Gaming critic Morgan Williams shares her thoughts on the latest Life is Strange Prequel
The first episode of the prequel to Life is Strange was released recently, entitled Life is Strange: Before the Storm. In this game, released in three episodes, you play as a fourteen-year-old Chloe as she does typical fourteen-year-old girl things: like stealing money for weed and straight up bottling a guy at a weird barn concert.
So, let’s address the obvious question, how are you going to make a Life is Strange game without the time travel mechanic?
The replacement is actually really fun and smart- instead of time travel your skill as Chloe is being a literal smart-ass. No really- the ‘backtalk’ mechanic lets you sass people into giving you what you want. In episode one you’re trying to get into a concert, but the bouncer won’t let you in (you’re 14…. Duh) so, using this mechanic, you basically insult him by throwing his words back at him until he lets you get your way. It’s a fun and fast-paced mechanic that obviously doesn’t have as much use as Max’s time travel, but it feels similar enough to be thematically appropriate while being distinct enough to feel like a very Chloe-esque power to have.
Everybody’s favourite Step-douche also makes a return in Before the Storm, and yes, you totally get to use your sass powers on him too. I personally went a bit overboard and was also sassy to Joyce. Sorry Joyce! You’re a good mum who’s just trying her best.
It is also so good to finally see Rachel in the flesh. The thing that made me really uncomfortable in the first game is the trope that Rachel fell into, which is surprisingly common in a lot of narratives- the whole ‘learning about a character without ever seeing or hearing from them directly’. With the exception of the 1940’s movie Rebecca, this trope can do one. It’s a way for people to impress their own opinions on a (usually female) character, without that character getting a say in it. In Life is Strange you get most of your sense of Rachel from her two competing romantic interests- Chloe and Frank; I never really felt like Rachel was a real person throughout Life is Strange, which made her death to me seem fairly inconsequential- a plot point, at best. However, Rachel is the real star of Before the Storm, and getting to know her face-to-face was my favourite part of episode one. Unfortunately, the more I get to know her (and yes of course I’m trying to seduce her in classic Sapphic Life is Strange fashion) the more gutted I’m going to be about her unpreventable fate.
We also get more of a sense of Max’s abandonment of Chloe, as we see it from Chloe’s perspective. If you really love feeling terrible, scroll though Chloe’s texts to Max as they get more and more sad and desperate! This is really depressing but it builds the world in a typical Life is Strange fashion. You also get access to Chloe’s diary, which gives you even more of a sense of her character.
The dialogue also feels really, really cringe (in a good way!), I mean Chloe is only fourteen after all. But, as I was playing it I was laughing along too- this is how I sounded when I was fourteen after all. I live for Chloe’s badass attitude mixed with this profound awkwardness indicative of those weird teenage years; she’s hitting grown men with bottles by night but when she’s alone with Rachel she’s charmingly awkward- one dialogue option you get is just a choice between staying silent or talking about the weather. Chloe’s teenage angst and awkwardness are both inescapable, even as the game gives you the illusion of choice. You’re still limited by the very nature of adolescence.
The soundtrack is also amazing so far. The knack the game seems to have for musical cues is still great and accompanies every scene perfectly.
Honestly, so far Life is Strange: Before the Storm doesn’t seem like a typical prequel cash grab- it builds upon characters that we’ve already grown to care for (I will always love you Chloe, no matter what cringey stuff I have to watch you do when you’re fourteen) while also letting you get to know characters that didn’t get enough exposition in the original Life is Strange (Rachel I know you’re going to die but consider maybe not doing that? I think I may also be in love with you).
The next episode is out now, and I’ll be playing that too. Tune in for more sass and awkwardness when I review episode two.