Set three years before Life Is Strange, prequel Before the Storm allows players a chance to see the world through Chloe’s eyes; a bereft, angsty teen struggling to find her place in a town she hates. The game shies away from its predecessors’ supernatural abilities, switching out time travel for a much more grounded Back-Talk ability that has the player choosing the sharpest retorts, creating an often cringeworthy and somewhat lacking dialogue. The mechanic is however effective in throwing the player right into the cut throat, angsty world of Chloe, allowing us to see immediately the kind of teenager we are dealing with.
The opening scene of the game is the most disappointing of the episode itself; a bouncer letting an under-age smart mouthed teenager into a club because she insulted his bike and watching Chloe attempt to mouth off to two grown men instead of apologising are two wholly unrealistic scenes that leave the player worried for the rest of the game.
It is here, however, that the player finally meets Rachel; the missing girl from the original Life Is Strange series. Thrown headlong into their relationship, the player is left just as confused as Chloe as to why Rachel, the popular girl in school, has taken such a sudden and keen interest in hanging out with the outcast and rebellious teen.
This meeting is where the game really starts to come into it’s own.
As the game progresses, it allows players the chance to control Chloe and choose what side of her they want to show to her schoolmates and family – will she be cocky and standoffish, or, although the choices are limited, will she show her softer side. The player guides Chloe through interactions with her mum, step-dad, and classmates, facing multiple choices that can affect her relationships throughout the game. The outcomes of your choices are shown in texts, small but effective details that draw the player deeper into Chloe’s life.
Following a game of D&D with two of her classmates where Chloe can choose to play, how to play, or to simply walk away, Chloe once more finds herself enthralled by Rachel Amber. Following her into the drama classroom and then on to get changed and ditching school, the player quickly and surely gets caught up in the confusing and fiery start to their relationship.
A day of ditching school is a regular thing for Chloe, but this time she has company. Jumping on a train and simply exploring town, the player watches as Chloe and Rachel attempt to get to know each other through games, choosing whether to be truthful and trust Rachel, or to be the standoffish teen we know well from the first games. Whether this is a game of truths or making up dialogue for strangers in the park, the player is allowed an insight into the complex nature of Rachel, a confused and angry teenager in her own right.
Running alongside the main story is Chloe’s journal to Max, a further and often heart-breaking insight into Chloe’s innermost thoughts and feelings. It is here that you truly begin to sympathise and feel sorry for the Chloe from the first game – a hurt and troubled teenager writing to the memory of a best friend who left her in her time of need. She writes of her encounters with other characters within the game and even finds herself opening up about some of the confusion she is feeling with regards to her relationships, hinting at exploring her sexual identity and just how strange and necessary her relationship with Rachel is. This, paired with the openness of Chloe in her inner monologue throughout and her dialogue with Rachel, allows the player an insight that was feared lost in the opening scene.
While Before The Storm has proved cringeworthy at times, the story and intensity of relationships overshadows the flaws in dialogue and execution, allowing the player to focus on more than just the hurt and angry teenager that is Chloe Price. As the episode draws to a close in a confrontation between the girls and a cliff hanger, the player chooses dialogue that explores, briefly, just how confusing this new-found relationship is for both girls and provides an effective and lingering end to the game’s first instalment.