Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode 1) Review

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The original Life is Strange is the only game of its genre I’ve ever managed to stay invested in. I have a short attention span, so episodic games such as Telltale’s games really lose me after I play just one episode. Life is Strange: Before the Storm manages to capture me with deep characters, a streamlined story, and a lovely soundtrack, just like the original did.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode 1) Review

Life is Strange: Before the Storm plays almost identically to the first game, but with one major difference: there is no time travel. Going into the game, I considered this to be a huge loss, but after playing it, I honestly don’t mind that it’s gone. In retrospect, the time travel in Life is Strange always felt kind of tedious. Without time travel as an intrinsic mechanic, Life is Strange: Before the Storm feels a lot more streamlined and cohesive with its story.

Instead of time travel, Before the Storm has ‘Backtalk Challenges’, where the main character Chloe must argue with a character to get what she wants. You’re given the choice of several comebacks, and if it’s smart, you gain a point. If it falls flat, your opponent gains one.

On occasion, you can get extra responses by exploring the environment around you before you begin the discussion, providing extra incentive to look around. Some of the responses you can choose from are unpalatable, but others are clever and humorous.

Characters

The characters in Before the Storm feel just as good as they did in the first game, and it was very interesting to see Rachel’s personality come to life. She was mentioned several times in Life is Strange, but there was never a clear projection of who she was. She’s not really what I had expected, but I found myself liking her by the end of the episode.

Another interesting observation is to see how Chloe coped after Max left to Seattle, and how, despite her animosity towards Max, she still feels compelled to write to her. Unfortunately, as far as the first episode went, something felt very off with how the relationship between Chloe and Rachel was handled. I can buy them having a thing for each other, sure, but they seem to become completely infatuated with one another within just one day. I really would have liked to see this develop over the course of the three episodes, rather than just seemingly forced into Episode 1. Hopefully it’ll grow to be more interesting in Episode 2 and 3.

A few more minor characters return too, such as Joyce, Chloe’s mother, and David, her stepfather. It’s interesting to see the dynamic between David and Chloe near the start of their relationship, but David didn’t feel as expressive or as he did in Life is Strange. He also seemed way too touchy, shouting at Chloe for saying ‘Thanks’, even if she’s genuine about it. It’d be interesting in future episodes to see characters such as Mr. Jefferson, since we have the foreknowledge of the crimes he’s going to commit.

Sound Track and Setting

The soundtrack of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is every bit as good as the soundtrack in Life is Strange. There are a number of songs that I can’t stop listening to, my favourite being No Below by Speedy Ortiz, which perfectly illustrates what Chloe is going through in this episode.

One of my favourite things to do in both Life is Strange and now Before the Storm is to sit down somewhere in-game and listen to the track that plays in the background. At one point, I found myself sitting in Chloe’s room for nearly 5 minutes before finally deciding to continue with the game.

The graphics are essentially the same as Life is Strange, with some of the same maps being reused. This isn’t a bad thing, but don’t expect anything spectacular. It’s nice to look at, but nothing special. The maps are very detailed, though, and I found myself looking at every inch of graffiti I came across on the walls. The graphical settings have a ‘Hella High’ setting, a reference to Chloe’s catchphrase in Life is Strange, which made me laugh.

Overall, I’d recommend Life is Strange: Before the Storm, even to those who haven’t played Life is Strange. There are a fair number of references to the first game, but being a prequel, it’s not imperative that you understand them. However, if you’re unsure, Life is Strange (Episode 1) is free on Steam, and should give you a good idea of what you’re in for with this game. I’d give Episode 1 a solid 8/10, but if the developers play their cards right, the following episodes will exceed this.

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