Life is Strange is a powerful take on narrative/choice driven gameplay. Although the faux-teenage dialogue written by older French men was cringe-worthy at times, there were more than enough jaw-dropping moments to leave a lasting impression. They weren’t just there for shock value either, asking philosophical questions and forcing the player into very tough decisions.
My review is below.
Life is Strange – like most successful media creations – is getting a sequel, but today we’re talking about the prequel, created by a separate team, Deck Nine.
In an interview with Gamespot, Zak Gariss (Lead Writer) and David Hein (Producer) spoke about the challenges of extending another team’s IP.
On how much involvement the original Life is Strange team (Dontnod) had to do with the prequel
“From the first concept through production until now, before The Storm was entirely Deck Nine, working separately from Dontnod. We’re working with a core team at Square [the publisher] that worked on the first game as well, the designers and producers there. And the same VO director worked with us as well.
A couple of months ago, I did go to Paris. I shared the first episode in its entirety at that stage with the directors and the writer of the first game. I just, kind of, put the controller in their hands, they played through for four hours. Watching them laugh at the jokes and freeze up at the surprising moments was a pretty huge moment for us at Deck Nine. I think we identify as fans of the game before anything else. So getting to share what we did with them was a huge milestone. But we’ve been developing Before The Storm separately from them.” – Garriss
Working separately from Dontnod but still interacting with Square’s core team sounds like they’ll have enough support to get the essence of the franchise while still being able to put their own stamp on this chapter. This game is from a different character perspective (Chloe) and would be well-served to have a different creative voice.
On narrative choice and the absence of the time mechanic
“We’ve designed the concept to be a very branching in its complexity, and the farther along you go in the story the more and more different sort of scenes you might see versus what I might see. Based on that, we always focus on the relationships that you’ve developed with the characters versus their relationships that I’ve developed. So I think there is a lot of replayability in this experience. I am curious about the ways in which Max, as a character, is prone to second-guess, is prone to kind of rewind and try something else. And I think that encourages trying different solutions; where Chloe just barrels through a problem, she’s just going to deal with whatever the aftermath could be. That might inform the way players approach the content.” – Garriss
The time reversal gimmick was obviously a huge part of Life is Strange’s identity. I like the idea that Chloe’s more gung-ho attitude is influencing the narrative structure, allowing for more drastic changes to be made. It’s probably for the best that Chloe doesn’t have the power to manipulate time as she lacks restraint.
On which game to play first
“It’s really intentional for us that no matter which title you come to first, you can play through it, enjoy it, and then go play the other title. Nothing in our game will spoil anything from the original game. And likewise if you’ve played the original game, you’ll find all sorts of familiar faces and characters and locations. It will be a lot of fun and are kind of Easter Eggs, in a way.” – Garriss
“The only recommendation I have is to play both” – Hein
Check out the full interview here, and play Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 August 31, 2017.