Life is Strange: Before the Storm Bonus Episode Brings Back Original Voice Actors

Life is Strange:  Before the Storm - Episode 2: "Brave New World" (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill

Life is Strange: Before the Storm has created a schism in the fan community and for fans of voice acting in general. After the voice actor’s strike of 2016, the original voices of Max and Chloe, Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch respectively, didn’t reprise their roles from the first game. This upset many, both because many people associated the voice acting with an iconic character, and because new voice actors would be performing as SCABs, delegitimizing the strike. Thankfully for all involved, the strike is over, and the original voices of Max and Chloe are returning to their roles.

Specifically, the two will reprise their roles for a special bonus episode called “Farewell“. Before the Storm is a prequel, starring Chloe before the events of Life is Strange. A new actor, Rhianna DeVrie, was cast to play young Chloe, and she will be performing both voice and motion capture for the final episode of the series, “Hell is Empty“. Ashly Burch will be performing voice for Chloe in “Farewell“, but Rhianna DeVrie will still be performing the motion capture.

According to Square Enix, “Farewell” is a special bonus for fans of the games, and may be the last time Max and Chloe interact in Life is Strange. No specifics on plot have been confirmed for this episode, save for that you’ll play as Max one last time, but Square Enix is assuring they will reveal information after they’re done with “Hell is Empty“.

Farewell” is poised to release sometime in early 2018, with episode three of the main release, “Hell is Empty“, set sometime before the end of the year. “Farewell” can be purchased in Life is Strange: Before the Storm‘s Deluxe Edition. For a more detailed look at the process of creating “Farewell“, Square Enix has also released a behind the scenes video.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Kenneth Shepard’s reviews, such as Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2, and find out why Kenneth thinks Danganronpa V3’s ending makes a polarizing case for letting the series go!

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 2: “Brave New World” (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill

Life is Strange:  Before the Storm - Episode 2: "Brave New World" (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill

Being a relatively short, three-episode mini-series, I didn’t think Life is Strange: Before the Storm would have the time to meander like episode two, Brave New World does. The episode is a whole third of the story Before the Storm has to tell, and yet remarkably little of substance happens during it.

Life is Strange:  Before the Storm - Episode 2: "Brave New World" (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill 4
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2: “Brave New World” (PS4) – gameplay images via Deck Nine and Square-Enix

In the pilot, Chloe Price, at odds with her mother and stepfather-to-be, decides to run away from her home in Arcadia Bay with her new friend Rachel Amber, who is similarly unhappy with her family life. This plan is essentially the focal point of the two’s relationship and Before the Storm as a whole, and yet, it takes a backseat to a fair amount of benign fodder in Brave New World. This isn’t helped by the fact that much of it separates Chloe and Rachel, preventing their relationship and the actual A-plot of Before the Storm from progressing up until the last ten minutes.

Brave New World begins with Chloe and Rachel facing the fallout of skipping class in the first episode, but ultimately Chloe is the one for whom the punishment comes down harder, as in my playthrough she was suspended from Blackwell Academy. The two split up, with Rachel finishing the school day and Chloe getting into it with her mother and David. Knowing the relationship between Chloe and other characters makes roleplaying and making certain decisions difficult as events in Before the Storm are starting to feel a sense of inevitability. As references to the future of Chloe’s life in the original Life is Strange become more prominent, it’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m operating within very specific lines.

Life is Strange:  Before the Storm - Episode 2: "Brave New World" (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill 6
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2: “Brave New World” (PS4) – gameplay images via Deck Nine and Square-Enix

Across the board, I felt like I was using the Back Talk mechanic—an inclusion I found questionable when playing through the pilot—significantly less this time around. Both because it was less prominent and because I found the opportunities to use it even less appropriate than the previous episode. Dinner with Rachel’s parents? I don’t have much of a desire to cause a scene. In the midst of being disciplined by Blackwell’s principal? It’s easier to just lie low. I understand this is a way to differentiate Chloe from the time-traveling Max of Life is Strange proper, but along with its problematic framing of Chloe’s arguments as “back talk,” I’m finding myself at odds with the use of it in general when other options just seem more sensible, especially when in very few instances does it feel like there’s enough at stake to merit making use of it.

