A wrench that was always expected to be thrown in a new game’s mechanics, especially a prequel, is the fact that Max’s super-powers are no longer around to add that new layer of depth brought in through time-travel. Although they’re sorely missed, Before the Storm does incorporate a “Backtalk” component, which basically means a dialogue tree is prompted and depending on how your situation’s handled, it can make situations better or worse. I wouldn’t say it measures up as much of a replacement, instead, I regard it as more of a novelty and not something I’d other-wise single-out as praiseworthy.
Although Before the Storm isn’t shrouded in supernatural or fantastical elements, it does have a brimming drama and, proportionately, tries to double-down on its characters, this time, swapping Max out for Rachel. Their friendship harkens back to a lot of what worked with Life is Strange, but oftentimes walks the fine-line of feeling like a re-tread of familiar territory, which is something that applies to a lot of the relationships developed.
I think a lot of what happens in Before the Storm feels like it’s only happening in-response to the original game, and it can feel overtly sentimental as a result of that. The issue with prequels is that they sometimes feel like they’re checking off boxes to set the stage for what comes after or thinking they must tie them together in a very taut way, whether it be showing how Chloe’s hair changed or why she says “hella” all the time, it feels wedged in and forced.
When I first heard of a Chloe Price prequel, I figured it’d be about her dealing with abandonment and her father’s death. This is an accurate statement, but it isn’t the end-all, or most of the game’s focus. Instead, it opts for a family squabble between Rachel Amber and her parents, a conflict that felt like something straight out of a soap opera, with a lot of long-winded, expositional conversations thrown in. When I first described Life is Strange in an earlier review, I regarded it as a teen-drama series with a bend, that being the blend of supernatural elements and higher stakes, whereas with Before the Storm, it feels very much like a particularly self-indulgent teen-drama series, with no bends, only replacing those with conversations and situations I can’t muster the interest to care about.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm has a lot of the original’s charm. The graphics and lip-synching appear to have improved, on some level, and it scratches a similar itch with watching the characters interact with one another. The soundtrack remains distinguishable, in-fact, a lot of the times, Before the Storm can feel like a downright billboard for Daughter, which is the Indie band that performed the score. The only problem is that I couldn’t bring myself to care about the conflicts. Instead of focusing on Rachel Amber and her family situation, I would’ve been much more interested to have spent the entirety of this series on her and Chloe’s relationship with each-other and why the Rachel character meant so much to her, and, at times, it does that, but it’s not enough. What we’re left with, instead, I feel, was a missed opportunity and a jumbled supplementary addition to Life of Strange’s canon.