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Life is Strange: Before the Storm review

The truth can be hard to look at, is it really something you’re ready for? Maybe the lies we tell each other are less horrible than the truths we keep hidden? In addition to these being the main questions Life is Strange: Before the Storm asks of its players, they were also, in a way, the questions those players asked of publisher Square Enix when Before the Storm was first announced. Why spoil the mysteries of the original Life is Strange by laying them bare for all to see? Why not let fans leave the words unsaid and the people never met to their imaginations? Why entrust these beloved secrets to a new development studio? But, despite those legitimate concerns from the Life is Strange community, since the first episode launched in August this year it’s been apparent that Before the Storm is not only a worthy follow-up to the original Life is Strange, in some ways it surpasses the groundwork that has already been laid.

Before the Storm paints a more intimate picture of Chloe Price, hellraiser best friend of the original’s protagonist Max Caulfield, three years before the events of Life is Strange, in the time Max moved away to Seattle and the two lost contact. Playing as Chloe is a markedly different experience to playing as Max, and given how much you know about Chloe’s future at this point, it’s remarkable how much freedom it feels like Before the Storm gives you in shaping her outlook and attitude.

Crucially, of course, Chloe does not have Max’s mysterious ability to rewind time. This could have been regarded as a step backwards in the complexity of the game, but Before the Storm wisely plays to Chloe’s strengths of perception and social manipulation, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to carefully explore your surroundings and approach altercations as a puzzle to be solved. And there’s a very marked permanence to the responses you give and the reactions you have to the world around you, raising the stakes in a very real way.

An extra layer is added to certain conversations in the form of Backtalk, a unique skill for Chloe where she can turn an opponent’s words against them in a sort of verbal Tug O’ War. These are never mandatory, but can open up new dialogue avenues and resulting consequences if undertaken. They range in difficulty, sometimes allowing you room for slip-ups and sometimes immediately failing should you give one wrong answer. Responses must be given in a very short time frame, piling on the pressure in an already tense stand-off. Backtalk is a very Chloe way of dealing with the world around you, and although it doesn’t always flow in a way that feels natural, it’s a shame that it is used less frequently as Before the Storm moves towards its conclusion.