Life is Strange season one is, for our money, the best adventure game of its kind. It's been five years since Telltale Games popularised this new style of dialogue-driven storytelling, and in 2015 Dontnod blew the competition out of the water.
The success of the French studio's game came down to great writing and characterisation, but mechanically it turned the genre on its head. Protagonist Max had the ability to rewind time, meaning players could undo their decisions after seeing how they immediately play out.
It sounds like cheating, but coupled with ambiguous decisions and far-reaching consequences it served only to intensify the importance of the choices being made.
Next week (31 August) a shorter prequel series debuts, developed by Deck Nine. Taking place three years before the events of season one, this three-episode story will flesh out the story of fan-favourite character Chloe Price.
Fans have been wondering what the game would do in the apparent absence of Max's wibbly wobbly timey wimey shenanigans, worried that Life is Strange might lose a crucial part of its identity.
This week, at Gamescom 2017, Deck Nine confirmed that there is no supernatural element in Before The Storm, and revealed the new tailored dialogue system being introduced, almost in its place.
It's called the Backtalk system, and its a perfect fit for Chloe's character. She's a rebellious teen whose confidence and wit acts as a guard against the grief that's gripped her since her father died in a car accident.
She's funny, witty, snarky, and Backtalk is an excellent showcase for these traits. A regular dialogue system comes as standard, but the option to open up Backtalk presents itself at crucial moments.
In an example we saw, Chloe was trying to blag her way past a bouncer despite her fake ID being recognised instantly. The doorman turns Chloe away initially, but after exploring the nearby environment players will be able to open up options for Backtalk.
Returning to him and opening up the new system, Chloe will zero in on particular words. He might say the word "bedtime", so she riffs on that to get under his skin. He might say "cute" and she'll do the same. Later he calls her a kid, which opens a dialogue option referencing a playground, revealing contextualised retorts as well.
There are still dialogue options of course, with some that will fall flat and others that will get Chloe closer to what she wants. In this case, the bouncer eventually lets her in because he likes her attitude and she won't take no for an answer
The system will scale in difficulty later on, with the complexity of language and time limits put on selecting options dictating the tougher encounters. Backtalk might not even be an option sometimes, and so players will have to figure out other ways of achieving their goal in each scene.
Deck Nine has found an unexpectedly brilliant compromise for the absence of what was an enormous part of Life is Strange's success. The team did so by finding something new that befits its central character and life as a teenager, exactly in the way Max's time-travel played on some youngsters wishing they could take a second run at social interactions.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm debuts with its first of three episodes on 31 August on PS4, Xbox One and PC.