It’s been two years after the pivotal events that resolved Life Is Strange, we finally make our return to the peculiar town of Arcadia Bay In Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One ‘Awake’. Set three years before the events of the first game, we play as sixteen-year-old Chloe Price. Developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic graphic adventure game that focuses on the beginnings of the budding friendship shared between Chloe and the Infamous Rachel Amber. Much like its predecessor, Life is Strange: Before the Storm captures the humour, the drama and the struggles everyone can relate to from their formative years.
Episode one Awake, introduces Chloe Price as a young sixteen-year-old girl who is already on a rocky road to rebellion. Chloe’s outbursts of over-the-top angsty behaviour that featured heavily in Life is Strange is still present here but delivered to us in a sensitive relatable manner as we get to see circumstances unfold through her eyes. Chloe has only just lost her father two years ago along with her best friend Max (the protagonist from the first game), who moved away and never kept in contact. You start to empathise with Chloe’s loneliness as you read her personal journal entries and snoop through her old text messages. In Awake you’ll visit some nostalgic places In Arcadia Bay including Blackwell Academy where you’ll chat to some altogether new and familiar faces. It wouldn’t be Life is Strange without an interjection of satirical teenage sarcasm to lighten the mood. Admittedly, these moments can be cringe-worthy and eye rolling, but It does feel like a realistic representation of dramatic teenage behaviour.
With the absence of Max, you won’t find any supernatural time rewinding abilities in Awake, instead we utilise Chloe’s own unique ‘back-talk’ skill. Back-talk is a dialogue challenge option that pits your wits against your opponent for the sake of ultimate burns.
That’s right, being a smart-mouthed teenager now has its merits as a mechanic for solving problems. To succeed in a back-talk challenge you’ll have to listen closely to what your opponent is saying. Chloe will pick up on specific words or themes which will prompt some potential responses. You’ll only have a certain amount of time to pick the right response, so choose wisely. This mechanic feels convincing for the most part as you hurriedly scramble to find the right comeback. However, at other times the over dramatised reactions from both Chloe and the members of Arcadia Bay can feel unrealistic. While the back-talk mechanic pales in comparison to Max’s rewind ability, it’s a nice change of pace when the outcomes from these actions are grounded in permanence. In Awake what’s done is done and there’s no going back.
Much like Max’s uncanny ability to take intriguing photos, Chloe has her own tricks up her sleeve. Chloe will unapologetically deface various objects and property which can make for some humorous and creative graffiti. As you would expect from Life is Strange, choice and consequence feature heavily here. Each action, no matter how trivial will have a repercussion. The focal point of Awake is all about Chloe’s relationships, particularly the whirlwind friendship that develops between Chloe and the perfect Rachel Amber. We never really got to know Rachel following the disastrous events of Life is Strange, In Awake we find out that there’s more than meets the eye to this archetypal popular teenager. Rachel is just as angry and misguided as Chloe, making the pair’s relationship an understandably fitting one.
Episode one Awake is a short journey that teases at the final destination of what this prequel’s culmination could be. Throughout Chloe’s defiance and angst, you begin to see the cracks of vulnerability and insecurity that stem from her substantial loss. There are some truly stirring moments followed by sad, gut-wrenching ones. Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One ‘Awake’ is a captivating affair full of sentiment that will undoubtedly tug at your heart-strings as we anxiously await episode two.