REVIEW – I remember when I was standing in for someone two years ago to review Life is Strange at its fourth episode. It was a wise decision – since then, the Limited Edition is on my shelf, as I loved the story of Max and Chloe. Here’s a bridge to the sequel.
Indeed… it is not the sequel. It’s far from one: Before the Storm has only three chapters, and it’s meant to be a prequel story. Max has already left Arcadia Bay, meaning Chloe Price is going to be the protagonist, and you’ll see her story, meeting Rachel Amber in the process – in the proper game, she was just part of the bigger plot altogether.
Let’s start with the fact that Chloe’s voice actor is someone else in Before the Storm. However, the previous one is still on the board, and her presence can be heard in the younger Chloe. She’s still that rebellious character as in the original Life is Strange. Her family is in ruins: her best friend left her, her father is dead, her mother is starting to come together with someone else to not be depressed. It sounds like a depressed plot, but our teenager, skilless (?) heroine goes out to explore.
The game starts out slowly. There is no time reversing mechanic here – if you push that button, all you will see is Chloe looking at her wrist as a tip for you to show what to do next. Still, she has something unique in her possession. To enter a concert in an obscure place, she will have to use her skill called Backtalk. It’s nothing more than her using her verbal skills in a witty manner, but to succeed, sometimes you just cannot choose the wrong option, because then you will get verbally burned.
Chloe will meet Rachel out of nowhere, but she isn’t going to be looking as you’d expect her to do so. After that night out, she is back at home, and Joyce is ready with breakfast for her – some dialog comes with both her and David. This is the point where Deck Nine (yup – Dontnod is not the developer of Before the Storm) starts to catch the drift of the original developers’ style. After some sleep, you end up in another… world? You’ll meet someone else in the car, which might be showing what we can expect in the next two (or, if you bought the deluxe edition, three…) episodes. This is the moment I have been waiting for: while the style, the ambiance has the same tone as the original Life is Strange, the abnormal, supernatural events made the game memorable.
So Chloe goes to school (the same one as Max did, so the location should be familiar to you), and you end up doing a lot of things. You may even participate in a tabletop D&D game. I love how developers gave detail even for something insignificant.
Chloe ends up leaving the school for the day (while you end up meeting two familiar faces – one of them was a key player in the base LiS…), and the game’s eyes open up at this point. After the dialog on the train, you end up doing the usual puzzle part, although I didn’t understand the bird/squirrel part. Regardless, you get a bit of alcohol after an initially unexplained discovery; then there’s some arguments, some rage, and bam, another car scene. Here’s where I thought the… future could be weird. Burning through the finale of the episode, I think someone has supernatural skills.
Music-wise (outside the Firewalk portion) I liked the game, and the voice acting is mostly decent. Graphics? I don’t think it’s still up to par, and the animations tend to „jump” during cutscenes, and Chloe’s wrist watching also seemed to jump the camera angles around in a stupid way. That’s pretty much all flaws I could bring up for this 2.5-hour episode. Awake paints Arcadia Bay in a new, yet familiar way (complete with mobile and the journal).
I’d wait a bit…
The first episode is a decent start (which explains why I gave it a strong 7.5), but I don’t see how the story will pan out yet. The wrist tip is en block unnecessary in my opinion, but there’s everything given for the game to be as good as Dontnod’s story. I hope for the best. For fans, it’s recommended, but everyone else should wait until the second episode, which should be available from late October, or not earlier.
+ The ambiance is perfectly recreated from the original!
+ Chloe’s Backtalk skill
+ Those scenes in the car…
– Music-wise, it’s not perfect; you have to get used to Chloe’s voice
– The Unity engine does a few stupid things (animation jumps, Chloe’s wrist watching altogether)
– Visually, it’s not appealing
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Deck Nine Games
Genre: episodic, adventure
Release date: August 31, 2017