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Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 1 “Awake” Review

The return to Arcadia Bay is a welcomed one.

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After the explosive success of the phenomenal episodic time travel masterpiece, Life Is Strange, a sequel was sure to be on the cards. And the sequel in question was finally announced at this year’s E3 X-Box conference. However, instead of announcing a direct sequel to the first game, it was said that the next Life Is Strange game would be a prequel called “Life Is Strange: Before The Storm” developed by Deck Nine Studios centering around the obnoxious yet hard-going badass, Chloe Price, and her relationship with Blackwell Academy’s honor student, Rachel Amber.

The game’s first episode was released on August 31st and the Life Is Strange community couldn’t have been more ecstatic to be reunited with Chloe and the rest of the Arcadia Bay bunch at long last. Since Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is a prequel to the original 2015 game, the events that take place are set a year or so before Max Caulfield moves back to Arcadia Bay and discovers her time travel abilities. This new story focuses solely on Chloe and how she copes with Max moving away to Seattle, her mother’s new boyfriend, and dealing with her school troubles at Blackwell Academy all the while attempting to come to terms with the grief she feels over her father’s tragic death.

As a prequel, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm has a tough time at tying many of the choices the player makes into the first game. There will be times where you are given a decision that is a reference to Max’s adventure in Life Is Strange, and selecting a completely different choice, often one that is out of Chloe’s character, that might not tie into the first game very well at all. One of the main aspects that made Life Is Strange such a thrilling gaming experience was how the developers and writers at DontNod Entertainment and Square Enix made typical teenage characters like Max and Chloe seem more interesting and almost extraordinary by placing them in a very impactful supernatural storyline set in the seemingly normal town of Arcadia Bay. The introduction of Max’s ability to rewind time gave the player the opportunity to think more deeply about conversational choices made with other characters and to change around certain events. The prequel abandons this feature sadly which may disappoint a few people but allows more room for the characters of Chloe and Rachel to develop their new budding friendship as well as giving us a deeper scope on what the normal and less supernatural side of the Life Is Strange universe has to offer.

Episode 1 which is called “Awake” begins with our moody hooded protagonist, Chloe Price, standing on a train track at night as an incoming train comes straight for her. Luckily, she hops off the track before it hits her and a dark smirk settles on her face. After this eerie opening, Chloe attempts to sneak into a concert to see her favourite band, “Firewalk” playing, where she meets the popular and beautiful, Rachel Amber. Much of the first episode explores how these two characters interact with each other based on the choices the player makes and how they can eventually either become close friends or something more. Characters from the first game such as Nathan Prescott and Victoria Chase also make small appearances in the episode.

Overall, the gameplay is the same as it was in the original game, giving the player the decision to make Chloe rebellious and cold or somewhat good-hearted and understanding in her choices. One of the very few issues dealt with in this game is the poor animation quality. Some of the walking animations of the characters often seemed very wonky which made certain parts of the game almost humorous when they shouldn’t have been and sometimes took you out of the game a little. Despite that minor problem, the gameplay made the episode very enjoyable to play through as well as the fantastic new soundtrack. Ashly Burch was unable to return to provide the voice for Chloe and was replaced with Rhianna DeVries. This new voice actress was absolutely phenomenal as Chloe and there were times where she sounded exactly like Burch except as a much younger version of Chloe, which was needed for this particular story.

As a whole, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm episode 1 was a fun new Arcadia Bay adventure to play through and left a few untied strings behind in what could be yet another supernatural story focusing around the mysterious character of Rachel Amber. Deck Nine are also making great use of their brand new engine for this game called “StoryForge.” To find out more about what happens with Chloe and Rachel after that interesting episode cliffhanger, we’ll just have to wait and see what episode 2 brings. If you are a huge fan of Life Is Strange, the prequel should definitely be marked down on your autumn gaming wish list. Episode 1 of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is now available on PlayStation 4, X-Box One, and PC.

 

9.5
Amazing
An exciting new Arcadia Bay adventure that will sweep Life Is Strange fans off their feet
Conclusion
As a whole, episode one was a fun new Arcadia Bay adventure to play through and left a few untied strings behind in what could be yet another supernatural story focusing around the mysterious character of Rachel Amber.
Pros
Talented new voice cast
Keeps in tone with the first game incredibly well
Introduces both old and new characters and relationships
Smoother and more improved graphics via Deck Nine's StoryForge engine
Includes all of the swooning sunsets and narrative tones of the original while introducing some refreshing twists and turns
Cons
Low character animation quality
No time travel features

Laura-Louise Slattery is a freelance video game journalist, geek culture blogger, and lover of all things Cosplay, comics, and gaming. Favourite games include: Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, World Of Warcraft.

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