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Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1 Awake review

We tackle the first episode of the prequel to Life is Strange.

© Square Enix / Deck Nine Games

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a three-part prequel to Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange. This time around Deck Nine Games are in charge of development and they have a tough act to follow to match the heights of the first game.

Before the Storm is set three years before the events of the original series. This time around the player takes the role of a 16-year-old Chloe Price and it’s interesting to learn more about the events that led to the Chloe we met in the first game.

Teenage years are tough for anyone but Chloe is having a tougher time than most. It’s been two years since the death of her father. Her best friend Max Caulfield, who we played as in the first game, has moved away and is rarely in touch. Chloe is still living at home and is struggling to deal with David, her mother’s new military obsessed boyfriend who we met in the first game.

Watch the Life is Strange: Before the Storm launch trailer below:

 

Feeling alone and hurt, Chloe chooses to rebel in order to cope. She’s skipping school, staying out late, drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs too. Early in the game Chloe sneaks out to try and see a band perform a gig at a local mill.

Gaining access to the gig introduces us to a new mechanic called Backtalk. Here you need to listen to what the other character says and then respond using her wit. It’s not as game-changing as Max’s time-shift abilities from the first game but it does feel like it puts you in Chloe’s shoes.

As with the first game, every choice you make changes the story. These can be conversations or even the way you decide to dress at the start of a day. The choices made in the first episode didn’t feel like they had big consequences but we’re sure we’ll still be feeling the effects of them over the coming episodes.

© Square Enix / Deck Nine Games

If you played the first game then everything feels instantly familiar. The action is still set in Arcadia Bay, Oregon and locations such as Chloe’s house and Blackwell Academy are included but there are new places to explore as well. Similarly you come across several characters that you dealt with in the first game and it’s interesting to learn more about them too. To really get the most out of the game it pays to take your time to explore, talk to everyone and look at everything.

In the first game, a girl called Rachel Amber had gone missing. She’s one of the main characters in Before the Storm and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Chloe. The scenes with Chloe and Rachel are the best and they are packed full of emotion which really helps you feel for the characters.

Other things that return are the journal system, this time it’s Chloe’s journal and she uses it to have imaginary conversations with Max. Chloe has a mobile phone and this relays information to you from other characters at key moments. She doesn’t have a camera like Max did in the first game but she does carry a marker pen that you can use to graffiti certain places.

View some screenshots from Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1 Awake in our gallery:

Like the first game, music and cinematic camera angles play an important part. The soundtrack features a mix of licensed tracks and a bespoke score created by British indie band Daughter. The music fits the game perfectly and really helps bring out the emotion. There’s a new MixTape mode allowing you to listen back to the music too.

The developers tell us that the end of this game won’t be the start of the first. This is a good move and means it will keep the player guessing as to what happens next.

Awake is a promising start to Life is Strange: Before the Storm and we can’t wait to find out what happens next. If you’re new to the series you could probably jump straight in here but I’d highly recommend you go and play the original game first. If you enjoyed the original game then Before the Storm is essential.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1 Awake was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Deck Nine Games Release Date: August 31, 2017 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PS4, PC/Steam

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