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  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You Might Like

  • A deeper dive into beloved characters
  • An inclusive relationship
  • Unique art style

Might Not Like

  • Point and click slog
  • No supernatural element
  • Your choices don’t matter as much
Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

Before The Storm Life Is Strange Review

Before The Storm

Life is Strange is a staple in the story-driven video game genre. With cringy dialogue, memorable characters, relatable teen struggles, and a supernatural twist, the first game in the series captured the hearts of many.

A huge part of Life is Strange was the mystery behind Rachel Amber’s disappearance. Our protagonist, Max Caulfield, notably, has never met her. She’s the ghost of the tale, inextricably woven into the plot despite her absence, but her impact on the town of Arcadia Bay is far-reaching and haunting.

So, whilst it’s not vital, I believe it’s better to play the first game in the series beforehand to truly get everything out of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. It’s a direct prequel of Life is Strange, fleshing out Max’s best friend, Chloe Price, and introducing us properly to Rachel Amber.

Is Rachel Amber’s story as romantic and tragic as we thought? Who is she, really? What did she mean to Chloe? And, most importantly, is this prequel a welcome addition to a cult classic game? Or does it fall flat before the powerhouse story that came after it?

Spoilers abound for gameplay and plot for both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm—so read on at your own discretion.

“It’s Nice Rachel We’re Having”

Arcadia Bay, 2010. Chloe Price, 16, is leaping into rebellion a couple of years after her father died in a tragic car accident. What’s worse, she has to endure her mom dating the almighty Step-Douche, David. We pick up a younger Chloe’s story on a night that will change her life forever: she sneaks into a punk rock concert at an abandoned lumber mill, where 2 men quickly pick a fight.

Who should come to her aid but Rachel Amber, high school royalty and future missing person. Here and now, however, she’s larger than life. They ditch school to hop on a train, they play silly games, and they play with fire (figuratively and literally), even getting involved in some pretty serious gangster dealings.

Rachel is the manic pixie dream girl Chloe needs to come out of her shell, to stop pushing people away and invite love and trust back into her life again. Despite Rachel’s presence often resulting in negative consequences for Chloe—like being suspended or expelled from school—I was invested in their story and how they got to know each other. Having played the original game, it’s fascinating to know exactly who Rachel Amber was, how she and Chloe became friends, and the events leading up to her disappearance in the titular Life is Strange story.

As a prequel, Before the Storm is both a welcome expansion and a detriment to the original game. Fans of Max and Chloe get to learn more about Rachel Amber as well as Chloe, our hella angsty, blue-haired queen with too many chips on her shoulder to count.

But there are two glaring problems.

There’s no supernatural element to carry the story.

What makes Life is Strange (and its mainline sequels) unique is that we see characters navigate real-life problems whilst grappling with superpowers. Max has the ability to rewind time, Sean’s brother Daniel has telekinesis, Alex has psychic, empathetic powers, and Chloe…can Backtalk, shaka brah?

This omission means that the gameplay is just less interesting. Unlike other story-based games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Detroit: Become Human, there are no quick time events to master to attack or defend yourself. There are no heart-racing breathing QTs like in Until Dawn or The Dark Pictures anthology.

What you are doing, essentially, is exploring and talking. If you like that, that’s cool. But without superpowers, stories like Beyond the Storm are more filler than fantastic. If you haven’t played the first game, there’s just not much point in playing this one other than to expand your Max-and-Chloe knowledge.

Your choices don’t matter (as much).

What does a prequel bring to the table? Backstory, sure. But in a series that prides itself in allowing you to make choices that actually affect the outcome of the story, a prequel nips itself in the bud right from the outset.

You already know Chloe must survive until the next game. You also know Rachel’s eventual fate—though how she gets there is a bit intriguing. Many of the supporting characters, like Victoria and Nathan, are also present in the next game. Other than being fun additions, this also means they don’t add any value. The fact that we know that David (spoiler) ends up being a good guy in Life is Strange means that I had no trouble picking the “nicer” option every time Chloe wanted to cuss him out or refuse to accept his apologies. If we still suspected David really was a Step-Douche, then I would feel like I had more autonomy.

As it stands, it feels like most of the tension is taken out of Beyond the Storm as these characters are trapped. They must adhere to their predestined roles and are bound by their fate, making the story a lot less interesting. I suppose you are always expecting the devastation, as you know what’s to come. For me, what could have manifested as tense apprehension felt more like hopelessness, as there’s no way to affect the ending of their stories. You no longer hold the power.

For a story-based game, that’s a fatal flaw in my book.

“Dreamlife Over Real Life, That’s My Motto”

Much like the original Life is Strange, Before the Storm has a unique art style that will serve it well for years to come. It’s had a remaster, but in my opinion, it didn’t really need it.

The paint strokes, vibrant colours, and beautiful set pieces filled with things to interact with mean that the clunky movements and sometimes blank facial expressions are an artistic choice rather than a pressing graphical issue. The series has a clear, quirky art style and feel to it—a feat not many games can boast. This style definitely stems from Max’s obsession with photography, but it still works well given Chloe’s penchant for graffiti and Rachel’s love of theatre.

Speaking of graffiti, there are 10 optional graffiti locations to find in each chapter. You may need to knock over a sign to create your perfect canvas. For others, you need to convince an unsuspecting adult to move out of your eyeline so you can draw all over a photograph of their husband on their fridge. Sure, this clearly show Chloe’s rebellion and disregard for the rules. But what she writes and draws clearly shows that she is an intelligent, witty teen who is more likely to be tagging a building or whiteboard to make someone laugh or make her opinion known rather than destroy property for the sake of it. These tags show that Chloe’s not really a criminal, but someone who feels unseen and unheard and wants to make her mark on the world.

