This is my first review on my new website, and my first review of a video game. I’m not a gaming expert, though I do really enjoy games, so I’m not going to focus on the graphics or mechanics. As a writer, I am going to focus on what I know best...the writing.
WARNING this post will contain major spoilers.
So let’s get into it.
Before The Storm is a prequel to Life is Strange, focusing on the story of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, Chloe’s good friend/girlfriend. The big challenge this game faced was how to make a choice-based prequel that didn’t affect the story of the original game.
Did they manage it? Yes...mostly. Before The Storm takes place three years before the events of the original game. In Life is Strange, Max has the ability to rewind time. Chloe does not have such an ability, so every choice you make in Before The Storm counts and cannot be changed. While the general storyline of the game will follow a similar route no matter what choices you make, Chloe’s relationships change significantly based on these choices. Overall, these changes still all lined up with the original game.
The biggest discrepancy I saw was Chloe’s relationship with David, the new man in her mother’s life after the death of her dad. In the original game, Chloe and David do not get along. Depending on the choices you make as Max, you may even see a scene where David hits Chloe. While Chloe and David’s relationship is certainly still volatile in Before The Storm, you are able to make choices that help to keep the peace at home. This is what I chose to do, for Chloe’s mother more than David (who I still don’t care for). By the end of the game Chloe doesn’t like David, but there seems to be peace in the house, which is far different than what their relationship is like at the start of Life is Strange.
Outside of this, however, the events in Before The Storm seem to match up well with the events of Life is Strange, which is a pretty impressive feat.
As for the characters, I have the same opinion as I did about the original game; the characters are sometimes melodramatic, but very relatable and real. What you have to keep in mind is most of the characters are teenagers, so the all-or-nothing attitude makes sense. All but one character in Before The Storm isn’t either good or bad. Instead, almost everyone falls into a grey area, especially Rachel. This makes choice selection much more difficult. I really loved Frank in this prequel as well. He was already interesting in the original, and this game just fleshed him out even more.
The relationships between different characters are also very complex. Chloe loves her mom, but is upset about her moving on. She hates David, but he makes her mom happy. She loves Rachel, but Rachel is like fire, and their relationship is rocky to say the least. And Rachel’s relationship with her parents is far too complicated to go into detail about.
And speaking of relationships, what did I think of Chloe and Rachel? This pairing is tough for me, because I’m a huge Max/Chloe shipper. It can’t be denied that Chloe and Rachel have very real romantic feelings for each other. They have many cute moments and their dedication to each other is sweet. At the same time, I’d not call this a healthy relationship. Chloe is much too damaged and obsessed with making Rachel happy. Rachel is manipulative with a short temper. This makes for a bad combination multiple times throughout the game. At the start of Before The Storm, Chloe is on a precipice. Rachel’s influence is a big contributing factor in why Chloe’s life is as complicated as it is. Not entirely, of course, but if Max had come back at this time in Chloe’s life, she would have turned out much differently.
The plot itself had many of the great twists and turns the original game had. Arcadia Bay has a lot of seedy people, and Chloe manages to find pretty much all of them. The plot could be a bit predictable at times, but not enough that it detracted from my enjoyment of the story. As I’d hoped, the game’s storyline still did manage to surprise me. Despite knowing that Chloe is clearly alive in Life is Strange, there were points in this prequel where I started to wonder if my choices would somehow get Chloe killed.
As an aside, Elliot. Wow. At first I saw him as an annoyance, but I wasn’t imagining his creepy behavior. I hadn’t imagined I’d be calling the cops due to his behavior by the third episode. I wish they’d played with that a little more. I also wish they’d done more with the wildfire. It seemed like it would be a major plot point but in the end it, quite literally, fizzled out.
I wish there had been more with Chloe’s dad only because it was so well-done. The dreams were very disturbing and always had a purpose. When finally we have Chloe imagining herself speaking to her dad, I had a moment of thinking she’d snapped and was simply hallucinating. In fact I’m still not sure she wasn’t. Her struggle to accept her dad’s death and the things she doesn’t know about him is beautifully done.
I loved the ending, though I can only speak to the ending I got. I chose to lie to Rachel about the fact that her dad was trying to have her birth mother killed. And that’s because I agreed with her birth mother; that if I loved Rachel, I would protect her from the truth. Everything her father did, he did because he loved his daughter. You can’t fault him for that, though he was in the wrong. It was the kinder thing to do, especially knowing that in just a couple years Rachel will be murdered. Better to make her happy in the meantime.
If you wait through all the credits, you get a small scene that ties everything together. Rachel’s phone ringing, over and over, as you watch the flashes of a camera in the dark room. It was a chilling ending, and exactly what I wanted. Bravo, writers.
Choice Mechanic: 5/5
Should You Play It: YES yes please play it.