The bulk of Brave New World takes place in Blackwell after Chloe has been suspended. The first half is for her drug dealer Frank, who asks Chloe to steal money from one of his clients in exchange for wiping away her debt. After I had acquired the money, the situation escalated as a separate dealer attacked the kid I was stealing from, putting Chloe’s situation into perspective. This was followed by an extended segment dedicated to Rachel’s stage play, which while funny, and featured some sweet moments between her and Chloe, took up much of Brave New World’s time, which Before the Storm doesn’t really have enough of to piddle about as it does.

With only one episode remaining, I’m left wondering just what new things Life is Strange: Before the Storm has to tell me. So far it’s done a good job at contextualizing Chloe’s angst in the original Life is Strange, but this is our first chance to really get to know Rachel, and she’s absent for a large chunk of Brave New World. Based on what I know is left to explore of this relationship, there’s a lot Before the Storm has to cover within one episode when the finale drops later this year, but it’s hard for me to picture a finale that is able to wrap up everything specific to  Before the Storm and really elaborate on what we already know.

Life is Strange:  Before the Storm - Episode 2: "Brave New World" (PS4) Review: Time in Standstill 3
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2: “Brave New World” (PS4) – gameplay images via Deck Nine and Square-Enix

I was really optimistic about Before the Storm after the pilot, but right now I feel like it wasted an episode on things that don’t matter when its time was already limited from the outset.

A retail version of the game reviewed was provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more reviews by Kenneth Shepard, such as The Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 3 and Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1!

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SAG Strike Comes To Tentative Close, New Agreement Met

SAG Strike Comes To Tentative Close, New Agreement Met

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike has come to an end.

After almost a year, a dispute between the voice actors who partook in the SAG strike finally reached a tentative agreement over new work guidelines.

The nearly 300-day strike was, in part, due to the poor working conditions for voice actors which included four-hour-long acting sessions, which in some instances, lead to permanently damaged vocal cords directly caused by the prolonged sessions.

Exact details are scarce at the moment, however, according to a press-release issued from SAG-AFTRA, a new agreement has been made that will entitle voice actors a bonus payment upon completion of a game. The new bonus payment will look at the number of sessions an actor has been commissioned for, instead of being based on the number of units sold, which was the standard prior to the new agreement.

The big question left to answer is why the SAG strike lasted as long as it did and who was affected by its duration. In an interview with Polygon, a voice actor stated that:

“Compensation for gaming is not nearly the same as traditional media. You know that residuals are non-existent — and that was a massive point in the recent negotiations.”

One of the more significant titles to be hit by the effects of the strike was the recently released prequel to Life is Strange, Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Ashly Burch, the lead voice for the character Chloe in the original game, was unable to reprise her role in the prequel (although she did consult on the character during the development of Before the Storm).

Hopefully, the new agreement will lead to fairer working conditions and better assurance of quality for all parties involved.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out  Kenneth Sheppard’s review of Life is Strange Before the Storm and see which games the title beat in our E3 2017 Awards Show

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight

The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the StormAwake, feels like a retroactive justification for the choice I made at the end of the original game. Chloe Price, the friend and potential lover of Max, the protagonist, found herself the subject of Life is Strange’s final decision: Travel back in time and let Chloe be killed, saving the town of Arcadia Bay from a storm caused by Max’s repeated use of her supernatural abilities, or let the twister claim the lives of everyone in their hometown all so Chloe could live.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight 3
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (images via Square Enix)

Chloe is a polarizing character. She’s the angsty foil to the mild mannered Max, often unkind to those around her, and is so short-tempered and reckless she makes several situations worse. But this is all due to the tragic loss of her father, resentment for those she feels have abandoned her, and an overall distaste for her situation. In the original Life is Strange, playing as Max meant the game had to tell instead of show how Chloe became the girl she was by the time she and Max reunite. By putting me in the shoes of Chloe as she’s in the thick of all these changes in her life, I felt more validated in my seemingly selfish choice to save Chloe in the original game. Chloe’s story is all the more affecting when I didn’t have to infer it, and while so far Before the Storm seems to frame her as more of an angry, disrespectful teen—which can conflict with the tone of the episode overall—I hope it feels as redemptive for her to others as it felt to me.

