Life is Strange prequel Before the Storm is just a week away from release, and we're still finding out new things about the game. This week at Gamescom I saw a big slice of gameplay from Before the Storm's opening episode, and with it a new dialogue feature to spice up your conversations.
It's called Backtalk, and it adds another layer of branching narrative on top of the game's existing choose-your-own-adventure storytelling. It also fits in with the rebellious teenage personality of Behind the Storm's main character Chloe.
Backtalk works by picking up on a specific word or theme mentioned in dialogue and throwing it back to whoever you're speaking to. There's an on-screen gauge, too, almost like a Super meter, which you fill as you correctly talk back with the right responses.
For example, Chloe is told by a bouncer that she's too young to get into the game's opening gig location - that it's past her bedtime. The player then gets a range of dialogue options to respond to, but by picking up on the bedtime jibe, you can unlock a Backtalk response and further opportunities for sass. Eventually, you'll win the argument, and be allowed to pass. Or you'll fail, and have to try something else.
Another oppurtunity for Backtalk pops up later when Chloe is taken to task by Blackwell school principal Wells. You can dodge questions about Chloe's own weed smoking by pushing the matter back on him. Pick up the right response words to press and you can lean on Wells' own fears about exposing the school's drug problem.
The gameplay I saw I also showed more of the game's standard branching narrative. Chloe can pick up weed at the gig (or not), which then affects how characters respond to her the following day (or not). You can choose to cover up the smell of weed smoke (or not), and so when getting in to the Backtalk situation with Wells there are already various starting points.
Before the Storm lacks Max's rewind mechanic from the original Life is Strange. Backtalk doesn't immediately feel as fun a replacement, but it does add an extra something to conversations which reflects Chloe's own personality.
More importantly, despite the change of mechanics, lead character and voice actress, Before the Storm's first chunk still feels authentically Life is Strange. Its writing nails its teenage heroine - and sometimes, accurately, there are some painfully teen moments. I'm looking forward to playing the full episode when it launches next week.