I’ve been hearing whispers about a new Life is Strange project for a while, though I couldn’t figure out how the developers would do it. A sequel was out of the question since the ending of the game is set up deliberately to take the story in two completely different directions, so making a direct Life is Strange 2 would surely be impossible unless they wanted to make two completely different games. Lo and behold, it turns out the new Life is Strange game is a prequel, focusing not on Max and her time powers but on Chloe a few years before the events of the original story. This is, all things considered, the sensible choice, though I’m intrigued and cautiously optimistic about how it will turn out.
The trailer doesn’t actually tell us much (luckily we have developer commentary and the gameplay demo to fill in some gaps) but what it does do is get emotion and atmosphere across very well. The slow start and the shots of Chloe smoking alone in her room feel isolated and sad, which makes the switch to the chaotic action shots jarring and shocking. It tells us a lot about the tone of the game and the mix of ups and downs we can expect, as well as portraying the mix of ups and downs in Chloe’s own headspace.
Even without extra information from the developers, it’s clear that Before the Storm is Chloe’s story. This is intriguing to me, especially since, unlike the first game, there will apparently be no time powers or supernatural element. Whereas messing with time was what originally drew me to Life is Strange, the main draw of the prequel is Chloe herself—and while I’m not sure that the game could carry itself without that added supernatural plotline to contrast the YA story, it’s cool that Before the Storm came into being purely out of love for Chloe as a character. Before the Storm is even being made by a different developer to the original game, so in a way it’s kind of canon fanfic based on what the new team wanted to see more of.
And part of that new stuff is apparently Rachel Amber! I’m not going to lie, I let out a little gasp when she appeared. Rachel was part of the mystery in Life is Strange, defined by her absence, with Max and the player trying to put together a picture of who she truly was from fragmented and contradictory information. Having her appear as an actual fleshed-out character will be a little bizarre (I wonder how her characterization will compare to the Rachel written for Love is Strange?), but I’m excited to meet her properly and, most importantly, see more of her relationship with Chloe. We might even get some more weight to the romantic subtext suggested between them, though… given that we already know Rachel ends up dying, it would feel bittersweet at best, and sting of Bury Your Gays at worst. Unless being able to play as sixteen-year-old Chloe has given us the opportunity to change the future…
Will Before the Storm have a foregone conclusion as a prequel? Will sensitive issues like grief and abuse be handled well? Will it still be interesting to play without the time travel? Will there be more tacky teen dialogue?? Even with these worries hanging over my head, I can be confident that a lot of love is going into this game, and that, if nothing else, has me pretty excited to check this out at the end of August.
Plus, in the demo you can pat a dog, so it’s already the best game ever.
Read more from Alex at her blog, The Afictionado!