Life is Strange: Before the Storm

FriYAY! — September 1st, 2017

This weekend’s game is, well, awesome! Before the Storm is a brilliant prequal that takes place approximately 5 years before 2015’s Life is Strange.

I tried explaining the original Life is Strange to my spouse, and I’m not quite sure how to describe it except that it’s Catcher in the Rye with a female protagonist and some time travel thrown in for good measure. It’s a coming of age story centering around Max Caulfield, a girl returning to her hometown to find that her childhood friend, Chloe Price, has dropped out of school and is slipping into drugs and substance abuse after losing her father in a car accident (and also losing her girlfriend just a few months prior). Throughout the game, Chloe keeps slipping as she gets herself in dangerous situations and Max has to keep turning back time to save her until she ultimately realizes that maybe some people can’t ever be saved if they truly are bent on destroying themselves.

Life is Strange was very well done, and my only qualm was that you could tell the developers were older people trying to emulate how teenagers authentically speak (Honestly, I don’t know what teen slang even is nowadays, but I’m sure it doesn’t involve the word “biznatch”). Max harbored a certain shyness and self-consciousness that I remember having at that age when I first went away to college.

On the other end of the spectrum, I identified with some aspects of Chloe, as I went through a huge rebellious punk phase at the time, dealt with my own major death to grieve and always felt like an outsider looking in. Many players ended up not liking Chloe and finding her repugnant, selfish, and annoying. I felt Chloe was realistic, because who among us was not selfish at that age? Even though Chloe’s behavior is worrisome and reckless (I never did drugs as a teen, and probably the most rebellious thing I did was play Final Fantasy VII after 10pm), I found her character more charismatic and interesting than Max.

Throughout the first game, Chloe talked at great length about her missing girlfriend, Rachel Amber, who was one of the most popular girls at school. I really spent most of the first game wishing I could learn more about what their relationship was and why Rachel went missing, and for some reason I found it more interesting than Max’s ability to time travel.

With Beyond the Storm, now it’s possible to see Chloe’s side of the story and understand more about who she is, why she makes the choices that she does, and what her relationship was with Rachel. Rachel herself in this game seems more “off” than Chloe, with a penchant for lying, stealing, and being provocative to get what she wants from multiple people. In the same way Chloe was a stark foil to Max, Rachel is a foil to Chloe, and in a truly more troubled way.

All in all, Beyond the Storm is a very well-written game with lots of interesting female characters and I can’t wait to see what happens next, even if we all know what happens to Rachel by the beginning of the first game. The bad teen lingo has been kept to a minimum in this installment, and Rhianna DeVries is a very close replacement for Ashly Burch (I do wish Ashly could have returned for this installment, she was phenomenal in the first one, but Rhianna is very similar and I hardly noticed the casting change). Also, I love the way Rachel says, “Hella” and anybody else from NorCal will pick it up instantly too.