Game publisher Square Enix and developer Deck Nine are preparing to launch Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, a prequel to the 2015 hit Life Is Strange, which sold more than 3 million copies.
The first episode of the game debuts on the Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on August 31. And I got yet another peek at the episode and the relationships that are unfolding within it. I also interviewed lead writer Zak Garriss at Deck Nine. I still haven’t played the full episode yet, but it’s clear that it is part of a much bigger story with three full episodes before all is said and done.
The original game focused on the perspective of character Maxine “Max” Caulfield, a high school student in the town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, during October 2013. She realizes she can rewind time at any moment, helping her perfect her choices and prevent big problems by enacting little changes via the “butterfly effect.” In the game, the player faces a choice of saving a large number of people or helping a friend.
In the prequel, Max’s best friend Chloe Price is 16 years old, as the story takes place about three years before the events of the original title. She meets another friend, Rachel Amber and that starts a new adventure of choice and consequences.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Deck Nine showed an early scene in the game. Chloe arrives at a concert for her favorite band at a place called The Mill. She wanders through the place and has a rich set of choices about what to do. Some seem innocuous, like leaving graffiti on a saw blade, and others are more momentous.
In short order, she has to decide whether to cause a distraction so she can steal a T-shirt for her favorite band, Firewalk, and then steal a roll of money that the T-shirt vendor leaves unguarded. She also has to decide whether to buy some weed from an old friend. She bumps into two troublemaker dudes who are looking for a fight, and they try to do her harm. That’s when Rachel appears and saves Chloe. If you made the right choice with the weed vendor, he’ll step in and block the troublemakers from pursuing Rachel and Chloe. I played through that entire scene in a hands-on session.
After that, Rachel and Chloe skip school together. They form a bond, and it’s up to the player to decide how close they will be. They might just be friends, or they might become lovers, said Zak Garriss, lead writer at Deck Nine, in an interview with GamesBeat. It’s clear that Rachel, who disappears at the start of the original game, is very disturbed about something that she doesn’t want to talk about. The choice seems momentous, and it is up to the player. The story will branch in different ways based on the choices you make.
I watched one more video of another scene of what happens a day after the scene with Rachel and Chloe. In this scene, Chloe wakes up with a hangover. She hides evidence of smoking weed, and talks to her mother, who has moved on after the death of Chloe’s father and is now in a new relationship with another man named David.
“The most successful moments of the first game weren’t about the science fiction,” Garriss said. “They were about the humanity, the personalities, the kind of characters they constructed. That is what we tried to focus Before the Storm on. We are cultivating those deeper connections, and trying to make flawed characters. We focus on that and that is more than enough for a rich game story.”
David is supposed to take Chloe to school, but his car isn’t working right. They repair the car together, but that doesn’t bring them close together. As the player, you decide just how pissed off Chloe will be. David tries to make an effort to be nice to Chloe, but she isn’t having any of it. She wants to be distant from him, because she isn’t ready to move on from the memory of her father, as her mother is.
“One thing we explore is that even relationships aren’t static,” Garriss said. “They aren’t decided in a single moment. Your own feelings will change, especially as a teenager. You will have choices and contexts that will reflect that. The other person evolves too. By no means are we simulating one relationship. We are telling a complex story.”
As for the rest of the episodes, Garriss said, “Episode 1 is the chance to see a lot of these narrative threads begin in Arcadia Bay, to raise a lot of questions that episodes two and three will answer.”