One of the sayings from childhood I always hated to hear was “You’ll understand when you’re older.” This reason was given to me every time a subject or situation came up that didn’t make sense, or I was deemed ‘too young’ to understand. It was frustrating at the time (who am I kidding, it still is!) but as I evolved from an angsty teenager into a young adult the saying started to make sense.
I felt this same sensation when witnessing the way Chloe interacted with the people around her in Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 – Awake, the emotion-packed start to the prequel to the original game.
As a fourteen year-old teen girl, she doesn’t understand why her mom was dating a new guy or why school is so important at her age. Of course, reality is often very different from those strange thoughts and assumptions, and there’s plenty to uncover and understand. Like how Chloe’s mom is finally trying to move on after the death of her husband, and how doing well in school means a better life in the future. The people around her just want to help, but at her age that can be difficult to understand when she feels everyone has left her in the dust.
I never had the pleasure of playing the first Life is Strange, but I’ve seen plenty of it. I knew the basic premise had to do with Max being able to rewind time, spending each episode trying to save Chloe’s life or make it better. I didn’t have much interest in playing then, and by the time it came across my radar both endings had been revealed. So, it’s with this knowledge that I began playing the prequel with little firsthand knowledge of the characters and only a few mental notes of the previous story.
Chloe is on the fast-track to being a juvenile delinquent. From smoking weed to drinking in questionable locales. While in a chatroom, she’s surprised to learn her favorite band, dubbed the Firewalkers, are playing at a private party in her hometown. Being the adventurous soul she is, Chloe sneaks to go see them perform live on stage. Along the way she has the option to steal cash, a shirt, and she even back talks a bouncer into letting her into the private party. Did I mention she’s only fourteen years-old? Yeah, Chloe is more of a badass than most badasses and this is coming from someone who interns for a bat-themed, masked vigilante on the night shift.
At the party Chloe meets up with Rachel Amber, one of the most popular girls in school whom everyone either envies or adores. Chloe gets herself into a scuffle with a few guys and Rachel lends a hand, the two girls making a quick escape, becoming fast friends in the process. Things start heating up when, in the morning, our delinquent heroine interacts with David, her mom’s new boyfriend, and his instance he be the new father figure in her life. Chloe meets up with Rachel at school, and the two decide to cut class and go train-hopping to start their new adventure.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 – Awake is an emotionally powerful episode that caused me to revisit my own memories when I was around Chloe’s age, when it felt as if the whole world was against me. It’s hard as an adult to see this young, compassionate woman trying so hard to make something of herself but feeling hopeless to do so. Seeing her befriend Rachel gave me hope, but it also left me worried that Chloe’s new friend could end up doing more harm than good. I may have missed playing the original game, but that’s not going to happen here, and if future episodes can keep the pace set here, fans are definitely in for something special.