Life is Strange True Colors
The Franchise That Started Out As A Desperation Effort
Life is Strange True Colors is the fourth game in the Life Is Strange series released in September. The original Life is Strange was one of the surprise hits in 2015, a time when episodic story releases were pioneered due to the original Telltale Games finding success with The Walking Dead among other titles. Like TWD, Life is Strange was an episodic game split into five episodes throughout all of 2015 and like the former, this formula proved to be successful for struggling French developer Dontnod.
Before working on Life is Strange, Dontnod’s other title, Remember Me, was published by Capcom and also featured a female lead. Square Enix accepted the original pitch for Life is Strange and proposed that the game would be an episodic release, to which Dontnod reluctantly agreed. The gamble proved to be successful, with each episode leaving on a cliffhanger that had its players and fan base increase with every new installment. By the final chapter, Life Is Strange became one of 2015’s “must play” titles, winning Dontnod and Square Enix many awards much to the surprise of both developer and publisher.
Square Enix Believed In The Life is Strange Formula
The success of Life is Strange brought a “prequel-sequel” in the form of Before The Storm, taking place three years before the original game while providing insight to characters who would appear or be mentioned in the original game. This time, developer Deck Nine would take the helm in creating the original story, and the game was released in three episodes in 2017.
Life is Strange 2 was the first true sequel, distancing itself from its original cast in favor of an all-new setting and protagonists. The sequel was done by the original developers of the original game, yet it didn’t get as much notoriety as the first two games in the series. Many fans were still hooked on to the story that Max and Chloe, the original series protagonists, left behind with a comic spinoff taking place around the same time.
Deck Nine’s Second Life is Strange Entry Is Their Biggest
When Life is Strange True Colors was announced, many of the details that made the first two games favorable for many of its fans was revealed, including a woman protagonist and several references to the original Life is Strange and Before the Storm. One of the central characters, Steph, originally appeared in Before the Storm as a classmate and friend of the protagonist, Chloe.
Set many years after the events of Life is Strange, True Colors tells the story of 21-year old Alex Chen, free from the foster care system and seeking to live a new life with her older brother, Gabe Chen. Everything takes a turn for the worse when her brother is murdered, leaving Alex to discover the mystery behind her brother’s “accidental death.”
Life Is Strange Explores The ‘True Colors’ Of People’s Emotions
All of this information isn't spoilers as players who read the synopsis of True Colors will be armed with all of this information when they begin the game. It’s hard to think about it when Gabe first appears on the screen. I purposefully avoided all information relating to the game so I could jump in not knowing as much as possible and having played the game before playing the PS5 version, armed with the information I knew, stung a bit.
Since the original game back in 2015, the developers have improved the facial animations, emotions, and vocal directions as the characters all felt realistic in their tone and their delivery. Gabe and Alex, even though the player only knows them for a few minutes, can sense the chemistry they have with each other as estranged siblings who found each other. Alex herself expresses herself realistically, neither coming off too stoic, excited, or any form of extreme emotion.
Alex Is One Of Life Is Strange’s Relatable Protagonists
Alex is a down-to-earth young lady in a new town who wishes to be impressionable to everyone she meets. She has a sarcastic streak that, upon hearing her brother talk, players realize the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. It isn’t until she has her tense situations does her anxiety and trauma come front and center.
One of the many things I liked about the game’s opening chapter is how the neighbors pick up on Alex’s traits when she’s going through an uncomfortable attack and it directs well to the player. Exaggerated sounds and colors flash, the sound gets muddled with the exception of the source of the stress. Alex begins to fidget and tap her feet, with the intent of keeping her emotions in check, and one of the neighbors picks up on this immediately, coming to her aid.
Control Your Emotions Or Else They Will Control You
This is the source of Alex’s secret, her power. She has the ability to read people’s emotions, with different colors ranging from an angry red to a melancholy purple, and the more intense the emotion, the bigger it begins to affect her until she snaps and loses control. Alex’s powers serve as an allegory for those who are empaths as well as those who may be dealing with disorders in real life. I can appreciate Deck Nine for capturing an intense emotion that’s difficult to describe yet incorporated within the context of the video game. With the PS5’s enhanced DualSense capabilities, the intensity is felt even more as the triggers begin to throttle at varying levels to emulate the same emotion.
Much like previous Life is Strange games, the consequence of the player’s decision will affect how certain events pan out as well as people’s opinion of Alex. Alex can get things off on the wrong foot with her new neighbors if she tends to tease them about their hobbies as well as cause a rift between Alex and Gabe if she decides to hide information about his stepson who confides in her a few minutes before.
‘This Action Will Have Consequences’
Overall, from the first hour, True Colors sets the tone that Alex’s dream of paradise may be stunted due to the irregularities of her past and her powers, but also the underlying problems the neighbors have with each other long before she stepped foot in the town.
Alex is a relatable character that feels rooted in her problems unlike Max, the original protagonist of Life is Strange, who seems to be tugged by many different sources at once. Regardless, with many chapters to go, the story of Alex in its opening act is enough to keep me invested and wanting to find out her fate.
Life is Strange True Colors is available on the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S. A Nintendo Switch version will release in early December.