By Egge 0 Comments
Before the Storm begins with protagonist Chloe Price standing on a railroad track, perilously close to being overrun by a freight train coming her way. Apart from establishing her devil-may-care attitude, it's an apt metaphor for this unlikely adventure game series as a whole.
The original Life is Strange always balanced on a razor's edge in its ambitious attempts to celebrate the lives and loves of teenage girls in small-town America without coming off as a third-rate young adult novel written (as the game largely was) by a bunch of thirty year-old French dudes. LiS ultimately both earned and delivered a number of strong emotional payoffs - by sheer episodic persistence, if nothing else - but the road to catharsis wasn't exactly a smooth ride. Uneven dialogue, odd pacing and questionable puzzle design gave the impression that developers DontNod were courageously struggling with a difficult subject matter in a tricky genre they didn't have much previous experience with.
The first episode of Before the Storm (developed by another studio, Deck Nine) has some of the same problems as its predecessor, but thankfully manages to keep the strengths of the first game as well. The unabashedly melodramatic narrative doesn't so much pull at the heartstrings as it bludgeons them with a sledgehammer, and the second half of the episode has some of the best character interactions in the series to date (even though some of the lines still sound more like a middle-aged guy's idea of what a young girl would actually say). The adventure game elements have thankfully been pared down, and there are no more time-rewinding powers or other supernatural elements to take the player's attention away from the relationship drama.
Given that this is the prequel to a game which had a notoriously dark and traumatic ending, it's going to be interesting to see whether Before the Storm can continue to stand on its own during the remaining episodes, or if the shadows of futures past become a distraction as the story progresses.