Episodic games have evolved into their own genre on the PS4. While Telltale is normally known for the wide variety of adventure games they do, the original Life is Strange came out of left field from Dontnod Entertainment. It was their first episodic title, and the story of Max Caufield took the gaming world by storm.
Now, developer Deck Nine has been given the reigns to create a 3-episode prequel miniseries starring Chloe Price from the first game. Fans of the series already have an idea of Chloe's past, so does this prequel manage to show fans a story they're not expecting while also welcoming new fans to the series? It's a tall order, and we'll be looking at each of the episodes as they release right here.
Episode One: Awake Review - Old Friends and New Mysteries
Life is Strange: Before the Storm has some big shoes to fill. The original series introduced us to a fully realized world in the form of Arcadia Bay. The characters were all unique and interesting, and the city itself felt like a real place you could visit.
Max Caufield's story involved high stakes and even time travel as it progressed. Together with Chloe Price, they took us on a journey fans like me will never forget. During this time, we learned a lot about Chloe. So much so, that the announcement of a prequel confused a lot of fans.
After all, what else was there to learn about Chloe? I want to put any concerns about that to rest right now. Even after finishing just the first episode of this miniseries, I can safely say that Chloe's story absolutely needs to be told.
Let's assume for a moment that you've never played the original series. First of all, please do, but if you want to do the prequel first, that's fine too.
In Episode One: Awake, we step into the shoes of a younger, but just as jaded Chloe Price. She's no longer voiced by the talented Ashly Burch, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Rhianna DeVries sounds a lot like the original version of Chloe's character.
Both of the voice actresses have similar sounding performances and Rhianna herself absolutely nailed the edgy and carefree attitude that Chloe is known for. With Ashly Burch still on the writing team, the jokes and jabs were as hilarious as ever.
When the time came to turn the emotional dial over to the other side of the spectrum, Rhianna balanced the performance with excellent delivery. Chloe's raw anger and passion come through just as well here as it did in the original series. I can confidently say that fans will not be disappointed.
Without going into any spoiler territory, Episode One: Awake takes us back to the time when Max had gone away from Chloe's life, leaving her to deal with Arcadia Bay, Blackwell Academy, and her mother's new boyfriend David Madsen.
This is also the time when Chloe first met Rachel Amber. Fans of the original game will recall this character, but it is here that we finally get to meet her in person.
The dynamic between her and Chloe is absolutely amazing. Chloe is the willing outcast who doesn't mingle with the popular kids, but in a chance encounter, she and Rachel Amber hit things off after the game's opening scene at a rock concert.
Chloe goes from confident punk to awkward schoolgirl in Rachel's presence. Rachel is the most popular girl in school and incredibly talented. She's intimidating to even the most popular of kids.
It brought me back to the days of high school when I would stutter and fumble over my words in the presence of popular kids and girls in my class. To see Chloe fumble like this in her first encounters with Rachel made me love her even more as a character.
She puts on this tough girl act, but she's a hopeless romantic at heart. At least, that's how I played her, but your experience could vary based on your decisions.
It was pretty clear to me there was chemistry between Chloe and Rachel almost immediately, so I decided to explore that further since we've heard so much about this girl in the original series.
Chloe herself has always been a fun and cool character, but in the first series, she was kept at arm's length. Yes, we got to know her pretty well and we learned a lot about her past, but we never saw the world from her perspective.
That opportunity alone is a great reason to play Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Once you're inside her head, Chloe becomes an even deeper and more interesting character. The tragedies of her life hit harder when you know how it affects her, her mother, and everyone else around her.
An example is how her mother tries to hide pictures of her dad now that her new boyfriend David is staying at the house. As Chloe, this is understandably frustrating, and in true Chloe fashion, you can either ignore it or go against the grain.
It's little things like this that made me care more about Chloe than I already did, which is impressive given the bond we formed with her in the original series.
Beyond the fantastic characterization between Chloe and Rachel, I also enjoyed the pacing of the story. Without time travel or looming disasters on the horizon, Episode One: Awake had a relaxing pace that occasionally sped up for several intense moments.
It was a more consistent pace that felt less tense overall. The episode still has moments of raw emotion and tension, but it padded out with moments of reflection, serenity, and good old fashioned life in action.
By the time it finished, an overarching plot was established in preparation for the coming episodes, but up until then, I felt like I was finally spending some quality time with Chloe and watching as something beautiful, confusing, and exciting developed between her and Rachel.
In the gameplay department, the episode has plenty of great dialogue choices, but without the time travel mechanic, you had to pick one and stick to it.
Chloe isn't without her own mechanics, though. Using her marker, she can tag specific spots with hilarious grafitti of your choosing if you look around the environments.
She can also get into a war of words with other characters. This argument system takes a little getting used to as the instructions are somewhat vague, but it's fun to be the rowdy teenager that talks back.
Some of her arguments are a little awkward or out of place, but overall I really liked this mechanic because it fit well into her character. That's really where all of this comes back to when I look back on the episode. Chloe as a character is all the reason you need to enjoy this new entry in the series.
Another standout moment is an optional Dungeons and Dragons style game you can play with a few of the students at Blackwell Academy. I loved this moment as it brought out Chloe's nerdy side.
For those who purchase the Deluxe Edition of the game, you'll get to pick from some pretty awesome outfits at the beginning of the episode so you can customize your Chloe. It's also worth noting that the Deluxe season pass will have a bonus episode after the main series is finished.
Combine that with some additional modes and features, and I highly recommend you go all in with the Deluxe option.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm may cover a time period that fans of the original series will be familiar with, but just because we know some of the major events, doesn't mean we know what happened.
Deck Nine has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can handle this series and all of the topical and modern issues that it tackles. Chloe herself is an amazing character who is given even more love and attention in this new prequel series.
I'm usually not one to cheer for prequels as I would prefer sequels to my favorite franchises, but Episode One of Life is Strange: Before the Storm proves that this series needed to explore Chloe's character further. I'll be eagerly awaiting Episode Two's release.
Episode One Score: 9.0/10
A copy of Life is Strange: Before the Storm was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/11/17