Didn't you always want to be a sassy teenager growing up? You know the kind I mean; the teens in movies who are always ready with a lightning-fast retort or a bruising one-liner. I was shy when I was younger, so Life is Strange's super-confident quipster Chloe really appealed to me, and getting to play as her in prequel Before the Storm was even more exciting.
Before the Storm is set three years before the events of Life is Strange, and the game follows the angsty teenage adventures of Chloe Price, a scholarship student at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. Taking place long before Life is Strange protagonist Max arrives at Blackwell, Before the Storm is a kind of dialogue-choice-infused indie film without any of the time-travelling hijinks that were such a big part of the original adventure.
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Split into three lengthy episodes, Before the Storm takes place in the same old Arcadia Bay, a sleepy town that Chloe has outgrown. The plot revolves around Chloe striking up a relationship with charismatic rich girl Rachel Amber (the missing person in the first game), and the two girls soon become closer than they could ever have expected. However, in true tragic romance style, there are a boatload of obstacles and naysayers in the way of their blossoming affection.
As with most of these kinds of games, Before the Storm is all about dialogue choices. When Chloe interacts with the people around her, you get to choose responses from four options, shaping her character and narrative in your own unique way. However, in specific circumstances you'll also be allowed to activate the 'Backtalk' option, a dialogue- based mini-game in which you must use Chloe's sass to win arguments. Choose the wrong option and your opponent will get the upper hand, but get it right and you can own bullies and gatekeepers hard. It's a ferociously satisfying mechanic and a brilliant way to gamify the genre.
While Chloe's loud mouth impacts the story, her clothes and previous dialogue choices will subtly shape other people's opinions of her as well. It's player-specific options like this that make the game's narrative so alluring; it really feels like you are in control of the story and informing the opinions of those around you. It really feels like you are Chloe Price.
As for the game's narrative, it's impressively engrossing given that we know most of what will happen to the major players later on. But really, this is a character study of a real heroine of mine. If Life is Strange showcased Chloe as Max's sidekick, Before the Storm offers up so much more by exploring her roots and digging into who she is. The story is driven by the types of turmoil that all teenagers experience, and the portrayal of Chloe and her immediate family by talented writers and voice actors really resonates with me. There is even a bonus episode that gives us insight into a younger version of Chloe, and helps explain why her relationship with Max is so important.
Before the Storm may only be a small part of the Life is Strange saga, but I absolutely love it. Perhaps because of my own shy teenage years, Chloe's confidence and sass feels empowering, and taking the reins of such a spirited character is a gaming experience I'll never forget.
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