What are you feeling? A simple question with multiple answers and yet, we all feel something at all times. Whether we are feeling happy or sad, it all comes down to the factors that make up our lives. Most of the time we are able to acknowledge our own emotions, but what about the feelings of others? What gives them away? A facial expression, mannerisms, or a particular subtle attitude might give us a sign, but what if you had the ability to sense these emotions and feel them yourself too? I wonder if you would use that power for good, or would you see it as more of a curse? Don’t take too long to think about it, because luckily, Life is Strange: True Colors gives you that power in the palm of your hands.
The third mainline game into the Life is Strange franchise brings forth yet another gripping story plagued by a supernatural ability. Game developer Deck Nine Games has taken the series by the wheel and has brought its fans something to revel in. A beautifully crafted story with multiple layers to dive through and the overwhelming responsibility of choice brings this game into one of my favorites of the year. Much like its predecessors, the decisions you make during the narrative will impact the story and fall into a tree of possibilities. It is up to the player to make ethical and moral choices depending on how you see fit, which is why your opinion matters, and why your actions have consequences.
In True Colors, you play as 21-year-old Alex Chen as she has recently left the foster care system. The game starts with Alex arriving in a small Colorado town called Haven Springs. Alex’s older brother Gabe has made a life for himself within the community and had gone through lengths to find his sister and bring her into his life. Through a mix of third-person perspective and animated cut scenes, we control Alex as she gets situated in her new home.
Much like the other games in this franchise, we find ourselves in the calm before the storm, as we interact with characters in the community. The town is a small and close-knit community with mom & pop shops on every corner backed by the snow-capped Colorado hills in the distance of the landscape. We come to learn that almost everyone knows each other and there’s not much that is kept a secret in Haven Springs. We go from exploring a flower shop, a record store, and then to a bar in which Gabe has an apartment upstairs. Gabe has done his best to make his sister feel at home, including letting her have his apartment since he mostly stays with his girlfriend at her place anyways.
Everything starts to look too good to be true as Alex is introduced to almost every important character within the first few hours of her arrival. We start to learn that Alex is not just a regular person, but one with special abilities, in which she can sense auras of emotional energy and she can feel these emotions to the point that she can hear people’s thoughts and memories. Very quickly we start to build a sense of community and friendship with the characters around her. We start to learn more and more about Alex and her brother Gabe as they try to make up for lost time, and just when Alex’s life looks promising, her brother Gabe is killed. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Alex must use her abilities and the people around her to find out exactly who’s responsible for her brother’s death.
Unlike the other protagonists in the Life is Strange universe, Alex is older and has a sense of control over her abilities. We never have that sense of life or death consequences while using her powers, but they do hold responsibility for the characters she’s interacting with. For most of her life, Alex has lived a very troublesome experience, going from foster home to foster home, but with that, she has gained a sense of humility and compassion.
Her interactions within the town go a long way not only for herself but for the people she speaks to. For example, Alex interacts with a character who is struggling with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Instead of leaving the poor woman in her misery and confusion, Alex enters her emotions and helps her retrace her steps allowing the woman to relax with a sense of hopefulness in the end. The game provides multiple opportunities to channel different emotions and “manipulate” them into a mostly positive outcome depending on the dialogue choices that you make.
As you play True Colors, you might find yourself falling in love with the characters and the dialogue between them. Just like Alex, you quickly start to build a sense of community and it is upon that which you start to build your case on what happened to Gabe. The more you interact with your surroundings, the better your responses will be during conversations. As you control Alex, I highly recommend learning about every highlighted object you come across, as this allows you to learn more about Alex or another character.
In dialogue situations, you will occasionally have response options, and if they play an important role in the story you will hear ominous reverse music and a lantern drawing will appear in the top left corner. For decisions that are super important in advancing the story, the screen will turn gray and two options will appear, so choose wisely. At the end of every chapter, you will see these decisions, the outcomes, and the percentages of other players who made the same choices or not.
Another way of learning more about Alex and the characters is to use the menu hub. You can access her journal in which she writes descriptive entries on characters of interest. You can also access your objective list. I personally love how you can read Alex’s text messages or look at the community app called My Block to gain more perspective on the backstory. Lastly, you can even replay pieces of conversations that might come in handy later on. The best advice I can give is to constantly immerse yourself in the story by playing games in the town, interacting with NPCs, and using Alex’s aura ability at your control to learn about characters around you.
Overall, my experience playing Life is Strange: True Colors was a great one. I had a good time with the previous installment and this one carries the mantle on well but with less controversial topics. The graphics, music, and attention to detail make these games quite unique and I would love to see more people dive into this adventure. I found myself constantly questioning my judgment and wishing I had someone like Alex in my life who could calm my emotions down when needed.
The best thing I might add is that the game is playable straight through without having to wait for monthly episodes like the previous games. I believe this holds the attention of the story better and allows for people to continue the journey without interruption. At a playthrough time of about 10 hours, you will be left wishing there were more. Life is Strange: True Colors will be out on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Stadia on September 10th with a Nintendo Switch release planned at a later time. Enjoy the ride and stay true to yourself.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Life is Strange: True Colors for the PlayStation 5 provided by Deck Nine Games and Square Enix.