Prequel to Life is Strange, the BAFTA award-winning adventure game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is exactly what the series needed.
Set three years before the events of the first game, you play as rebel teenager Chloe Price as she forms an unlikely friendship with Rachel Amber and embarks on a touching and dramatic adventure with her. And just like Life is Strange, Before the Storm easily earns a spot among the finest adventure games for Mac.
But is it any good?
Life is Strange: Before the Storm for Mac was released just a few days ago, but the Windows version has been out for over a year. During that time, gamers praised it and critics welcomed it with generous scores:
Unlike the original Life is Strange, Before the Storm was developed by a different team, Deck Nine. On top of that, some felt a prequel was unnecessary and worried that a different studio could hurt the good name of the series.
But Deck Nine pulled it off. Before the Storm is the prequel you didn’t know you wanted.
As GameSpot rightfully puts it, Before the Storm does what every prequel should:
It’s rare that a prequel truly works, where a story can captivate despite the audience knowing what’s coming and where the path will lead.
The only problem: You know it’s building you up just to break your heart.
Before the Storm understands what made Life is Strange great and celebrates it. It may not have time-travel nor supernatural mysteries to solve but it has great characters, a beautiful story, fantastic music, and better graphics.
If you’re into adventure games and enjoy immersing yourself in stories that are relatable, Before the Storm is one of the best games you could play on Mac.
As a fan of shooters and real-time strategy games, I’m as far away from the game’s target demographic as one can be. Still, the game tells a fascinating story most will enjoy, even if teenage dramas aren’t usually your cup of tea.
But we’re here to focus on the Mac version of the game, so let’s get on to it.
To see what it takes to run Before the Storm on MacOS, we tested it on the usual three machines at our disposal:
iMac 27-Inch (5K, Late 2014)
3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013)
2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
Every machine was tested while playing the first episode of the game, indoors, for about 10 minutes using our in-house FPS tool, Count It.
Why these machines? We want these tests to be useful for as many of you as possible, whether you have a high-end Mac, a recent but entry-level Mac or an older model. No matter your setup, one of these three machines should be close to it.
Why these settings? These may seem low to some of you but we want to give a fair chance to MacBook or Mac Mini owners. We tackle higher settings for the higher-end models below.
⚠ Developers usually test lots of combinations of settings on different machines to ensure optimal performance. For the sake of our tests, we prefer to use the same settings on all machines. But you should start with the recommended settings for optimal performance!
|OS||OS 10.13.5 or higher|
|Processor||2.0 GHz Intel Core i5|
|Memory||8 GB RAM|
|Video||1 GB Nvidia 650M, 2 GB AMD Radeon R9 M290, 1.5 GB Intel Iris 5100 or better|
|Hard Drive||28 GB|
The game will be supported on the following Macs:
- All Mac Minis since Late 2014
- All 13″ MacBook Pros released since 2013
- All 15″ MacBook Pros released since mid-2012 with a 1GB graphics card or better
- All 21.5″ iMacs released since late 2013
- All 27″ iMacs released since late 2013 (Late 2012 models with Nvidia 675 or Nvidia 680 graphics are also supported)
- All 27″ iMac Pros released since late 2017
- All Mac Pros released since late 2013
Also, models with an AMD 370X are not supported.
Notice that our 2013 MacBook Pro is not officially supported. We still decided to use it for our tests, but if your Mac is below the official system requirements, you should think hard before purchasing it anyway. More on that below.
Expand to see the different levels of performance
For your reference, this is how we describe the different levels of performance (in frames per second):
|Below 20 FPS||Unplayable||Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.|
|20-30 FPS||Borderline||Can be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.|
|30-45 FPS||Playable||Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).|
|45-60 FPS||Smooth||Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.|
|60+ FPS||Very Smooth||For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.|
Great performance thanks to Metal
Before the Storm is a nice looking game and thanks to Feral Interactive’s work, it runs surprisingly well, even on entry-level MacBook Pros.
Take for instance our 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro which runs the game at 38.7 frames per second (FPS) on average. While not insanely fast, that’s more than enough to comfortably enjoy the game. Plus, for a machine that only has integrated graphics, being able to run this game faster than our target 30 FPS is quite an achievement.
Our 2014 27-inch iMac, on the other hand, runs the game at a consistent 60 frames per second (FPS). But that’s to be expected from a high-end Mac powered by a fast dedicated graphics card. In fact, the game didn’t run even faster because the framerate is locked to 60 FPS on MacOS.
But can the iMac handle Max settings?
If you have a high-end Mac, you can go ahead and push the settings much higher in order to fully utilize your machine’s horsepower. Running the game at 2560x1440 resolution and Max settings, our 27-inch iMac runs the game at 41.3 FPS. That’s more than enough to guarantee a smooth experience and great graphics.
I couldn’t help but notice how these same machines ran the original Life is Strange:
- Life is Strange on iMac: 59 FPS
- Before the Storm on iMac: 60 FPS
- Life is Strange on iMac: 43.4 FPS
- Before the Storm on iMac: 38.7 FPS
At first, it seemed like Life is Strange runs faster and is, therefore, better optimized. But when you take into account that Before the Storm is a more modern and better-looking game with higher system requirements, it’s actually impressive that the game runs almost as smoothly as the older Life is Strange does.
That improvement in performance can be certainly explained by the fact that Feral Interactive used the newer Metal graphics API instead of the older OpenGL:
The first Life Is Strange game runs on OpenGL, but Before the Storm runs on Metal.
— Feral Interactive (@feralgames) September 18, 2018
This video does a good job comparing Life is Strange and Before the Storm graphics. The differences aren’t immediately noticeable, but look at the details and shadows and you’ll see how much better Before the Storm looks.
Takeaway: Feral Interactive clearly takes their system requirements seriously. If your machine is part of their supported list, you can expect good performance, like with our two machines above.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm MacBook Pro performance
But what if you have an older MacBook Pro? You shouldn’t try this at home kids, but we went ahead and tested the game on an unsupported 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro. As expected, performance on Normal settings was subpar. The game runs at 22.2 FPS, which fall on “Borderline” territory.
On the lowest settings, the game runs at 25.7 FPS, which could be enough for some, but just remember that buying a game for which your machine does not meet the system requirements is risky…
Life is Strange: Before the Storm Mac download:
Excellent performance, even on entry-level MacBook Pros.
Has the same graphic fidelity as on Windows.
Demand level: Medium
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