Title: Life Is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1 “Awake”
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix Holdings
Genre: Adventure game
Official Site: https://www.lifeisstrange.com/en-us/games/before-the-storm
Release Date: August 31, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, Xbox Live, PSN Store
There has been very few games that have felt as polarizing as the original Life is Strange series. While it was weighed down by bad acting and worse dialogue, it contained a unique, narrative driven premise. Life is Strange: Before the Storm has the same charming feel as the original in regards to its premise and subject matter. Yet episode one of the series, titled “Awake,” also manages to improve upon a hefty amount of the faults.
The prequel starts off as angsty as physically possible, as Chloe stands on a train track in front of an oncoming train, hoodie up, smoking a cigarette. She jumps off right before it kills her, then heads down to sneak into a rock concert at a skeezy bar. Like I said angsty. I was tasked with getting the underage delinquent into the bar, despite the bouncer knowing there was no way the fake I.D she carried was legit. The only way to do so was to win an argument with the bouncer.
While Max has her rewind ability to solve her problems, Chloe has her quick witted, snarky attitude. The argument system is pretty simple, taking a combination of things to truly succeed. Chloe is given a varying amount of chances to succeed, needing to use things the other person said previously, then turn the statement into an insult. Clues found before the conversation open up new dialogue choices. It’s an admirable attempt to help vary the gameplay, but ultimately the actual conversations are pretty cringy.
With that being said, the dialogue and acting are leaps and bounds ahead in comparison to the original. The characters Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and the conversations they have, feel far more natural than the disconnected conversations of the first installment. Alongside that, there are a lot more moments to interact with the side characters, including an awesome, missable, quick Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The game certainly surprised me with how much it managed to improve upon its character development and voice work.
Even switching Chloe’s voice actor didn’t affect things like I thought they might have. While it takes getting used to at first, I came to associate Rhianna DeVries voice with the Chloe more than the original by the end of the episode. The same can’t be said for David’s new voice actor though, as he just doesn’t seem to have the same range as Don McManus.
To be frank (aka the best character in the series) I already care a lot more about the story of Life is Strange: Before the Storm than I did about Max’s adventure. To be fair it has a lot to do with the work that was done building up not only Chloe, but her relationship with Rachel Amber, which is one of the main focuses of the prequel series. While their relationship may seem forced at times – seemingly falling in love with each other after knowing each other two days, like most teenage love affairs – their conversations feel far more genuine and wholesome than the ones between Max and Chloe. Common interests and struggles have a lot to do with that, as Rachel’s family issues relate similarly to the ones facing Chloe.
Life is Strange gave a glimpse of Chloe’s family issues from an outside perspective. Before the Storm has already revealed a lot more of the struggles that lead to her rebellious attitude. Now that Chloe is the main character, her inner thoughts provide more perspective on how she really feels about the depression and loss she is dealing with. One sequence in particular in the junkyard is very well done in regards to the emotion she feels about losing her father.
Despite having my grievances with her character in the first series, “Awake” has made me believe that Chloe is actually a more interesting protagonist than Max. While Max may have had superpowers in Life is Strange, her character felt bland. I believe the intention was to give off the feel of a blank slate, but the delivery of her actions never really felt right, especially the mean choices. On the other hand, even with a predetermined attitude for Chloe, the decisions made throughout “Awake” regarding her personality worked. Her talk with David, for example, felt very real. While giving a significant choice on how Chloe speaks with David, each decision for Chloe’s character was in line with her actions.
My favorite part of Life is Strange: Before the Storm was, hands down, is its use of music. Life is Strange is well known for having a fair amount of focus on music and “Awake” doubled down on that mindset. Throughout multiple scenes in the episode, there are full sequences devoted to songs and nothing else. Though I was given the option to skip over it, the music was always so good I couldn’t bring myself to hit the skip scene button. Instead, I rode most of them out until the end. The best way to compare how I felt is like being in a car listening to the song on the radio even though you’ve already arrived at your destination. The music does a phenomenal job of engrossing the music into the scene, with no other noise occurring, solely focusing on the music. The only problem is that the scenes repeat and it takes you out of it a little bit.
I expected to enjoy Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but episode one exceeded all of my expectations. Improved dialogue, a story I care about, and the use of its varied soundtrack have me counting down the days before the next episode is released.
Verdict: If your biggest grievance with the original game revolved around its cliche dialogue and bad acting, I implore you to give Life is Strange: Before the Storm a shot. You may still have issues getting over the teenage drama and what not, but there are interesting characters and a gripping story layered beneath. If nothing else, buy the game to play its awesome soundtrack as background music throughout your day.
- Phenomenal soundtrack that enhances scenes
- Much better writing
- Chloe and Rachel’s Relationship
- My boy Frank
- Backtalk system is a bit cringy
- Davids voice actor