Whilst Chloe doesn’t have a power, she can Backtalk. What does this mean? Well, if there’s something she wants, she can try to use wordplay to get her way. Want to get into an adults-only concert? No problem. Want the Principal to let you out of detention? Time to run circles around him. Need to get out of a dicey situation? Sometimes, a good comeback can hurt more than a weapon.

Again, Chloe isn’t just being rude and talking back to authority—though of course she is. She is using her sharp wit to turn a situation on its head to make it more advantageous for her. Most of the time, this actually makes both parties feel like they’ve won in some way. Chloe may have bad grades and look tough, but she’s actually resourceful, clever, and funny. She just needs someone like Rachel to see that.

before the storm 3

“Winners Make Their Own Rules”

As a bisexual woman myself, I fully get the hype around Rachel. She’s vivacious, hot, confident, unpredictable and, importantly, sincere. She’s the perfect counter for Chloe, who we soon learn has been “acting” ever since the death of her father. Whilst Chloe really is outspoken and does find less joy and meaning in the things she loved before his death, her doesn’t-give-a-flip attitude and attempts to distance herself from her family and classmates is largely an act. In fact, she cares all too much.

This is one of the key themes of Before the Storm: acting and its relationship with lies. As the star of the school play, Rachel is an actor in her spare time, but is actually mostly and genuinely herself. Her father and mother aren’t theatre actors, but their performance of a happy, nuclear family crumbles when some deep secrets are revealed. Chloe is an actor, pretending to be strong in the face of adversity. Rachel’s role in Before the Storm seems to be to knock down Chloe’s walls and help her trust again. Chloe slowly learns she no longer needs to lie about who she is, as Rachel likes the person that Chloe is so desperately trying to hide.

Whilst meeting Rachel is the catalyst that starts Chloe’s transition into sincerity, it’s most clearly shown when Chloe reluctantly takes on a role in The Tempest last minute. It’s not until Rachel goes off script that Chloe falls further into truth. Rachel expresses, in the guise of the show, that she doesn’t want her “minion” to “be free”. She wants Chloe to stay by her side, and when Chloe tells her that she needs more than excitement and adventure—she wants happiness—Rachel promises it to her.

It’s not a coincidence that one of their most meaningful conversations happens within a play. Chloe is finally on a formative journey, learning how to finally stop pushing her feelings away and let herself feel them. And Rachel is there to support her throughout.

Another key theme in Before the Storm is grief. For Chloe, this also manifests in guilt.

Chloe dreams a lot in these 3 episodes. Most of her dreams take her into the back of her dad’s car moments before he’s killed by a truck. She talks to him about what’s currently going on in her life—something she’s missed terribly since his death—and, often, she laments not stopping her dad from going out that day. This crosses over into real life when she blames herself for not stepping in when Rachel gets hurt. Chloe can’t bear to lose someone important to her again, and she’ll do anything to prevent that happening.

This is where her “I don’t care” attitude becomes understandable and relatable. If you don’t care, you don’t get hurt. Before the Storm is a tale of Chloe learning to care again, and working through her trauma so that we can get to the Chloe we know and love in the original game.

“Crazy That Something So Destructive Can Be So Beautiful”

The Life is Strange series is a cornerstone for sapphic tension, and maybe even sexual awakenings. Before the Storm is no different.

You may fail to notice the sexual tension between Chloe and Rachel. I get it, it happens—even with Rachel’s shameless flirting. She clearly wants you to watch her change in the theatre dressing room, come on now. Some will see Elliot as a love interest, but if you know this series, you know that any male side character wanting to go on a date with you is just an annoying distraction. Or worse…

Or, perhaps you want to reject Rachel entirely. She does seem too unpredictable and wild, even for Chloe’s standards. Taking Chloe out of school when she’s on the brink of expulsion and setting fire to the park could be a step too far, even for our protagonist delinquent. When you learn how destructive her birth mother is, it’s not a huge leap to start wondering: is that Rachel’s fate too?

Rachel’s a tornado, and you can either get swept up in her, or you can remain friends. For those who have played the original game, diffusing the tension may even be the safest, less devastating option.

But where’s the fun in that?

Rachel and Chloe’s relationship forms the core of Before the Storm. Finally, we can understand why Chloe’s so hung up on what happened to Rachel in Life is Strange. You now know why she’s loved and even idolised by everyone at Blackwell Academy. The problem is, you know that their relationship is short lived. Whatever you choose, Rachel’s time is ticking down, faster and faster until she fades out of Arcadia Bay. And the story just isn’t as gripping as one about time travel, serial killers, suicide, and two old friends reunited against the end of the world.

Even the ending is a bit of an anticlimax. What I thought would be an epic stand off against the main antagonist of the game ended up being Chloe getting kicked about a bit and Frank doing most of the saving. Rachel was out of action for most of the last chapter. Plus, unless you are very specific with your choices, it’s likely Rachel will never even meet her birth mother—the whole point of the final chapter. It’s a disappointing ending to a theatrical love story with a couple of girls bursting with personality.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while it’s fun getting to know more about the characters of a beloved game, Before the Storm is very little without one that came before it. Some may not think this matters, but I just wanted a little bit more to let the game stand on its own.

If you want to fall in love with Rachel and Chloe, take the time to play Life is Strange first. You won’t regret it.

Zatu Score


  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You might like

  • A deeper dive into beloved characters
  • An inclusive relationship
  • Unique art style

Might not like

  • Point and click slog
  • No supernatural element
  • Your choices dont matter as much

Zatu Blog

Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

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