A prequel story has plenty of challenges associated with it. You have to tell an interesting story that people want to play but you can’t step on the toes of the original while backing into characters, setting and plot that builds into the original story. Fans will want a little fan service but not too much because that would be distracting.
The first two episodes of Deck Nine’s Life is Strange prequel came close to stepping on the toes of the original. At times, it feels like it changes Chloe and forces the relationship between she and Rachel Amber to get us to a particular choice-determinant scene in Life is Strange: Season One. However, when focusing on its own characters and world in Before the Storm, Deck Nine hits the right notes and makes a game that feels like a proper Life is Strange game.
The final episode would have to be the trickiest of all for Deck Nine. They have a three-year gap between Before the Storm and Season One which they need to lay the building blocks for but not seamlessly lead us from one to the other so we can account for the passage of time. Fortunately, they pulled that task off. The rest of the episode might be a bit more contentious.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm started in the same way that the original did in that it spent the first episode building a new (but familiar) world in Arcadia Bay. After its first episode, the original Life is Strange quickly blossomed into an amazing Game of the Year winning game thanks building onto the characters, relationships and world that Dontnod established in the first episode.
The real challenge for Deck Nine, who have created their own world inside the Life is Strange story, isn’t establishing the new story, characters and relationships. Their challenge is matching Dontnod’s ability to build that world. It’s as tough a task as any but Deck Nine certainly did a damn fine job of it in Episode Two.
There are a lot of franchises (not just video game ones) that don’t need sequels or prequels. The original works stand on their own and don’t benefit from any additional story added before or after. In fact, there are many sequels or prequels that detract from the originals.
That’s the danger that Deck Nine faces with their assignment to develop a Life is Strange prequel. The original Life is Strange was one of the best modern episodic / adventure games that created characters and a narrative with a depth and emotional resonance that the current crop of adventure games haven’t been able to match. Any follow-up has lofty expectations. Delving into the past of the first game’s most memorable character puts on added pressure.
Life is Strange started as a simple episodic digital release but today gets the full retail treatment. The Life is Strange: Limited Edition hits shelves today with an art book, developers’ commentary and a licensed soundtrack. While I’d love to get my hands on that, I’ve already played the game and named it et geekera’s Game of the Year for 2015. However, I only reviewed the individual episodes. This review is for the first “season” of Life is Strange.
It’s so seldom that I play a game that really moves me. Sure, there are plenty of games that I play that I think are really good or have their poignant moments but I can’t remember the last time I played a game that stuck with me quite the way that Life is Strange has. I came into it expecting to be underwhelmed but Dontnod exceeded all of my expectations and made the best episodic point-and-click adventure game on the market.
Next week marks the release of the final episodes of both Tales from the Borderlands and Life is Strange. As someone who is reviewing both games, that leaves me a choice of which game I should play first when both finales come out on October 20th. After playing Episode 4: Dark Room, Life is Strange proved that it is the best in class in the episodic adventure game genre.
Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Put simply, for every action take, there is an opposing force pushing the opposite way with equal strength. While that’s a law of physics, Newton may as well have been a philosopher with that one. I’m not sure that there’s a law of physics more appropriately applied to life.
The whole point of Life is Strange is actions and their equal and opposite reactions. You could make the argument that all games that are designed to change themselves to fit your decisions should act like that. If there’s one thing that Dontnod has gotten right through three episodes of Life is Strange, it’s that your decisions cause real and obvious reactions in Arcadia Bay. It certainly extends beyond just little changes in dialogue too.
Chiaroscuro is an art term for the use of strong contrasts between light and dark in a composition. It’s the concept that forms the basis of most strong black-and-white photographs. No, Life is Strange – Episode Two: Out of Time isn’t presented in black and white in a literal sense. It contrasts light and dark themes to pull off emotionally impactful moments in just two episodes what it takes Telltale five episodes or BioWare dozens of hours to achieve.
With the final episode of Life is Strange, Square Enix and Dontnod’s surprise hit episodic adventure game, coming out on October 20th, I think that’s as good an excuse as any to play through it and get it all reviewed between now and the release of that last episode. Critics adore this game and review scores are getting better with every episode. My interest comes in that I find that my reviews often contradict the critics in that where critics see improvement, I see it differently. Will I see a game floated as a game of the year contender differently that the rest?