Life is Strange’s upcoming prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, still has a huge role for original star Ashly Burch, even if the voice actors’ strike won’t let her return to work on the project.
Burch voiced Chloe Price in the first season of Life is Strange, but continuing negotiations for better pay and work conditions between big-name gaming publishers and SAG-AFTRA, the voice actors in video games’ union, prevented her from returning. Instead, actress Rhianna DeVries plays Chloe this time around.
Chloe is the face of Before the Storm, so Burch’s departure was a concern for fans. Yet developer Deck Nine’s Zak Garris, the game’s lead writer, told Polygon that she still played an important, if different role in the project.
“[Ashly] went through the episode one script” sometime after the strike began, Garris said. “She decided she wanted to get involved. She loved what we were doing.”
Deck Nine then hired Burch on as story consultant, a role she briefly spoke to on Twitter earlier this week. She’s one of several women helping out on the writing side of Before the Storm, but Burch has a special relationship to Chloe. She voiced her for all five episodes of the original Life is Strange, and her performance is a big reason why fans connected so much with Chloe.
Burch is so incredibly tied up in Chloe that Deck Nine briefly considered putting Before the Storm on the backburner once they heard the actress couldn’t perform the role.
“We from a high level contemplated all sorts of paths to advocate the complexity of the [SAG-AFTRA strike] story, including not even making Before the Storm,” Garris explained. But Deck Nine felt that telling the origin story of Chloe and Rachel Amber, a close friend of hers who plays a crucial off-screen role in the original Life is Strange, was too enticing to pass up. Burch felt the same way.
Garris said that Burch’s involvement includes giving notes on “everything from dialogue to high-level story ideation.” The hope is that the actress can help provide consistency — and authenticity — to the younger version of Chloe that Before the Storm is focused around.
The first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm hits PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One on Aug. 31. Expect the full three-episode, stand-alone series to unfold by the end of the year.