Awake begins with Chloe at a rock concert meeting the two characters we know play a large role in what’s to come based on the the original Life is Strange: Rachel Amber and Frank Bowers. Rachel is a popular student at Chloe’s school and Frank is her weed dealer. Chloe, clearly out of her element at the concert despite what she attempts to convey, is saved from a pair of skeevy men by the two, and proceeds to dance the night away without a care. News of Chloe and Rachel’s newfound friendship begins to spread around Blackwell, and eventually the two meet up and decide to ditch class together in favour of something a little more interesting: A train ride where they can really get to know one another.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight 2
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (images via Square Enix)

At the outset, Before the Storm manages to improve upon some of Life is Strange‘s known snafus. Character models, even those of characters who aren’t major players in the story, appear more lively and animated than the original, including the much maligned lipsyncing issues that became especially apparent as the episodes went on. There’s more attention paid to the cinematography of each scene and the more dynamic shots and animation make Before the Storm’s portrayal of Arcadia Bay and its citizens stand out against its predecessor.

This awareness of Life is Strange’s known faults also extends to the sound. While the soundtrack, both the licensed one and the indie folk band Daughter’s lovely score, is still wonderful and perfectly captures the ambient, emotional tone of the story, the script and voice acting feels more authentic. While original actress Ashly Burch’s absence as Chloe is jarring, across the board there’s a more lively sense to everyone’s performances, and the restraint used with potentially dated slang makes the dialogue listenable, and in a lot of cases fairly clever, which is great because so much of Before the Storm is driven by that dialogue.

Without the use of the original game’s time travel mechanics, Before the Storm’s decisions and dialogue come with a greater sense of weight than Life is Strange proper. I couldn’t just use Max’s abilities to see both outcomes of any one decision, so if I made a decision I had to mean it and live with it. While this does make the moment-to-moment of Before the Storm feel a little less remarkable, it does add a dramatic tension that was often lost in the original game. There may not be a lot at stake in these conversations—whereas things became life or death when I played as Max—but now it matters that I make Chloe say what I want rather than testing the waters of each outcome.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (images via Square Enix)

The relationship between Chloe and Rachel, one that I was free to nudge in either a platonic or romantic direction, is a good example of this. At first, I was hesitant to flirt with her, as our friendship was new and despite her seemingly flirtatious intentions, I still didn’t know her and didn’t want to jump ahead into anything too quickly. This all came to a head later in the episode when Awake laid out the question of what kind of relationship I thought Chloe and Rachel had. I finally took the leap and told Rachel outright I thought our relationship was something beyond platonic. While the ramifications of this aren’t yet known, and Before the Storm makes a pretty reasonable case to hold off on talking specifics of their relationship beyond the initial choice, Awake sold me on the idea that these two could be more than I felt Max and Chloe were in the original game, whose relationship I never personally bought into as romantic.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight 11
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (images via Square Enix)

Beyond Rachel, Awake delves more into the Chloe’s relationship with her mother Joyce and her step dad-to-be David. Joyce is worried Chloe’s rebellious streak is going to lead her nowhere in life while David is more than happy to assert himself as a new father figure. Both Joyce and David feel in-line with how they were portrayed in the original game, but Before the Storm’s new “backtalk” mechanic recontextualizes Chloe’s portrayal in bite-sized ways I wasn’t exactly comfortable with.

