Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PC) Review

By Ofisil 23.11.2017 1

Review for Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake on PC

Why is it that when it comes to choice-based adventures most people know of Telltale Games, while not as many are aware of Dontnod Entertainment? Apart from a far longer portfolio, the main reason is that Telltale mostly plays it safe with popular source material, be it Batman, The Walking Dead, etc. - and that's a real shame because, as far as story-heavy video games go, few can hold a candle to Dontnod's Life is Strange episodic series (for the first season, start your reading over here). Those who weren't there from the beginning are advised to give those a try first. Luckily, although Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a prequel, one doesn't really need to do so. In other words, welcome to the beginning of another marvellous teen drama, with Episode 1: Awake.

Episode 1: Awake does mention Max (the protagonist of the original series), and although it's mostly in text, the writing makes her shine through her absence, and succeeds in helping the viewer feel how lonely our new protagonist is without her. Make no mistake, though, Chloe Price is the real star of the show this time around, and she is handled so damn good that long-time fans will actually have to rethink who their favourite is amongst the two.

The best thing about this younger version of hers is mainly the fact that it provides us with her vulnerable side, and, as a result, makes it far easier for people to connect with her. She is still the eye-rollingly angsty, tomboyish, and rebellious badass you know and love, but those are now just some of her many layers. Her character is handled so well that, without any exaggeration, it's hard not to fall in love with this, supposedly, not cute, cute girl.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake on PC

By the way, you can forget all about the previous element of time travel, as this is nothing more than a teen drama, and, in all honesty, a very good one at that, as it has managed to make this 30-something-year-old reviewer mentally relive this awkward phase, and without actually "taking sides," as everyone, from the various authoritative figures, to your ordinary run-of-the-mill jocks, are not just what they seem… Well, apart from a couple of clearly villainous punks, that is.

The story revolves around Chloe Price's new friendship (or romance) with the "star," and overachiever of the school, Rachel Amber, who saves Chloe's behind in the middle of an underground party. It's important to note that, while the plot does go somewhere, what matters the most in here is the "how," not the "where." In many ways, this is a lot like Stephen King's Stand By Me, where the goal (a trip to see a corpse) is just an excuse for some marvellous character development.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake on PC

Generally, unlike the Telltale-crafted stories which feel like movies, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is more concerned with feeling real. Sure, there are some moments that have a somewhat fake TV-esque vibe, or, more fittingly, MTV-esque vibe, but, more often than not, it will all feel genuine. Note that this episode has many moments that want you to "stop and smell the roses;" like, for instance, when Chloe just lies on her bed while enjoying a smoke, as well as the pleasantly soothing/melancholic OST, courtesy of English indie neo-folk band Daughter.

Technically, this doesn't really bring anything new to the table, as the visuals look pretty much the same, and, in the case of character animations and facial expressions, somewhat PS2 era-ish - something that, thankfully, doesn't apply to the main duo. Gameplay-wise, and since the time-rewinding thingy is absent, it introduces 'Backtalk,' which is basically an additional dialogue option that appears in certain conversations, which provides Chloe with some more aggressive or ironic responses - and, nope, it's not just a gimmick, as it's actually a risk/reward system that forces you to actually think before choosing an answer.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake on PC

In conclusion, this "A Day in the Life of Chloe Price" might not be as imaginative as the original series, but it doesn't really matter because Life is Strange was never about the fictional stuff, but about the interaction between people, and the struggles (or corniness) of the teenage years… and, boy, does it make you relive those moments of nonsensical truancy (guilty as charged!). The best thing about it, though? You don't have to play the first to enjoy this. The fact that this is a prequel and yet can still stand proudly on its own is simply awesome.

The only thing keeping Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake from being the fantastic game that it often feels it is? Well, it's none other than how intro-ish this ends up feeling. This may sound stupid, as this surely is an intro of sorts, but there are lots of spots that are more like appetisers for what is about to come next - easy to predict cliff-hanger ending excluded. Oh, and by the way, why does not a single teenager have pimples here!?

Screenshot for Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm provides a lesson in interactive story-type adventure games. Instead of silly QTEs and simplistic puzzle-solving, its only focus seems to be the story - or, to be more precise, the characters involved in it. It's the first tiny step of what seems to be a small journey, and it kind of feels like an intro rather than a full chapter, but it's so emotive and deeply immersive that it won't really matter.

Developer

Deck Nine Games

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

I got super lucky earlier when Amazon had a $5.99 price glitch on the DX edition on PS4, so I nabbed it before it was pulled. Hopefully will find time to play it this year. I wasn't sure about it at first, especially with the new actress for Chloe because of the strikes, but I've heard more good things about it, so looking forward to it. Aside from some grievances, I loved the first series. Glad this first ep sounded good.

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