Life is Strange was a very important game in my life. It ended up being my top game of 2015, but bigger than that, it was a deeply emotional ride that spoke to my own experiences in some ways while also inviting me to check out a slice of life I’ve never seen before. Its heroines Max and Chloe are now near and dear to my heart, as is the city of Arcadia Bay and its residents.
When it was announced that developer Dontnod Entertainment would be working on a sequel, I got worried; when it was revealed that the game was to focus on different characters and a different story, I was relieved. As much as the original had worked its way into my heart, it was a story that needed no more pieces added to it—beyond, maybe, the possibility of a director’s cut someday for Episode 5, to give us more of what had once been intended.
I fell back into that pit of mixed emotions once more when Life is Strange: Before the Storm was shown to the world during the Xbox press conference. Unlike the upcoming sequel, Before the Storm—which is being worked on by Deck Nine, instead of the original dev team—gives us more of a look at the characters we met the first time around in the form of a prequel focused on major character Chloe Price. The game takes place around three years before the events of Life is Strange, as we see pre-blue hair Chloe dealing with the changes going on in her family and her growing relationship with the infamous Rachel Amber.
That set-up serves as a first point where fans are going to be mixed on Before the Storm. For some, they’re excited to see Chloe grow into who we met before, along with actually getting the chance not only to meet Rachel, but experience some of that relationship with Chloe we’ve heard so much about. For others—like me—this feels like details we never needed, potentially cheapening to a degree how Life is Strange told its story and what amount of context it felt it needed to give us. Do we really need to meet Rachel? Do we really need to know how Chloe became our Chloe? I’m still not sure.
Another decision I’m not sure about is the gameplay itself. Before the Storm will feel very familiar to Life is Strange fans, as you’ll be making decisions big and small that can often have major consequences. However, unlike Max and her power to rewind time, there will be no supernatural elements at play here. Even though the chance to see the immediate outcome of all of your potential choices didn’t give you the full story, it was still important to see how Max’s choices could affect things, and be able to rethink your decision. I’m not sure at this point how it’s going to feel playing Before the Storm without that kind of option available, or if it’ll actually have as much of an impact on the game as I’m fearing it could.
There’s one final element that could really have fans mixed: Due to the voice actor strike, the original actress for Chloe, Ashly Burch, won’t reprise her role. The new voice actress—who has yet to be named, so far as I know—sounds close enough that the differences in how she sounds became even more pronounced. Life is Strange‘s voice acting, especially in the cases of Max and Chloe, were a big part of the game for many of us fans, so the change is especially disappointing.
As a huge fan of Dontnod’s original game, I’m worried that Life is Strange: Before the Storm will end up being an unnecessary prequel that feels more like a cash grab than a worthwhile part of the mythos. Still, let me be clear: I’ll absolutely be there playing when the first of its three chapters hits on August 31st. As much as I don’t want or need this story, I won’t be able to not find out what happens—and the best result of Before the Storm‘s release would be my admitting how wrong I had been about it.