The Life is Strange: Remastered Collection is a welcome return to a familiar place with vastly improved animations and graphics. Welcome to Arcadia Bay. A sleepy ocean-view town where life is very strange indeed. The collection is comprised of two games: Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Both beautifully acted, wonderfully written with excellent music. With graphical improvements it’s elevated to new levels and still holds up today despite the release in 2015 and 2017.
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection Story
In Life is Strange, you play as Max Caulfield a photography student at Blackwell Academy. Max is trying to find her place in the world. She’s returned home after years away and, during a frightening vision and encounter she discovers she can rewind time. Not fully understanding the power, or what’s happening in her town, she decides to investigate. What begins is a story of love and friendship and belonging set against a natural disaster and murder mystery. While slow in pace the tension builds dramatically to its heart-breaking conclusion.
Before the Storm takes place before the first game and serves as a wonderful prequel to the main game. It introduces Rachel Amber and gives us a better understanding of Chloe and her feelings of anger and loss. The final episode of this game is true fan-service. It shows us the moment that Chloe learns about Max leaving and her life is flipped upside down.
The story in both games is wonderfully compelling. It features deep, and often dark, narrative plotlines around drugs, murder and kidnappings while remaining grounded in emotion. The story is just as much about coming-of-age, dealing with life, loneliness, betrayal, love and belonging. There is a reason why Life is Strange won a BAFTA.
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection Gameplay
Gameplay in both games that make up this bundle; Life is Strange and Before the Storm use a mix of traditional action games to move your character about the world and point-and-click interactions with the objects contained within. With each item inspection you will either learn something new or hear the inner monologue of the central character. Items will need collecting to access new areas such as moving things out the way or getting into locked spaces and this adds to the variety of puzzles you must solve to progress.
Speaking of items, there’s a lot to interact with and when you then add in the diaries, text messages and things of that nature a lot of time can be spent in each area just being nosy and learning more about the people of Arcadia Bay.
In Life is Strange Max has a superpower, the ability to rewind time. This mechanic is used in an interesting way to ‘undo’ mistakes in conversations, open new dialogue paths, get items that otherwise wouldn’t be possible and even navigate past obstacles. Knowing when to rewind is crucial as throughout the game choices do matter in terms of character progression and elements of the plot.
In Before the Storm, Chloe has no power of her own but does use her ‘backtalk’ ability to argue herself into or out of situations. This doesn’t feel like a cheap alternative to a ‘proper ability’ like Max’s and fits nicely with both the story and the character.
Choice matters. In both games. What you say, when you say it will impact how NPCs will interact with you and whether they will help you when you need it. Similarly, the plot can branch off in different directions and lead to some fairly serious consequences if you pick one path over another.
Graphics is really where the Life is Strange: Remastered Collection comes to life. Deck Nine have done an incredible job tweaking, updating, refining, and improving the visuals and animations of Arcadia Bay and (most of) its inhabitants. While the story hasn’t changed, the visual updates are instantly noticeable if you remember the originals. The familiar style is still there but with enhanced lighting, textures, details, and colour grading. This is as close to perfect as a remaster can achieve – it visually looks so much better but doesn’t lose its unique heart or style.
Lighting is one of the biggest updates to the game, with the addition of rays, dust particles, enhanced shadows makes the world of Arcadia Bay look truly stunning. I was genuinely blown away with how well Deck Nine made the game look. In addition, animations have been overhauled as well with better expressions when emotions are being conveyed. This is fantastic when the story is one that has a lot of emotional weight to it. You can really see the attention to detail put in to overhauling Life is Strange and Before the Storm.
Jonathan Morali crafted a beautiful score for the first game that blends well with the licensed music utilised by Life is Strange: Remastered Collection. The music itself doesn’t feel overpowering; it adds a nice background to the lofty, slow-paced cinematics. This is well done as it creates an uneasy juxtaposition with the dark plot themes that develop throughout the game. The licensed music is a blend of indie folk, post-rock and a few tracks that would be considered “alternative”. It is achingly cool, and it was a nostalgic experience re-discovering some true gems. In Before the Storm British indie band wrote and performed the score which fits in well with the character of Chloe Price.
The question as to whether Life is Strange: Remastered Collection is good value for money is a divisive one. If you don’t own either Life is Strange or Life is Strange: Before the Storm, then the bundle remastered collection is the pack I would recommend. The improvements by far outweigh any issues and the games are fantastic and truly worth playing. However, if you own them already then don’t bother. The upgrades aren’t so substantial that it’s a must have and the originals still stand up well despite their age.
Life is Strange Before the Storm Overview
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is the prequel to the first game and follows the same episodic format. It follows the younger Chloe Price as she navigates teenage life, introduces her friendship with Rachel Amber. The plot unveils the teenager’s connections with drug dealers; including Chloe’s debt which is an issue in the first game, along with an emotional story of betrayal, kidnap, and corruption at the heart of Rachel’s family. The story ends with an additional episode… ironically a prequel to the prequel! This episode features the original cast and shows the last days together of Chloe and Max Caulfield before Max leaves for Seattle. Again, this is a big point of character conflict in the first game.
My biggest issue with Life is Strange: Before the Storm is the controls. For the most part they mirror that of the first game but with an unnecessary control change for selecting options that include an additional button press. It’s a minor nit-pick, but it is a frustrating one.
Much like Life is Strange, the choices in this game matter. Episode 2 is a particularly important one on the character arc and the development of Chloe throughout the series is complex and nuanced. Overall, Before the Storm is for fans of the series that want to know more about Chloe dealing with life, loss, and loneliness before the events of the first game.
Taking place in the same town, featuring some recognisable locations and characters is like coming home after a long trip. It feels safe and familiar. While Chloe doesn’t have a power of her own, she can argue her way in or out of certain situations which is often hilarious but very well implemented as a mechanic. Genuinely, it deserved all the awards it won when it released originally, and I am glad to see it included as part of the remastered collection because it’s a great addition to the franchise.
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection isn’t perfect, however. The first game suffers with the same story fault as it did originally – which makes sense as the game is identical in that sense. The final choice is really the only one that matters. While it’s fun to think that all the choices you make along the way really make a difference; they don’t. The ending comes down to one choice and a possibility of two cutscenes. This is sad, as it meant the choices up to this point weren’t all that important. Saying this perhaps there is deeper meaning; the choices we make are only important in that moment, because long term more choices will present themselves shaping our path.
The remastered collection only really suffers with some minor graphical glitches and areas that could have been updated but weren’t… non-blinking NPCs I’m looking at you. Some of these characters also don’t match up to the reworked models of the main cast and that can be off-putting at times as it doesn’t quite match up visually.
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection Conclusion
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection allows fans of the franchise to come home to Arcadia Bay and experience the stories of Max and Chloe all over again with a beautiful update to the visuals. It’s wonderfully nostalgic to hear the chilled out indie music playing over long, sprawling cutscenes. It’s just as easy to be drawn into the complex plot themes of love, betrayal, loneliness and revenge… all against the darker backdrop of murder, drugs and kidnap. This is the perfect time for those who never quite got around to it the first time to jump in. It is such a wonderful experience with all the visual updates that come with the Life is Strange: Remastered Collection.