Xbox One, PS4, PC
August 31, 2017
Square Enix Holdings
Chloe Price was a divisive character in Life is Strange, but regardless of whether you loved her or hated her, there was no question the impact that she had on those around her, including protagonist Max. Chloe is fiery, full of attitude but has her own struggles with grief, which makes her a solid choice as a character to explore in more detail here in this prequel, Before the Storm.
This first of three episodes gives us an introduction to her as a 16 year old, and explores how her relationship blossoms with Rachel Amber, who was one of the driving narratives of the original. After talking about her so much, it’s definitely nice to spend some actual time with her, and further insight to Chloe will ideally help you understand why she has such a DGAF attitude in the first place. The style of gameplay will be instantly familiar, with choice based dialogue and actions that will have consequences throughout – some more direct than others.
I wouldn’t say the writing is a slam dunk, although I’m not necessarily across how a 16 year old girl speaks and interacts. Like with Max, the most awkward lines come from the inner monologue of Chloe, which is how the game begins. Stepping over a sign that says “no entry” before flipping off that sign seems juvenile, even for her, and some of her insults don’t land in an effective way either, branching into dark and sometimes violent territory. She’s grieving, that’s true, and grief can impact people in different ways, but it created a disconnect for me as a player. I wanted to like Chloe but some of these scenes made it tricky to do so.
This is further heightened by the new mechanic introduced, called Backtalk. Chloe doesn’t have the time manipulation powers that Max possessed, so this is an attempt to replace that with something that is more tailored to her sassy personality. It’s set up so that you have to take what another person says to you and then use that against them in another insult. It doesn’t allow much time for thought, which means you’ll be quickly choosing insults to throw at your opponent before you eventually “win”, or at least get an outcome.
It’s alright. I think it’s good that they gave Chloe some sort of ability that matches her style but it felt a little it clunky at times, despite the occasional moment where you can use your surroundings and what you’ve observed to cleverly integrate it into your insult. These moments felt clever and I would have liked to see more of them incorporated (perhaps we will in future episodes).
“…the banter between Chloe and Rachel feels natural, well-written and believable.”
Chloe does have plenty of redeeming moments though. My favourite moment in the episode comes from a slight detour where she spends some time playing Dungeons and Dragons with some tabletop nerds outside her school. It’s fun to see her actually let go and enjoy the moment, as she clearly struggles to do this otherwise. Her interactions with Rachel are also quite sweet. There is clearly a connection, and the banter between the two feels natural, well-written and believable.
It’s this relationship in Awake that lays the foundations for the future episodes in this prequel series, so it’s a good thing that it’s a relationship I genuinely feel like I am rooting for – even though I am fully aware of what the outcome is going to be. That’s the struggle with a prequel though. It’s fun to meet these characters and get some additional back-story, but we know where they end up in the future.
It’s even very possible you’ll leave this episode feeling a bit cold towards Max, as the neglect that was previously only claimed by Chloe is shown here, with unanswered texts sent and detailed diary entires written by somebody who was clearly just in need of somebody to talk to about their loss.
- More Life is Strange!
- Scenes with Chloe and Rachel
- Great for fans
- Backtalk isn't a perfect mechanic
- Some writing is cringe-worthy
- Chloe isn't likeable at first
This first episode of Before the Storm sets things up well for what’s to come, reintroducing us to faces we already know and providing some insight into one of Life is Strange’s core characters. While some of the attitude Chloe was giving I didn’t relate with while I was playing, I feel quite different upon reflection. Chloe is a teenager who has lost her father, her drug use, darkness and anger a mask she is wearing to hide a deeper pain. She’s crying out for help. So far, it seems like nobody is truly listening.