Life Is Strange was one of the surprise highlights of 2015, exploring an intimate and personal story across its five episodes, with an admirable emphasis on character arcs and relationships over puzzles and plot.

That's why Life Is Strange: Before the Storm was such a welcome surprise when it was announced at E3 2017, with the three-episode prequel promising to explore events from before original protagonist Max's return to the town of Arcadia Bay.

It's worth noting that Before the Storm is under development by a new team, Deck Nine, and isn't the same as the Life Is Strange sequel under development by the original team at Dontnod Studios - that's still a way off.

Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay details, episode release dates, and the extra content that'll definitely make you want to buy the Deluxe Edition.

In summary:

  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 release date: 31 August 2017
  • Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Developer: Deck Nine
  • Price: £13.99/$16.99
  • Pre-order: PS4, Xbox One, PC

When are the episode release dates?

As an episodic game, Before the Storm has more than one release date. First up, episode one is out on 31 August 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

We don't yet have release dates for the other two episodes, but will update this article when we do - expect to see a few months between each episode though.

What are the different versions?

There are two main ways to buy Life Is Strange: Before the Storm.

The first is just to buy the complete season, which includes all three main episodes, and costs £13.99/$16.99. You can pre-order that right now from the official PlayStation and Xbox stores, or from Steam or Green Man Gaming for PC.

However, there's also a more expensive Deluxe Edition, which includes exclusive content that you won't be able to buy any other way - and you really might want it.

The Deluxe version costs £19.99/$24.99, but for that you get the full season, some bonus outfits, a Mixtape Mode that lets you put together playlists from the soundtrack, and - most excitingly - a bonus fourth episode, Farewell, which lets you play as original protagonist Max.

If the Deluxe Edition sounds worth the extra cost, you can pre-order it now from the PlayStation, Xbox, Steam, and Green Man Gaming stores.

Finally, if you missed out on the original Life Is Strange, you can buy the whole season from, once again, the PlayStation, Xbox, Steam, and Green Man Gaming stores.

What will the gameplay be like?

Before the Storm is a three-part prequel, set a few years before the events of the original Life Is Strange - long enough that the way the story ends will be unknown even if you've already completed the original - this won't take you right up to the beginning of the first game.

This time around you'll play as Chloe (rather than Max), and the game will explore her relationship with Rachel, the girl who's missing during the events of the original game.

Like the original, Before the Storm is all about branching narrative options, and almost every decision you make or dialogue option you take could have long-lasting repercussions - whether significant or minor. Buy some weed at a club and you won't have money if you need it the next day - but the game will make a point of showing Chloe smoking a joint in the appropriate cutscenes. 

From the looks of things, the prequel will offer more significant branching options, with even minor decisions having some impact, and more offbeat, unpredictable connections between events - strongly encouraging players to explore areas fully along the way.

Because you're not playing as Max, you have no access to her time rewinding powers to re-make your choices, but instead you can use Chloe's Backtalk ability - though when we met them at Gamescom, the devs insisted that Backtalk "is not meant to be a replacement for Rewind" - instead it's a whole different sort of power.

Backtalk is essentially a conversation mini-game, in which you try and work someone round to doing what you want. You have to pay careful attention to what the other person has said to pick the right response, using replies that play with their own words.

Sometimes these will be obvious - using a reply that uses the exact same word - but sometimes you have to read between the lines. If someone calls you a kid, the best response might be a joke about playgrounds, for example. Other Backtalk options are linked to exploring the environment beforehand, which will give you specific things to reference.

The developers are quick to emphasise that Backtalk isn't the only way to advance, and it's not something you 'win' - it's just another in the game's many branching narrative possibilities, and you can still progress whether you successfully persuade someone or not.

Another change with the shift to Chloe is that instead of using Max's camera to capture moments of beauty around the game world, you use Chloe's marker pens to graffiti things as you go about your way, even getting a choice of what you write each time - with some cheeky references to other pop culture along the way.

There's one other major change, which is that Chloe will have a new voice actor. Original actress Ashly Burch won't be reprising her role because of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA voice actor strike, though she has consulted on the character. Chloe will instead be voiced by Rhianna DeVries.

If you want a more detailed sense of how Before the Storm will play, your best bet is to watch the 20-minute gameplay video released by publisher Square Enix, which gives a good look at what to expect.