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

Life is Strange was 2015’s biggest surprise. At first I thought it was going to be a cash-in on the Telltale Games hype machine but instead offered more than just decision making. By manipulating time, our hero Max would stumble upon a series of events that were unpredictable and at times shocking. Before the Storm ends up stripping away that mystery and leaves us with an odd ball. A story that doesn’t involve super natural only the struggles of a teenage girl named Chloe.

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As the name implies, Before the Storm is a prequel, focusing on the supporting cast from the first game with the main character this time being Chloe. Unlike Max, she does not get random time manipulating powers and instead deals with her day-to-day issues. Sneaking out night, substance abuse, and hating her step dad are among the many challenges you will face. Since there is no powers, this time the game relies on Chloe’s mouth or more specifically her angst. Occasionally you will run into arguments or situations in which you would need to convince the other person you’re right. This is done through a meter, by adding more points you eventually end up winning the conversation. In order to win you will need to analyse and pick apart specific words the other uses and throw it against them. It’s an interesting mechanic but doesn’t feel anywhere near as genuine as playing with time.

The narrative itself feels a bit shallow. Before the Storm’s first chapter took me about 3 to 4 hours which felt like an eternity thanks to the constant teen drama schlock the game throws at me. I have no quarrels with teen dramas, heck one of my favorite TV shows recently was 13 Reasons Why. But unlike that show, the drama here is played out in a very predicative manner. For instance, one scene Rachel, Chloe’s new friend, begins to feel anxious after witnessing a particular incident. It’s pretty clear why Rachel is annoyed but it took Chloe 2 hours to figure it out.

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Speaking of predictable Before the Storm really does nothing to make me look forward to the next chapter. Rachel was a big character often mentioned in the first game and knowing what happens to her kind of eliminates the suspense. Choices also carry very little weight this time around. In one section I tried to settle a argument with Rachel and replayed it with different choices. The end result was always the same.

In terms of presentation, Before the Storm still carries the same tone the original had. The music is stellar, the atmosphere is there, and the visuals are colorful. It is worth noting that I did encounter stuttering during my playthrough on the PC version. Turns out there was no proper V-Sync and had to enable it manually through the Nvidia control panel. It’s not a big deal but those who aren’t tech savvy may feel frustrated.

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Episode 1 left me with mixed feelings. It has potential to add more depth to Chloe but honestly this felt like it could have been told in one episode. I mean sure there were some interesting distractions like having a D&D session with one of my friends but the majority of it was just filled with unnecessary padding that I honestly got bored and forced myself to the finish line. I do hope Episode 2 kicks the story up a notch because so far Before the Storm is hella meh.

5/10

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