Life is Strange: Before the Storm is, says Chris Floyd, the co-director of the game at Deck 9, 'A direct response to fans who wanted to return to Arcadia Bay.' A three episode standalone, set three years before the original Life is Strange, Before the Storm covers Chloe Price's transition from mousey haired model student to blue haired hellraiser, following the death of her father.
We saw some scenes from the first episode, skipping around a bit so not everything was spoiled. Before the Storm retains links to Life is Strange with the inclusion of familiar faces like Frank the drug dealer, a man who looks at you as if you've already spilled his drink even when he doesn't have one, and familiar places like the junkyard where Chloe and Rachel Amber used to hang out.
Rachel Amber, of course, is a new face. Well, not exactly. You've seen it on missing person posters before, when you played as Max in the original game. Now Rachel is larger than life, and described by Floyd as 'The opposite of Chloe, in many ways.' Rachel is the most popular girl at school, and we can presume one of the things we'll discover in Before the Storm is why she decided to start hanging out with Chloe, and what exactly their relationship was — though this will be somewhat shaped by the personal canon of the player, since in one dialogue choice we saw, Chloe could describe it either as 'a true friendship' or 'something more'.
The situations Chloe faces are very different to Max's (Chloe's teenage years apparently being much more like an episode of Skins) and, as Floyd says, 'Chloe as a protagonist is going to solve problems very differently to Max.' In the first episode of Before the Storm you'll face choices like 'Should I steal hundreds of dollars from the back of this car?' and 'Do I want to flip this guy off?', where Max would be more 'Should I take a picture of this squirrel?' and 'Is it okay to read these emails when my dorm mate isn't in?' As before, Chloe's choices will have long term consequences. Some of them are 'key choices' which will ripple through the whole story.
If Chloe regrets her decisions, she won't get the chance to try out the other option: unlike Max, Chloe has no time rewind power. No powers at all. The similarities between the two games seem to be thematic, rather than more concrete ones. 'We’ve decided to focus on what we think players really love about Life is Strange,' said Floyd, 'And that’s relatable characters facing real world situations.'
How enthused you'll be by this news depends on how much you liked the characters, and how relatable you found them. I enjoyed Life is Strange, but mostly because of the rewinding Max could do. It speaks to the impulse some players have to restart the game from the last save to see what would happen if you picked the other route, and made the choices where the power was removed more significant. I found the actual characters very annoying, particularly Chloe, if I'm honest.
Before the Storm is still consciously adolescent: Chloe goes to an underground gig in a barn, and graffiti on the walls reads 'don't touch my soul with dirty hands'; Rachel is kooky and mysterious and learns improv in theatre class; Chloe and Rachel get into an argument which abruptly becomes them yelling at each other about their feelings. If that was the stuff you liked, fill your boots.
Much as it's true that the series is a good one, and has a lot of fans for a lot of different reasons, the character continuity looks like the only thing linking Before the Storm to Life is Strange, and stopping it being just 'Telltale Games Presents Adolescent Angst'.
It even looks slightly different to the original series — similar enough that you have to look up videos to check you're not imagining it, but different all the same, just as the voice actor now playing Chloe does a good job and sounds very similar to Ashly Burch's performance, but isn't quite right now and then. It's Life is Strange, Jim, but not as we know it.