At E3 this year we not only found out that Life is Strange: Before the Storm was coming, serving as a prequel to Dontnod's 2015 game Life is Strange while focusing on Chloe instead of Max, but we also saw a gameplay trailer where Chloe sneaks off to a concert on her own, a section we also got our hands on ourselves when we visited Square Enix in London last week.
Like we say, the level we played has been shown in the trailer above, so we won't cover old ground too much, but here we get a taste of the options available to us as we explore the world. Like Dontnod, Deck Nine has made it so that you can look at and interact with a lot of the things around you, and one example is that you can pull the handbrake of the car that the t-shirt seller is using, so you can steal a t-shirt for yourself, but when you take the shirt you also notice the guy's money (around $200 USD). You can either choose to leave it or steal it, and here's where actions versus consequences come in.
"Yeah, we built on the same foundations of gameplay as Life is Strange, the first season," Deck Nine co-game director Chris Floyd told us when we spoke to him over a conference call at the event. "So exploring places, looking around, getting Chloe's thoughts, how she feels about the people around her, for sure, is part of it. Choices and consequences are absolutely critical. So we look very carefully at the choices Chloe can make, how they affect the people around her, and then we have some unique gameplay mechanics I think we're planning to talk about in the future that really embody Chloe's personality in gameplay."
While we didn't get to see extended consequences given our short gameplay demo, we did ask Floyd about this, and whether this leads to replayability, and he said this involves "going back through the game and trying different things, making different choices - we'll have some pretty hefty choices, some pretty weighty choices to make - and we'll also have a lot of I think unexpected consequences from some of the things you do. So going back and seeing what might turn out differently I think, especially the fans, will really enjoy doing."
As we walked around the venue for this concert in Chloe's shoes we also interacted with some familiar figures who will no doubt be important for the story, including Frank Bowers, who hooked us up with weed after we gave him the $200 dollars we stole from the t-shirt seller (we owed Frank backpay), and Rachel, who's been in a lot of the promotional content for the game. After we'd accidentally spilt drink on someone at the gig, gave them attitude, and got cornered by them, Rachel helped us out by distracting the aggressors, allowing us to knee him in the groin and flee.
We asked Floyd to tell us a bit about Rachel's inclusion in this game, and he said: "Boy, yeah, I mean obviously I don't want to spoil too much, but Rachel was such a mythical character from the first game. Everybody was just talking about 'the girl who's missing' and it really crafted this image of kind of this perfect girl, and [...] troubled girl as well, with little secrets. That's all stuff that we really want to remain true to. We know [...] more than anyone how important Rachel was to [Chloe], so that's why our story is really about what happens when a special person comes into your life at the right time and sort of changes everything, and Chloe is a character who's grieving [...] for the loss of her father, for her best friend Max being away, she's drawn further away from her family, her mother. Rachel is this great catalyst for her to potentially break out of that. But also this story about broken characters doesn't just apply to Chloe and it really starts to show how these people, both of them need each other. It's not just Chloe needs Rachel but Rachel needs Chloe as well, and they're both going to change each other's lives."
As we played and moved around as Chloe, hearing her inner monologue, you could certainly tell this was an angsty teenager, but most importantly, you could tell this was Chloe. Granted, she's got less of a "screw the system" attitude, and more of a "you can't tell me what to do" attitude, and there's less assuredness about her, but this is still the same Chloe we know: rebellious, care-free, and sometimes a bit reckless. We could graffiti, steal, and mouth off to people just in the 15 minutes we had, which is pretty different to the options you had with Max in the first game, as is the inner monologue, which is full of a more cynical and derisive world view.
"We sort of honed in on Chloe pretty early on when we were developing our story," Floyd told us. "You know, we considered a lot of other characters to be our main character, but there was just something so appealing about the rawness of Chloe, about her brash nature, especially in contrast to Max. Max was such a soft, gentle, timid character, and Chloe is sort of the opposite of that, and the more we thought about that, the idea of inhabiting this character who's one of the wrecking balls who's just going to bash through the things that get in her way, really felt like a different game experience sort of embodied in that character, and that had a lot of appeal to us, and felt like it would really add to both of our [games], to see it through those eyes."