As you’d expect from E3, a ton of exciting news and announcements are coming out of the event. Yet one of the more minor reveals probably has me the most excited… a prequel to Life is Strange was announced with a teaser trailer!
A surprisingly gripping indie game, Life is Strange puts you in the shoes of Max, a high school teenager who suddenly discovers she has time-rewinding powers. As fantastical as that aspect is, the game mainly stays grounded in the world of teenagers, focusing on the awkwardness and intense emotional swings of that stage in life.
As much as I want to dive back in to that world and absorb every iota of experience there, I’m hesitant about the idea of a prequel focusing on Chloe for a few reasons.
First, I generally think prequels are a bad idea (not just because of Star Wars). When a story or characters becomes successful and popular, the obvious urge is to go back and see more. Exploring origins may give more context, but trying to tell a story in that way is problematic. Mostly because you already know where the end of that origin story winds up. It takes a lot of the mystery and drama out of it.
For Life is Strange, we already find out a lot about Chloe and what she was doing in this era through the course of the first game. She gets expelled from school, befriends Rachel Amber and has run ins with Frank. I didn’t ever feel compelled to know more than that. What was always more important was Max and Chloe’s relationship to each other.
It leads me to my second issue in that Chloe has a great redemptive arc in the original game. She starts off at a low point, aimless in life and even attempting to blackmail Nathan.
A prequel focused on Chloe essentially means she has to experience another arc to propel a plot. I doubt the devs would go the dark route and have her spiral downward, but you’d need her to do that to make the link back to the original story make sense and retain its impact.
Another issue is that the trailer reveals Rachel Amber as an actual character. I’m sure plenty of people are happy about this, and yeah, I’m curious about it too. But the fact that she never actually appears in the original game outside of photos and referenced in conversation is such a powerful way to tell a story.
It’s a lot like the great Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore, with Edward Applebee who also never actually appeared in the film but loomed large over every other character like a ghost.
I think it’s such strong, evocative and mature storytelling. I just fear that going back and making her an actual presence undercuts the effectiveness of that original story.
Finally, it was revealed that Dontnod isn’t developing this game. I don’t want to outright dismiss the new developer but it’s a tad disappointing and just gives me less confidence overall.
But I guess all that we can do is wait and see! Hopefully we get a great game that enriches the world rather than detracting from the original story. Plus, Dontnod is working on an actual sequel, which we still know nothing about.