Check out our Life is Strange: Before the Storm gameplay impressions
It’s great to be back in Arcadia Bay again. The picturesque coastal town is the backdrop for Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the prequel to Dontnod Entertainment’s time-manipulating teen opus that remains one of the biggest surprise hits of the past few years.
There’s definitely a palpable sense of familiarity to Before the Storm; its colorful art direction and witty, colloquial dialogue oozes charm and character, although there’s more here to offer than a trip down memory lane.
For starters, this is Chloe Price’s story. Max Caulfield, the retro camera-loving student from the original game, hasn’t arrived in town yet, and as such Before the Storm eschews one of the principle mechanics of the original: rewinding time.
Our time with Life is Strange: Before the Storm is all-too brief, but nonetheless manages to offer a succinct, definitive grasp of what new developer Deck Nine is aiming for with this ambitious prequel. Make no mistake: This is the quintessential Life is Strange experience, and the absence of time travel didn’t even enter my thoughts as I explored the dingy barn that housed a gig for local metal band Firewalk, whom Chloe happens to be a huge fan of.
Despite the loss of original voice actress Ashly Burch, the wayward teen has lost none of her trademark, rambunctious charm. Chloe still swears like a trooper, and her distinct personality is on point with what we’ve become used to in the original Life is Strange.
The section we played gives us ample opportunity to soak up the noisy, rebellious climate of the gig house, its interior punctuated by the rhythmic pounding of Firewalk in the room nextdoor and the occasional drunk teen sprawled out on a table. Chloe can have a natter with the locals, with some familiar faces such as Frank offering a nice nod to events that would transpire in Life is Strange. Dialogue remains on point and snappy, with Chloe very much the character we remember and love; her interactions are typical of a modern-day teen, and we’re given the chance to let her trademark sarcasm and potty-mouth run wild, much to our great satisfaction.
One scene gave us the chance to steal a Firewalk t-shirt from one of the local vendors, although doing so requires a bit of sneaky tinkering with a car handbrake; it’s entirely down to you whether you want to do it, as is the chance to pinch a tidy $200 to pay back Frank for the dope money you owe him. The best part is that there’s power-based shenanigans here, just some good old fashioned sneaky charm by Chloe, and it works great.
Towards the of our playable section, our spunky heroine attempts to enter a crowded mosh pit, only to accidentally knock a rowdy chap’s drink over in the process. Venturing upstairs, she manages to rock out above the mosh pit, only to be confronted by the tipsy troublemaker again, which leads to one of Before the Storm’s big decisions: Attack the drunk or make a beeline for the exit. We opted to bolt as Rachel Amber creates a distraction, allowing us to escape.
Sadly, it’s here that our demo comes to an end, although we are treated to a new video showcasing events of the next day, where Chloe interacts with her future step-dad (or should that be step-douche?). The tension is palpable between the pair, with Chloe making things characteristically difficult for the poor chap as he attempts to fix his motor for the trip to school. Again, Deck Nine has nailed the punchy dialogue, and there’s a brilliant moment at the end where, upon helping David fix his car, you can return his fist bump offer---something which the video playthrough refuses to do, much to our amusement.
If anything, the biggest revelation that Before the Storm emphatically hammers home is that it the brand isn’t defined by its time-manipulating mechanic. It’s about the characters, the interaction with others, and the decisions you make that shapes the adventure uniquely for each player. Furthermore, our hands-on eliminated any wrinkles of doubt we had of Deck Nine taking up the mantle of this much-loved series. If what we experienced is anything to go by, we’re for another sure-fire hit come August.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm episode one launches on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One on August 31, 2017.