legacy. The graphics and sound quality are a step backward, but not in a way that seriously impacts the overall experience. The writing remains solid, and the characters are compelling regardless of whether this is your first experience with the Life is Strange franchise or not.
Related: Life is Strange Before the Storm preview:
Life is Strange Before the Storm on PS4
- Easy to get drawn into the world of Chloe Price.
- Has plenty of emotional resonance.
- Has a twenty-minute side quest involving you playing Dungeons & Dragons for no good reason.
- Voice acting is inconsistent.
- Graphic textures often look like they were meant for a PlayStation 2 port.