Life is Strange: Before the Storm Preview – What We’re Excited for and What We’re Worried About
By now, you know that Life is Strange is one of the most amazing games ever made. In fact, we’ve stated numerous times that it is our favorite game ever made bar none. What made the game so good is that it is more than just a game, but rather a life experience set to the tone of a game. You would think that news of a sequel (prequel) would have us absolutely ecstatic (and partially we are). On the other hand, there is a lot to be worried about when creating a sequel for such an amazing experience.
When Square Enix announced that a prequel to the game was in development under the title Life is Strange: Before the Storm, (pre-order here)I was hit with a whirlwind of emotion. A lot of excitement, happiness but also worry started to set in. The game is not being developed by DontNod Entertainment (the original game writers), but rather the newly rebranded Deck Nine Games. Writing and story telling is a crucial aspect of any game, and what Jean-Luc Cano (French version) and Christian Divine (English version) were able to pull off was nothing short of extraordinary. We wanted to take a look into the upcoming three episode prequel, and detail some of the things that have us a little concerned. It’s a good thing, however, as not too many games get people worried about sequels for the reason of the first game being so good.
For one, Max Caulfield (voiced by Hannah Telle, interview here) will not be in Life is Strange: Before the Storm. The game takes place three years before the first, and Max has left Arcadia Bay. Chloe (voiced by Ashly Burch, also not in the game) is 16 years old and her relationship with Rachel Amber is flourishing. The blue hair has yet to make an appearance, and Chloe seems to be a “normal”16 year old girl. Naive, and for the most part innocent, Chloe is hit with a flurry of things at once which make up the game’s story. Will this be enough to emotionally captivate players like the first game? Well, that depends.
In Life is Strange, Chloe received a lot of fanfare (100% deserved), but she was not the primary character. That was Max Caulfield. What made the game so good was the mature approach the writers took with an 18 year old Max, her individual relationships with other characters, how those collided with each other and correlation with powers all blended perfectly. We all have free will as humans and our choices. These choices have implications. This free will and our choices are guided by morals. Max’s power and ability to rewind time interjected the ability to change the course of some actions which had results some may deem “unfair”. These changes drastically increased the emotional immersion of the game, demonstrated the players’ true moral compass and this power is absent in Before the Storm. As noted, Max is not in the game and Chloe obviously doesn’t have any powers. This is a major change which puts extra emphasis on the game’s base choices, and that emphasis will fall on completely new writers. This happens often and usually is not that big of an issue. With a game like Life is Strange that is so amazing, however, creating a sequel puts the writers at DeckNine Games squarely behind the eight ball to start.
Depression, suicide, drug use and other hot button topics are at the forefront in Life is Strange. In real life, these topics are never addressed properly, because in order to truly address them you need to be blatantly honest in why they occur. This honesty, however, gets people upset and leads to immature reactions from less than informed individuals. What Life is Strange did is present the topics with no fluff. You as the player were left to decide how your character felt and what she did. Afterward, you had to make a mature choice and either accept the consequences of your actions or rewind time. This allowed the player to basically have complete control over our characters. This control also allowed us to become much more involved in the game emotionally than we would normally be in other games. The developers at DeckNine Games have already indicated these same topics will be included in the game, albeit with slightly different circumstances. The real question, however, will be if a new group of writers will be able to maintain the same level of emotional impact between players and characters while changing a core aspect of the story.
Max had a lot of interactions in Life is Strange with many different characters. One of the game’s primary lessons was to become involved in the lives of those around you, especially your friends. Learn what they like, what they don’t, what is troubling them behind the scenes and how to help them if you can. Researching, reading and listening was one of the primary responsibilities while playing Life is Strange with Max. Speaking with one character, or not, had an impact on other characters while playing. Do you make something harder on yourself in order to help a friend, or not? If you as a player did not take the time to become involved in your friends lives and learn about them, do the things one may seem as trivial or unimportant because it did not affect you directly, it may have an adverse effect on one of your friends. Life is Strange: Before the Storm focuses on the relationship between Chloe and Rachel. Chloe was always a bit of a loner and never had a large group of friends or people she interacted with. This could make it difficult to portray such a branching story as Chloe never truly interacted with as many people as Max did. Since the game takes place three years earlier, it could introduce new characters that weren’t in the original. It could also show new stories with already established characters like her mom, future step-dad David, Frank etc. Since it’s an unknown at this point, however, and the first game is so amazing, it does add an extra level of anxiety and anticipation before the game’s release in hopes of it living up to expectations.
All of these actions in Life is Strange show you how you should really live your own life. Games are supposed to be fun, that’s actually the entire point. Some of these topics that were presented in the game aren’t exactly “fun” so to speak. What the writers at DontNod did, however, was somehow able to make such intriguing topics fun and amazingly interesting. Games are under no obligation to offer social implications, nor should they under any circumstances. Life is Strange, however, is more of an experience than a game for us as we have noted many times. In all my years of playing games, Life is Strange is the only game I’ve ever played that actually shows you how to become a better human being and live a better life. That’s a huge act to follow for DeckNine Games, and we are cautiously optomistic for Life is Strange: Before the Storm. By all means we are hoping for the best, but there are plenty of reasons to be worried that it simply won’t live up to the first.
The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm hits Xbox One on August 31st, 2017, and the full game will consist of three episodes. The Deluxe Edition will also offer a bonus 4th episode based outside of the main story allowing us to play as Max one last time.