Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PS4)

Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Format: PSN (TBD)
Release Dates:

  • August 31, 2017: Episode 1 | PSN (5.52 GB)
  • Episode 2 (TBD)
  • Episode 3 (TBD)

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Deck Nine
Original MSRP:

ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Life is Strange released two years ago to critical acclaim. It’s a coming of age story about a young woman named Max who discovers she had the ability to manipulate time.

What made the game so special was not Max’s powers, but the writing and accurate portrayal of being a teenager trying to find her place in the world.

So it’s not surprising that we find ourselves two years removed from the first game and diving right back into the world made by DONTNOD. This time the game is being developed by Deck Nine and we have a prequel.

The choice to go with a prequel instead of a sequel is obvious if you played the first game as it ended in a way that made a sequel difficult depending how you chose to play the story.

Here we play as Chloe, Max’s best friend, and we see her life before Max returns home and their paths cross again. This also means that the time mechanic is gone since that ability was unique to Max.

Chloe is just a normal girl trying to figure out life, her family is struggling, her academics are on life support and she finds herself tangled in a complicated relationship with a girl named Rachel Amber.

It’s interesting going into this game knowing that there are no powers. It puts a lot of the weight of the experience on the writing. There is, however, a new gameplay mechanic introduced to compensate for the lack of powers that compliments Chloe’s skillset.

Chloe is a smartass, that’s her super power. She’s a sarcastic, foul mouthed, sharp tongued teen, and the developers are using that to build one of the main gameplay elements called “Backtalk”.

Backtalk is a verbal duel that Chloe will engage in with a character using her wit to beatdown her foe. In a Backtalk you’re pretty much in a debate against a person and have to quickly pick a response to fill a meter that sways the conversation in your favor.

Her choice of comebacks tend to border somewhere between cringeworthy and vicious and I don’t always know what the game wants from me in these sections.

Episode 1: Awake

Visuals:
One of the biggest issues some might have with the game is in the stiff animations. The franchise as a whole has never had the best animation as characters can be stiff and their movements sometimes robotic.

This is emphasized in the first episode’s opening scene which involves the characters moshing around at a concert. It shows the limitations of the animation and it’s almost laughable how bad the scene comes across.

When the game decides to focus on the characters talking or keeps movements to a slower pace it looks fine, sometimes even beautiful with some nice backgrounds and world that feels lived in and alive.

Audio:
The voice acting is solid with one notable change in the voice cast. Ashly Burch is not the voice of Chloe anymore due to the voice actors strike from 2016.

In her place is Rhianna DeVries who sounds similar to Burch and does an excellent job portraying Chloe. It’s a change I might not have even noticed if I wasn’t paying attention to the news surrounding the game.

The music continues to be a highlight for this series with some wonderful indie bands filling the soundtrack. The collection of songs is a perfect mix of music that encompasses the world, the characters, and the general mood and feelings of teenage life.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Before the Storm finds itself in a tough position. It’s a choose your own adventure-style game where my choices don’t really feel like they matter or leave much room for change since I know the endgame.

Instead it has to rely on having solid writing and being more of an interactive story as opposed to something I can mold into my own. Early on the writing had to find itself, but over time it found a solid rhythm that I hope it can keep up.

PS Nation has changed the way we approach episodic games. A score will only be given once the final episode has been reviewed.

Score:
score-tbd

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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