‘Life is Strange’ prequel provides context, but not without some challenges
A bottle of blue hair dye, an old pickup truck, an Illuminati symbol scribbled on the wall nearby- each seemingly purposeless by themselves, but with knowledge of the events that are yet to come, these items suddenly hold a much higher status.
A prequel to the 2015 release “Life is Strange,” “Life is Strange: Before the Storm” is an episodic adventure video game that focuses on 16-year-old Chloe Price as she deals with various affairs in her life: her father’s recent death, her blooming relationship with ace-student Rachel Amber, school and the shady dealings that surround the quiet town of Arcadia Bay.
The three episodes that make up “Before the Storm” are each about two to three hours of gameplay and were released between August and December 2017. Each release features long, but always story-packed cutscenes, decently sized environments to walk around in and dialogue trees that can lead to major consequences in the story.
Within each episode, players control Chloe and help her deal with the aforementioned points mentioned above. Careful decisions must be made in order to keep relationships, to stay out of trouble and to solve mysteries.
In the developer’s attempt to mix up the usual episodic game format, players interact with the environment using “graffiti” to mark a wide range of objects within your range with a design of choice, (such as various posters and walls around the school), and can seriously influence the story’s direction with a dialogue mechanic called “backtalk,” a timed and rapid mini-game in which one can only completely fail or win, (usually taking place when a tense situation needs to be overcome or diffused). These additions are much appreciated and are fun to partake in.
The Xbox One version of the game had a couple of issues with game functions: the rumble feature on the controller didn’t always line up with the events happening on screen, the game didn’t configure to the TV and frame rate issues popped up maybe once or twice per episode. This slightly affected gameplay, but may be a unique scenario to the console and TV used.
The story within “Before the Storm” is decent but does not exactly live up to the hype of the original game. The protagonist, while acting on the typical attitude of a teenager, sometimes seems unnecessarily cruel and beyond help, so the conflict at some points could have easily be avoided. But the pacing of the story was good for the most part and keeps the player engaged. There are only a couple of moments within the game’s three episodes that come to mind as a drag, and these moments were most likely used to expand the episode’s playing time.
“Life is Strange: Before the Storm” has its issues, but overall, the game still is a worthy prequel to the acclaimed original. If a player is willing to sit through some mild teen angst, “Before the Storm” is a game worth playing whether you’re a fan of the original or not.