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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (462)

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Strange Brigade 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
Watch Dogs 2 4/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3/5
Metro 2033 3.5/5
South Park: The Fractur... 4/5
Sundered 3.5/5
Mass Effect: Andromeda 3.5/5
Life is Strange: Before... 4/5
God of War 4/5
Doom (2016) 3.5/5
Armada 3.5/5
Detroit: Become Human 4/5
Destiny 2 4/5
Horizon: Zero Dawn 4.5/5
Oxenfree 4/5
Murdered: Soul Suspect 3/5
Kirby Star Allies 3/5
Celeste 4.5/5
Dark Quest 2 3/5
Just Cause 3 3.5/5
Guacamelee! 2 4/5
The Incredible Adventur... 4/5

Next 25
 

Life is Strange: Before the Storm   PC (Steam) 

There is No Calm Before This Storm    4/5 stars

Life is Strange was a huge hit for DONTNOD, garnering critical and fan acclaim alike, along with awards to show for it. I was a big fan myself that, along with Telltale's Walking Dead, represents one of the best adventure games of the last decade. A followup had to be done - but when it was announced that not only a different studio was taking over - people were rightfully skeptical. While the game had a few bumps along the way (including having to recast the main character due to a strike), Before the Storm manages to capture that same raw emotion as the first. It may not have the same impact but it still serves as a worthy companion piece to the original.

Presentation: The game shares the same styles as the first game in terms of graphics for both characters and the environments. It also has a much similar soundtrack, one that fits nicely with the game. One of the biggest differences is in the voice casting - during the making of this game the SAG-AFTRA strike was going on and, as a result, the original voice actor for Chloe, Ashley Burch, was unavailable, leading to Rhianna DeVries taking over for the role. Burch, however, did play an active part in consulting on the script - so even though it may not be her literal voice, it's still her character through and through. Another change is that the original developer, DONTNOD, was replaced by a brand new one in Deck Nine Games, who took on a tall order with this game. Being a followup to a game that was a huge hit with fans and critics alike has to be a daunting task but they did an admirable job and it's obvious they knew these characters.

Thus we finally get to learn about THE Rachel Amber (voiced by Kylie Brown) who is a huge presence in Life is Strange despite never being shown outside a Missing Person's poster. The chemistry between Chloe and Amber is the selling point of the game - much like Max and Chloe in the first game - and if they got that wrong, the whole game would suffer. If anything, I think things felt a bit rushed, even though it still felt authentic. I kind of feel they could have spread this out to one or two more chapters (much like the first game) rather than three - but it still works. Anyone who played through Life is Strange knows the outcome of what happens to Rachel - and it makes the game all the more heartbreaking when you see what they duo go through.

The soundtrack is another big win - while the brand of music isn't in my particular wheelhouse, it fits the game perfectly. All in all, while the game doesn't have the same impact as the original, it still provides a very good story that fans of the first game will dig into.

Story: This being a prequel to Life is Strange, we get to follow Chloe Price, who is still dealing with the loss of her father, as well as her best friend Max moving away. At this point in time she is still attending Blackwell Academy, though her performance has been steadily declining. She also has to deal with the fact her mother has a new boyfriend, David Madsen (who plays an integral role in Life is Strange as well). Faced with a flood of emotions, Chloe decides to attend a late-night concert where, after convincing the bouncer to let her in - sees her local drug connection, Frank Bowers (who shows up in Life is Strange as well) before being accosted by two men. Just when things seem to be taking a turn for the worse, she is surprised when outstanding Blackwell Academy student Rachel Amber comes to her rescue. Thus begins a sudden and surprising relationship.

The game focuses on the connection between Chloe and Rachel, as well as the parental issues life has thrown at both girls. While Chloe struggles with her mom moving on from the death of her father - something she has yet to to - as well as butting heads with the military-minded David, Rachel deals with her own family affairs. Her father, the district attorney, seems to be having an affair with another women - something they discover when they ditch school and go to a local park area. This, in turn, leads to Rachel sparking a massive wildfire. But the relationship turns out to be something far more compelling than a standard affair. Meanwhile, local drug kingpin Damon Merrick (Frank's boss for all intents and purposes) also plays a part - Chloe learns he is threatening a fellow student and later comes into play with Rachel. Other characters from the first game also make an appearance, including Nathan Prescott - who we gain a little more insight into.

While the first game had five chapters - this has three, but is packed with just as much emotion and drama. There is also a bonus epilogue (which includes the return of original voice actors Ashly Burch as Chloe and Hannah Telle as Max) that focuses on the pair digging up an old time capsule while reliving some childhood memories that is extremely poignant and ties directly into both the prequel and original game.

Gameplay: Much like Life Is Strange, this is an adventure game that has a few open areas you can explore combined with a lot of dialogue options. Chloe doesn't have rewind powers, her only special ability is to be a surly teen - thus she can get into Backtalk arguments at certain times in the game - choosing the correct option to needle your opponent where it hurts gives you a better outcome, though some are entirely optional (I, for one, never chose to argue with Chloe's mom or new step-father). I only failed one of these throughout my entire play through and I don't think it changed the outcome of the game much. It's pretty much just a way for Chloe to blow off steam while providing an interesting challenge mechanic.

Many of the environments will be familiar to people who played Life is Strange - including the academy, Chloe's house and the scrapyard to name a few. It's interesting to see how these places changed. While the first game gave you the option to photograph certain spots, this time around Chloe can graffiti up the place with her extremely versatile Sharpie she carries around. These are the "collectibles" scattered throughout the game - though if you miss one or two, don't worry, the game provides a handy option to play through any chapter without have to go through the entire story just for one doodle.

Besides the main backtalk mechanic, the game features a lot of regular dialogues choices. Sometimes this means playing an impromptu D&D campaign, pissing off your mom's new boyfriend or just deciding how to best proceed with your relationship with Rachel. Like Life is Strange - the themes seem pretty natural and it still has a good flow.

Replayability: There are a few different paths to take though, considering this is a prequel and the outcome is already determined, choices only affect this game. Chapter select means getting all the graffiti tags are easy as well.

Overall: If you played Life Is Strange, this prequel is a worthy, if shorter, adventure that fleshes out the characters and offers another compelling story.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replayability: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5

 

 


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