Developer: Deck Nine Publisher: Square Enix Platform(s): PS4, XB1, PC
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Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a great prequel to Life is Strange, and much better than probably anyone was expecting. The main problem that everyone was concerned with was the lack of superpowers, time travel and similar shenanigans. It’s safe to say that it all worked out well in the end.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is probably one of few games that properly deals with loss and trauma. Many games use tropes like “Stuffed into the Fridge” to bring player from point A to point B in the plot, to get the character and the player angry, give them more motivation to kill the big bad. Life is Strange doesn’t have a boss fight or a evil honcho pulling the strings in that sense, although it does lean dangerously closely to said tropes at times.
Like the teenage lives it represents, Before the Storm is about living in the moment and about falling in love. It’s about how you impact the people around you, and the meaning of trust, the meaning of love. This all sounds incredibly deep, and you can probably already tell that it doesn’t ponder philosophically like The Talos Project, but what it does show you is a turbulent look at two teenagers trying to live life.
The leitmotif of Shakespeare’s The Tempest fits fairly well, serving not only to title the episodes, but also being a central moment of Episode 2. Freedom, confinement, betrayal are all themes shared by The Tempest and Before the Storm, and the magical illusions seen by the new arrivals on the island in The Tempest are easily comparable to Chloe’s dreams. She still hasn’t gotten over the death of her father, and as her mother gets a new boyfriend who moves in, Chloe’s coping mechanism is talking with her deceased father in her dreams. Usually her father is in control of these, but these dreams are usually very calm sequences, even if they often end in her reliving her father’s death.
The music of the game is much rougher, but also much sadder than that of the original game. While Life is Strange’s music was slow and melancholic, Before the Storm’s music ranges from more fast-paced, harder songs, to strong, emotional songs. This also shows the difference between Max and Chloe really well. Chloe’s rebellious spirit is even a mechanic of the game, with the backtalk mechanic serving as a way to talk your way into or out of things. It’s used in multiple creative ways, be it Chloe gaining the upper hand against her mother’s new boyfriend, David, gaining entrance into a club, or saving herself from an aggressive student.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a great, highly emotional prequel to Life is Strange that ticks all the right boxes. It’s a fun game in its own right, and playing this game before the original will let you enjoy the ending. The ending isn’t bad, it’s almost great, even, but certain plot points from the original game won’t let you sit and revel in your happiness of having saved the day because you know exactly that both of the two main characters, Chloe who you saw get shot in the bathroom and Rachel who was reported missing throughout the original, don’t have much longer.
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