Backtalk segments put me in argumentative conversations with various people throughout the episode, and the labeling of these sections as such doesn’t sit well with me. Two notable examples jump to mind: One with David and another with a bully at Chloe’s school.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 1: Awake (PS4) Review: Hindsight 6
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1: Awake (images via Square Enix)

With David, I seriously felt he was overstepping his boundaries by making claims about Chloe he had no right to—referencing her deceased father and claiming she needed him to come into her life to fill that role. The bully, who was humiliating another student and threatening to destroy his portfolio of art, was another example where “backtalk” felt like a strange way to refer to fighting against him. Sure, much of Chloe’s responses were insults, but there’s a strange implication to calling these interactions something that is typically used to delegitimize a child or teenager’s words. By letting me play as Chloe, Before the Storm does a good job at making me sympathetic to her cause, but calling her standing up for herself or others “backtalk” makes me wonder just how sympathetic Before the Storm is itself. Labeling these interactions as backtalk likely was just perceived internally as a cute way of differentiating these interactions from others, but I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at its implications, intentional or not.

Awake makes a solid case for revisiting Chloe’s past to contextualize her future. I spent a lot of time talking about the blue-haired punk when Life is Strange was rolling out in 2015, and so often found others weren’t taking to her the way I did, in spite of the points where she felt too standoffish and angry for me to be as close to her as I would’ve liked. However, Before the Storm feels like a second chance at winning people over. Chloe is angry, but she’s not a brat just looking to push away people who are trying to get close. While I always knew why this was the case before, I’m ready to see it now, and Before the Storm is doing a great job of giving me that extra peek behind the curtain.

DONTNOD ELEVEN’s Space Pirate Shooter to Enter Closed Beta

DONTNOD ELEVEN's Space Pirate Shooter to Enter Closed Beta

Fans of mostly flat online competitive shooters with far out characters and cartoonish graphics have cause to celebrate as DONTNOD ELEVEN invites players to take part in the closed beta for their upcoming title BATTLECREW Space Pirates.

Read moreDONTNOD ELEVEN’s Space Pirate Shooter to Enter Closed Beta

Life Is Strange Developers Announce New Game And Studio

Life Is Strange Developers Announce New Game And Studio

DONTNOD Entertainment, the folks who made the gripping indie hit Life is Strange, have announced they are working on a new project called BATTLECREW Space Pirates, a competitive multiplayer shooter.

This isn’t DONTNOD strictly working on the game. They will be collaborating with former indie studio HESAW, who have recently renamed themselves to DONTNOD ELEVEN. BATTLECREW Space Pirates will be their first title and will be self-published through Steam.

“We are very excited about the announcement of DONTNOD ELEVEN and its game: BATTLECREW Space Pirates,” said Oskar Guilbert, CEO of DONTNOD Entertainment in a press release. “The goal of our collaboration is to help those talented independent developers and benefit from their know-how. They’ve been working on this game for about a year and we’re happy to help them achieve their goal of releasing this fun, exciting and innovative gaming experience.”

According to the release, BATTLECREW is described as having “high-paced gameplay, both accessible and deep.” Set in an original universe, players will take on the role of different heroes to battle for the best treasures in the galaxy. The game will have community features, events, and challenges for players to take part in.

BATTLECREW will be launching soon on Steam Early Access. For those of you attending this year’s Gamescom, a hands-on demo will be available.

 

Life Is Strange Headed To The Mac App Store

Life Is Strange Headed To The Mac App Store

It’s time to once again become an everyday hero, because Life is Strange is setting up for a storm of new players.

Feral Interactive, known for porting Triple-A games to Mac and Linux, announced on their website that the critically acclaimed Life is Strange would be making its way to the Mac App store. They also confirmed on twitter that a Steam OS/Linux version is on the way as well:

The sophomore release from Dontnod Entertainment, Life is Strange is an episodic title that follows the story of time traveler Max Caulfield and her best friend Chloe Price as they try to stop a catastrophic storm from destroying their home of Arcadia Bay. The game has a huge cult following since it’s initial release last year and has been confirmed to have a “Season 2” in development.

Life Is Strange Headed To The Mac App Store 1

A release date has not been confirmed, but each of the five episodes will be available for $5 each. Feral Interactive also has a minisite set up for the game.

UPDATE 1 – Feral Interactive has confirmed on Twitter a June 16 release date: