“Life Is Strange: Before the Storm” Review: Be Prepared To Love Chloe More Than You Ever Thought Possible

It’s no secret that I am just about the biggest, loudest, Life is Strange fangirl on the planet Earth. It was the very first thing I wrote about on this website page! The original game goes on sale for $5 basically every month and can be played on just about anything that doesn’t say Nintendo on it, and as such I no longer accept excuses from people who still haven’t played it. Get your shit together!

Anyway. As you can hopefully tell by now, I am invested. So when they announced that more games were coming, I got nervous. Life is Strange was lighting in a bottle, and I’d hate to see that diluted like a TV show that refuses to end. There’s a sequel in development, and at this point not a lot has been made public about how that’s gonna go, besides that it apparently will not be about Max and Chloe, which I think is a good thing. As long as it’s not about boys.

And then they announced Before the Storm, a prequel to the first game, with Chloe as the lead and a story focusing on her and Rachel Amber. There were red flags all over this thing. It was being made by a different studio, would they be able to capture the right tone? Ashly Burch wasn’t reprising her role as Chloe due to the Voice Actor’s strike, would the new actor bring enough heart to balance Chloe’s attitude? And, most worrying, if you played the first game, you already know Rachel and Chloe’s fates. Why tell this story when we know it can’t end happily? Well, episode one is here, and with it come answers to the first two of those concerns, if not the third.

Here we go again.

(This review will contain some minor plot details, and will describe the general story for the episode. I won’t spoil any major beats, but spoilers are in the eye of the beholder so this is fair warning!)

The game opens up with Chloe out by herself at night, walking the railroad tracks to go see a band playing at an old mill on the outskirts of town. It’s a prologue, introducing you to Chloe and eventually to Rachel. But it’s also a tutorial, reminding you to wander around and look at things to unlock dialogue options, and forcing you to try the new game mechanic: Chloe doesn’t have Max’s time control magic, or any magic at all. Her superpower is arguing and insulting people! It sounds terrible! And the first time you use it, Chloe is trying to smooth talk her way through a bouncer to get into the show, and it feels stilted and dumb and bad, and I hated it. And also, at this point, the new voice actor wasn’t working for me. She sounded like she was doing a Chloe impression. And all the lines were written as exclamations. It all just felt unnatural and ill-fitting. And like maybe Chloe was too acerbic a character to carry a game in the lead role? But then the prologue ended, and Chloe woke up in her bedroom that we know so well, and suddenly I was right back in my baby gay broken hearted feels.

Do you really want me to answer that?

This game takes place three years or so before the first game. Chloe’s father is dead, and her mother has just started dating David and his mustache. Max moved away and stopped returning Chloe’s texts. Chloe is sad and lost and lonely (and so young) and is flunking out of school. And suddenly, the most popular girl in school is talking to her.

That’s all it takes for the game to come alive. Just putting Chloe into her real world. Putting us in her shoes and in her head.

Speaking of shoes, do not wear them in your bed, please.

Following the tradition of the first game, episode one of Before the Storm takes place over the course of a single day. Chloe meets Rachel at that show she talks herself into in the prologue, and Rachel finds her again at school the next day. They play hookie. They have an adventure. Things go not-exactly-as-planned.

The first game was a slow burn (as much as a game that takes place over the course of five days can ever be considered “slow”). Max and Chloe had grown up together and grown apart; they had to figure out how to know each other again, and what the shape of their relationship would look like after everything that came before. That game was also about saving the world, and while Max and Chloe’s relationship was always the emotional anchor and the driving force of the game, it wasn’t always the plot.

This time, at least through episode one, Chloe and Rachel’s relationship is the focus, and it is coming in hot. This is a story of firsts. Of meeting a person you feel like you might have dreamed into existence. Instant connection and the surprise of how exciting every second suddenly is. It’s a story about how terrifying it is to be honest with a person, and how unbearable it is when they can’t understand you. This is, essentially, the best angst fanfiction I have ever read.

Oh god I ship it already.

Arcadia Bay once again provides the perfect backdrop to all this emoting. It’s still the same place, industries failing and unemployment on the rise, but it doesn’t yet know that it is doomed. There are familiar faces (Drug Dealer Frank is probably the most important to the plot, but Victoria is obviously the most important to my heart. I swooned half to death when I saw her.) And there are some new ones (do not skip the opportunity to play DnD with the nerds.) And, best of all, there’s no Warren! There are plenty of other boys to say “no” to, though, don’t worry. If anything, Chloe is even better suited to playing this game as a Misandry Simulator than Max was.

Marry me.

Max was an outsider: new in town, uninvolved with anything around her until we forced her to get involved. She was truly aloof until we were ready to be attached to the game. Chloe is an outsider, too, but in a totally different way. She is hopelessly mired in the town around her as much as she’s also isolated herself from it. Where Max moved through Arcadia Bay almost in a dreamlike state, a little above it all, Chloe’s distance from everyone is felt through a painfully relatable haze of grief and insecurity. (If this sounds big and dramatic and pretentious, well, it is and it’s not. She’s a sixteen year old girl. Her feelings are big and dramatic and pretentious, but they are also entirely real.) She’s rude and annoying and can be depended on to say the wrong thing at exactly the wrong moment, same as ever. But now you’re in her brain and you know how hard she’s trying and how aware she is of her failures. Be prepared, even just in this first of three episodes, to love Chloe even more than you already did, more than maybe you thought was possible. She absolutely wrecked me.

Hopefully this give us this same button prompt later for Rachel amiright.

So. Does the new studio have a handle on the tone this game needs? Damn right, they do. After the uneven prologue, you will find yourself right back in the bittersweet teenage dream that is Arcadia Bay. The lighting is as moody and airy as ever, and the soundtrack as perfectly curated. And the same is true for Chloe’s new voice actor. Halfway through this episode I had completely forgotten that Chloe had ever sounded any other way; she is entirely herself, for better and for worse. The final question: Is this story as doomed as it seems it has to be, and is that a story we should allow ourselves to get invested in? I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll have to wait to see how the next two episodes play out, and even then I doubt it’ll be too much clearer. For now, I am happy to see Rachel Amber being given a voice, and a life, and a role to play beyond being a face on a Missing Person poster. I’m happy to get to know her, even if I am just setting myself up for a fall.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available for Windows PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The whole game (three episodes in total) will run you $16.99, or you can spend a few dollars more to upgrade to the Deluxe Edition, which will eventually include a bonus Max episode. There’s no release schedule for the next episodes yet, but the last game released one every three months or so, so that’s my best guess until the developers say otherwise.

Did you learn nothing from Buddy Threadgoode?

If you liked the first game, you’ll like this one. And if you loved the first game, you’ll probably already have played this one by the time this article goes up, and you and I both are probably still wallowing in our feelings. So get yourself into the comments and release those feelings like you are Chloe Price and this article is a future stepdad who dared to offer you a ride to school.


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Sarah lives in the Boston area and plays a lot of video games. Her interests are cats, bragging, and foods that can be eaten lying down. She has too many sneakers and not enough pants.

sarah has written 18 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. “And if you loved the first game, you’ll probably already have played this one by the time this article goes up, and you and I both are probably still wallowing in our feelings.”

    Yes, correct.

    Anyway, I totally agree with you about how, at first, the lack of Ashly Burch was super jarring, but by the end of the episode Chloe felt totally natural. Also, as you already know, Chloe’s journal entries/letters to Max make me ::pterodactyl screech::

    • I had to go back and watch a comparison video of the two Chloe voices to even remember that they were different! I was so afraid I’d be totally thrown off by the voices, but they really did find a great replacement. I also think bringing Burch in as a consultant on the script was a wise move to keep it as authentically Chloe as possible.

  2. Ah, yes, a perfect article to read while I listen to the Life Is Strange playlist on Spotify on repeat, as I have done almost every day since I first played this episode.

    I was surprised by how much more deeply I felt for Chloe. This is the Chloe I expected based on who she was in the first game, but there’s a difference between knowing how much of a jagged, open wound she was and participating in her experience of it. Playing the first game through Max’s eyes obscures it through the lens of Max’s guilt. Man is it rough to be in Chloe’s shoes instead.

    It makes a certain ending to the first game hurt even more, even after just this one episode. It’s heartbreaking.

  3. Before The Storm is almost all I’ve been able to think about for the past two weeks! It lodged itself in my feels every bit as effectively as the original game did. Chloe’s journal ans texts punched me right in the heart!

    I’m so relieved that the gayness is much more explicit this time. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to make this game if you didn’t make it gay as fuck, but when do straight people ever make sense? So I went into it afraid of Gal-Palling Chloe and Rachel. Ashley Burch was one of the main writers and I think we have her to thank for a lot of this. Also can we talk about how awesome baby gay Steph is? She’s my new fave!

  4. I preordered, so I got the ‘original’ Chloe outfit. I’m thinking I’ll save that for episode 3, maybe.

    SPOILERS BELOW THIS.

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    So this game dropped when I was out visiting my grandmother+family, then going home for more +family time. Got home on Tuesday, with the promise to myself that Wednesday would be LiS:BtS time.

    … Then I played it twice through. There was a choice at the beginning that I wanted to change, to see if it would change that thing that happens after you compare your choices to everyone else’s. My choice did not change it, FYI! But I was happy with *other* choices I made, so I think I’ll be playing that save first.

    Also my heart was so full of happiness during the D&D sequence. I played Chloe as all into the geekiness, because I decided that if she’s doing something, she does it with her whole heart. Callemandia (sp? I can’t find this quickly online) lives!

    I don’t know if she could, actually, it was a bit railroady with the face that you had to chop Mikey’s character’s feet off. Maybe if I didn’t try for the loot? But Mikey was so happy to go there and show off. I didn’t want to stop him from getting loot, being the new kid joining a game at the conclusion of the adventure. TABLETOP FEELS.

    Also can I just be super happy with the step up in animation we got? There were so many controls! people held things! There was snarling! That bit where Chloe waves farewell the the jerk selling that t-shirt had overlapping action!! Her grabbing the nail file from Rachel and like, swinging it around her!

    They got to do so much character animation and it was super duper funnnn. I loved the little expressions they were able to use, seeing thoughts flash across people’s faces was just the best.

    The look Chloe gives Frank when she thinks he’s forgotten her name! OMG I’ve made that face.

    It’s really interesting to see Chloe as someone who is ‘beginning’. She’s not a bad ass yet, she’s just playing one. But she’s still concerned that she’s going to get grounded by her mom (sort of concerned) and she’s not sure where these FEELINGS are coming from, or what they mean. I mean, bangs, Chloe? Really?

    As the player, you’re still playing some one who is coming to terms with themselves, their lives, and how they can influence people and the world around them. So that’s similar to LiS. But this time, we get to see Chloe and RACHEL and I ship it toooo but Max??

    I’m also looking forward to learning more about Rachel. She feels like she’s a whole mess of feelings that have been tied together with string so she can maybe make it through a day. Everyone knows who she is, and she can play the parts they need her to play so well. But when does she get to just express what she’s feeling, without needing to mirror people?

    I want a better ending for her. I want her to climb Everest, to make it to LA and maybe be a star, or maybe find something else there. It’s sad to think that she’s just going to be gone, after this.

    (Also I chose the LiS ending where this is all EVEN SADDER and and and…)

    I also loved Frank. With Deidre (I think?) the pitbull being at the old mill, I’m hopeful we’ll get the story of Pompidou too.

    I wasn’t sure that there was going to be a season 2 of LiS, I thought this was it? So I’m happy about that! But… I really hope it isn’t about the boys. I shut Eliot down very fast, haha.

    I am also kind of sad that this will only be three episodes, but it doesn’t have quite the depth of LiS to sustain five. There isn’t some strange supernatural thing happening (or is there? Rachel seemed to be able to control the wind, at the end), and there isn’t a murder mystery to solve.

    I’m also NOT a fan of how the autosave works. I chose something that was not what I wanted to choose, and then had to replay like half an hour of game. My room mates came home and wanted to eat, so I shut it down on my second play through. When I turned it back on, I had to replay that part AGAIN. (Though I got some info to use to help with some backtalk, so that was good I suppose.) BUT STILL. SAVE BUTTON. There is like a demo tape to listen to and a thing to sign and stuff to draw and backtalk to do AND NO SAVE.

    First playthrough I didn’t warn Justin about the cloud o’ weed he had floating around him, and didn’t get spritzed with the axe? body spray. Second playthrough I did, but Chloe still freaked out over how she smelled to Rachel. XD I was hoping she wouldn’t worry as much!

    … For my new headcannon of after math of LiS, there is this fic: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10883931/chapters/24185373

    I believe in my heart that things could go this way. I might have spent too much time today reading this fic, I wanted to get some sewing done. OH WELL.

    TEEL DEER, I just have so many LiS and BtS feels. <3

    • YES to this super comment!

      Hmmm… I’m happy that you wrote about the animations, because that IS true, now when I think of it. But when I went back for a lil bit to re-play LiS again because I’m a sap and missed it after playing BtS, I found the sheer look of the new characters to be… uglier. Is it just me? I liked the oil-painting look of faces in LiS better than the slightly more plastic look of BtS.

      I also really think about what you said about Chloe being “beginning”! I can totally see that. We know that she is, in some senses, “going downhill”, but also how she is carving out an identity for herself and how perfectly hopelessly human and embarrassing she is in that.

      • I’m guessing the ‘plastic’ look is a problem of having more mobile faces without the really fancy rendering it takes to make the skin look more believable.

        I didn’t find them uglier, but if you did that’s totally fair. I think I was too excited by the expressions to notice, haha.

  5. My computer had taken a shit so I was using my roommate’s and this game came out on a three day weekend for him that was a “only get the actual holiday” off for me, so my only option was to take long naps, wake up when he went to bed, play through the night, and zombie through work, fuck it.

    If you haven’t played it yet, I feel this is a good mindset to play from.

  6. So glad to finally see an article on this! Thank you for the thoughtful review. I was so pleased with how gay it was in such an innocent sixteen year old way. I hate that it won’t influence some of the plot is LiS though. Always Bae > Bay.

    Also Rhuu – loved that fic too. Soooo good!

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