Square Enix presented a new trailer for the Life is Strange prequel Before the Storm at GamesCom this year. The first of three episodes of Before the Storm is set to release August 31st, but back in June when the prequel was first announced at E3, I was a little apathetic towards the initial announcement. What I loved about the original Life is Strange was the game’s take on the sci-fi and video game tropes of time travel and the butterfly effect. The spiraling chaos of Max’s journey is what drew me into completely and utterly loving the game, but the angsty teen coming-of-age story elements I, personally, wasn’t as keen on. Maybe it was because I grew up as an angsty artsy teen in a small Oregon town, so it hits a little too close to home…
Anyhoo, the initial trailer announcement didn’t thrill me. I thought I had seen enough of Chloe in the original Life is Strange and I liked that Rachel Amber was a mystery that you could only piece together from the surroundings. I feared with a prequel, players would essentially get a watered down version of the original story. Aradia Bay already felt fleshed out, and I ended up feeling a little tired of the environment by the end of it – which I explain in my other Life is Strange article. Despite all of this, the new trailer announcement actually has me wanting to preorder, and I didn’t expect that to happen.
What has piqued my interest in this trailer is presenting Chloe’s and Rachel’s relationship as though it is a mirror to Chloe and Max’s. Whereas in the first game Chloe helped Max fit into her skin, before that it was Rachel that initially took Chloe under her wing. This gave Chloe confidence, ultimately transforming her into the Chloe we get to know and love. In the first Life is Strange, it’s often referenced that Max and Rachel are eerily similar but in an indescribable or indeterminate way. I’m hoping the Before the Storm goes into story elements that somehow draw more definite parallels between Rachel and Max. I’m also hoping that it’s another crazy sci-fi thing like time travel.
The trailer also shows a darker and angrier side to Arcadia Bay that we only got a taste for in Life is Strange. At first, we got to play as Max, who was pensive and insecure about nearly every decision she made and came from a grounded family. Now we get to play as Chloe, the type of character to make regrettable decisions, but then roll with the punches that come with them. I’m excited for the complete drastic shift in types of choices, from uncertainty and trying to do good for others, to choices in one’s own self-interest. James Davenport from PC Gamer wrote up a great piece on playing the first 10 minutes of Before the Storm, describing “I managed to steal money, smoke a ‘J’ (that’s weed, dad), drink beer, mosh, and get into a fight”, which sounds like promising gameplay.
My biggest hope for Before the Storm is that the game doesn’t end up feeling like a watered down version of Life is Strange, with the same story arcs but different characters. I will sorely miss the sci-fi genre twist that the first game had, but I’m willing to be along for a more narrative-driven ride, as long as the choices presented are strong and interesting. Thus far, Before the Storm has the potential to be a strong narrative based adventure game, but there’s no knowing until the episodes are released. So far Before the Storm, you’ve piqued my interest.
- Katrina Lind