*Spoilers for the first episode if you haven’t played it*
I finally got a few hours to sit and play Deck Nine’s Life is Strange prequel: Before the Storm. Here are some thoughts on the game I wrote down whilst playing episode one (“awake”). The episode was originally released on the 31st of August. I’m late to the party. Everyone’s already gone home and I’m sat alone eating stale cake.
First of all, given the circumstances (complications of the voice acting strike that saw Ashly Burch serving as a writing consultant in the game but not reprising her role as Chloe), I felt the voice acting was great. Rhianna DeVries serves Chloe’s character perfectly well, especially in those sarcastic moments, which if you’re me playing with the new “Backtalk” mechanic, is 99% of the time.
The whole ‘fuck you Max for leaving’ aspect of the story is layered on a bit thick, especially when interacting with different memories in Chloe’s house. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, given that we haven’t been in this world for a while, and fans of the original game can find nice references here and there to past (or I guess future) experiences.
Returning to familiar places themselves, such as again Chloe’s house or the Junkyard, is hauntingly beautiful, as the game manages (with the assistance of the musical motifs) to draw up similar emotional connotations that you felt in the original game, giving a real association of feeling to a location. Does that make sense? I hope it does.
DON’T AXE DON’T FELL: The conversations between Rachel and Chloe are believable and cool. The Junkyard scene was powerful, I couldn’t help but feel enraged and betrayed by Rachel’s sudden departure after the slow build up of friendship throughout their conversation on the train and shared moments up to that point.
The complexity of smaller characters and how Deck Nine subtlety get you to give a shit is astounding. I literally care very much about Drew and Mikey and their whole family situation because of some texts and journal entries that I could have glossed over like it was nothing. This is what makes Life is Strange so enjoyable. The way the name ‘Prescott’ makes you feel less guilty about stealing a memorial plaque is absolutely brilliant; you’re in the heads of the characters and feeling what they are. Part of me wishes I had the patience to wait for the whole series to come out, as it’s these sorts of nuances that I have to refresh myself on because I have the memory of a goldfish and completely forget about them when not engulfed in the moment.
The transition to the unity engine, which i’m assuming is at least partially down the change in development team, works well. The game looks and runs like a dream and it has more video settings to tinker around with than I remember in the original. The sunlight and the way it casts shadows onto the varying set pieces (I’m not just talking about the ones Chloe stomps on to Principal Wells’ dismay) is RADIATING. The soundtrack also is a treat; Daughter have perfectly encapsulated the feel of Life is Strange and make those quiet moments all the more worth sitting back and listening to.
Well done Deck Nine, you’ve done a stellar job. HOW ARE YOU GONNA DO ME WITH THAT ENDING THOUGH. You know i’m definitely going to try and frame that woman for cheating with Rach’s dad.