Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 31, 2017
MSRP: $5.99 (Episode 1) / $16.99 (Full Season)
ESRB: Mature, PEGI 18
Available Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Before we start, I want to point out that this was my first experience with Life is Strange. Not having played the previous game, I cannot make any comparisons and will judge it without regard to possible connections. Let’s begin.
My first surprise was the conservative pricing of the full season. You don’t see many games at $16.99 these days, more rarely so when a big publisher like Square Enix is involved. The first episode weighs in at only 5GB and takes 2 hours to beat if you rush it, or 4 hours if you explore very carefully. It’s a mix of cutscenes, dialogues and walking simulator. Upon beating the episode you unlock “Collector Mode” (which is really just the game’s fancy way of saying Chapter Select). This mode lets you grab missing Graffiti collectibles and unlike the first playthrough, you can skip through dialogues and cutscenes with the R1 button. I like that they let us skip them when searching for collectibles. I’m just as glad they were unskippable on the first run because they were really good.
The 10 graffiti collectibles add some replay value. At each graffiti spot you can choose between two things to draw.
The game starts off rather generic. Our main protagonist Chloe Price is on her way to a party to hear her favorite band play. She becomes friends with someone at the party and the whole story revolves around that relationship. We’re basically following the everyday life of a teenage girl. The story of Episode 1 could be summed up in one sentence. Not a whole lot happened (yet).
What I found amusing were the backtalks. They are cringy as hell. At some points you are supposed to talk your way out of a situation. Chloe and the person she’s talking to both have a scoring system. In each dialogue you can pick one of three things to say. Pick the right one to earn a point towards winning the conversation. Pick the wrong option too often and the other person wins the argument. Whether you win or lose these conversations doesn’t matter much in Episode 1. Either way, the game progresses on the same path with no optional areas. Sometimes you can skip the backtalks entirely. Honestly though, my choices didn’t really matter. They change the next few lines of dialogue but have little impact overall (at least within Episode 1… they could still impact future episodes).
I don’t know how emotional the previous Life is Strange was, but this one sure has a lot of cliché, touchy emotional stuff. Chloe and her friend Rachel are quite the drama queens. It was a bit too much everyday drama for my taste, but I guess that’s also what makes the game different from the rest. It’s not trying to do anything utterly marvelous, but rather tries to be relatable and realistic. The graphics are as simple as they can be, resembling something from the PS2 era with a comic style. The facial animations were great, though.
Before the Storm’s most engaging tools are the dialogues and voice acting performances. There are always multiple choices that lead to different responses. The actors capture the emotions REALLY well in their voice and it sounds super clear.
A word on trophies: they are ridiculously easy. You just need all 10 graffiti locations and beat the episode, that is it. The developers messed up by gating the platinum behind the deluxe edition of the game, but after some backlash by the community assured the deluxe-edition-only trophy would be patched out with the release of episode 2. How such a trophy even got in there is a mystery to me. Surely someone at Deck Nine or Square Enix must have noticed this. We’ll have to wait and hope that they stick to their word and patch it.
Summing up: If touchy emotional stuff isn’t your thing, this game might be too much for you. If you want a realistic and relatable story for little money it’s a good game to add to your collection. Hopefully, once the trophies get patched, it can also be a fun platinum for trophy hunters.
*Overall Enjoyment Factor, Fascination with Game World, Level Design, Variety, Playability, User-Friendliness (Ease of Use / Readability / Controls / in-game Tutorials / Menus)
Graphic adventures are a rare breed, it’s good to see more of them. Naturally, the game is focused on story, sort of like an interactive movie. Life is Strange handles this well and your choices will impact future events, adding at least some relevance to what you do. It remains to be seen how much exactly this is going to impact things in the future. I like that they added the option to skip dialogues on 2nd playthrough, this makes the collectible search much more enjoyable. Most high-end graphic adventures fail to do this simple thing that makes exploration ten times more fun.
*Quality of the Singleplayer Story, Cutscenes and/or Multiplayer Modes (whichever is available). If a game has no Story or no Multiplayer it won’t be rated (thus no negative effect on score).
Story: 6/10 (Not a lot happened yet)
Multiplayer: Not available (not rated)
*Graphics, Texture Quality, Character Details, Lighting, Weather Effects, Animations, Loading Times, Number of Loading Screens, does it run smoothly
+ The voice acting is super convincing, captures the emotions really well!
– Unimpressive Graphics.
*Amount of Content, Production Quality, Replay Value, is there enough content to justify a purchase
For $5,99 you get 2-4 hours of gameplay. That’s perfectly acceptable for an episodic cinematic experience. The price point is positively conservative, especially with a big publisher like Square Enix involved. You will get a lot more out of this than most movies and at a cheaper price. There are 10 graffiti collectibles, adding a little bit of replay value. Your decisions will also impact future episodes, again adding a bit of replay value in the future.
*Rates how much fun the Platinum / 1000 Gamerscore is to achieve: Are trophies fun to do? Do trophies restrict freedom of gameplay? Missable trophies? Multiple playthroughs required? Luck-based trophies? Pointless farming/grinding? Glitched Trophies? Are stats/trophies tracked correctly?
You just need to find all collectable graffitis. Given how the game is structured this makes sense, it emphasizes exploration. Although it’s a “cheap” way to fill the trophy list, it’s far better than having just automatic story trophies. Makes for an easy and enjoyable platinum. Plus there’s chapter select after the story to clean up the collectibles + a collectible tracker in the menu. Good to see the devs thinking of us completionists. On the other hand, the platinum was initially going to be only obtainable with the deluxe edition. The developers have promised to correct this to make it obtainable for players with standard edition. Giving them the benefit of the doubt here and hope this was a genuine mistake and not an attempt to force people to pay extra.
|Extraordinary Score Increase or Deduction
*Reserved for extraordinarily good or bad features that the other categories don’t cover (such as game-breaking bugs). This score is directly added/subtracted from the final score.
My experience with Life is Strange: Before the Storm was a good one, but nothing spectacular as far as story-telling games go. It convinces with the beautifully written dialogues and voice acting, but beyond that follows a generic story with little surprises (so far). At $5.99 you can’t go wrong. Expect between 2-4 hours of playtime with multiple choices for added replay value.
A free review copy was provided. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. What I played: Finished the Story twice (tried different dialogue options), found All Graffiti Collectibles.