When Life is Strange: True Colors was announced in March I was excited to get another story in the Life Is Strange universe, but I had no idea just how […]
When Life is Strange: True Colors was announced in March I was excited to get another story in the Life Is Strange universe, but I had no idea just how special the experience that playing it would be. This game hit me at exactly the right time in my life. Besides sharing a name with protagonist Alex Chen, I had just spent a week in a mountain town in Colorado back in August and have been considering moving out there for roughly half a year. Unfortunately, the similarities with recent events in my life don’t stop there, Alex and I also share commonalities in suffering through loss in the family all too recently. So many aspects of the narrative aligned in Life is Strange: True Colors, catapulting it up to the ranks of games like The Last of Us franchise and Death Stranding which will always hold a special place in my heart in my gaming history.
An aspect of Life is Strange: True Colors that I can’t understate is the beauty of the game’s character and environmental art. It’s no surprise that Deck Nine was able to create stunning scenes around a Colorado mountain town, given that the studio is based out of Westminster. Haven Springs seemed familiar and it was so well realized that my girlfriend and I couldn’t help but say how much we wanted to go back to a real location that resembled it. The only disappointment regarding the visuals is that there isn’t a Photo Mode feature that can be used to capture it, but this didn’t stop me from taking copious amounts of screenshots with the Share button. At the end of the day this lack of a feature isn’t something that takes away from the experience, but this is the first game since Horizon: Zero Dawn that I’ve had an interest in toying around with a photo mode and it sadly wasn’t there for me to do so. Here’s hoping that they’ll patch one in by the time that the Wavelengths DLC releases.
The new engine that Deck Nine created for True Colors is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors and I can’t wait to see it used for the next title that I assume will be taking full advantage of the new generation consoles. Despite being a cross-generational title, Life is Strange: True Colors doesn’t have many performance issues. The most notable issue was some frame rate loss during the more “open-world” sections of the game where you can freely explore Haven Springs. Even then, after the first section or two, it was easy enough to get used to it. The only other technical issues that I experienced happened at the end of the game when the engine was cutting between scenes in different areas of Haven, without the usual loading screen separating them.
The Life Is Strange franchise has always had the best-licensed soundtracks in my opinion and True Colors certainly doesn’t break from that tradition. From “Haven” starting up at the game’s menu to an incredibly emotional scene in the game’s final chapter accompanied by Dido’s “Thank You” the soundtrack helps put those finishing touches on the atmosphere of this story. The only criticism I have for the music in the game is regarding the reveal announcement. At the end of the reveal back in March, Deck Nine showed off the scene of Alex playing Radiohead’s “Creep” and I was hoping to get more covers of songs from the protagonist. There is one more song that Alex covers that I won’t spoil, but in my opinion, it doesn’t hit as hard as her rendition of “Creep”. In the end, I think that the musical talents of Alex were underutilized in the story to the point where a character bringing up her musical aspirations caught me by surprise due to the lack of evidence elsewhere.
To be completely honest, I was skeptical when it was revealed that the next Life Is Strange protagonist’s supernatural power was going to be psychic empathy. My knee-jerk reaction was that it wouldn’t be capable of stacking up against Max’s time manipulation or Daniel’s telekinesis powers, but I was proven wrong. At the beginning of the story, I was concerned that Alex’s empathy abilities would have a “rinse and repeat” approach and end up feeling repetitive. Deck Nine was able to overcome my skepticism by exploring a variety of creative ways that an empath could be more of a supernatural essence in the story. One of my favorite parts of the experience of Life Is Strange: True Colors was seeing the variety in Alex’s experiences when she tapped into others’ emotions. Despite enjoying that part of the game, there was a heavy emphasis on different versions of fear that she was tapping into. My slight critique regarding this aspect of Alex’s powers is that I would’ve liked to see her experience more diversity of sadness, anger, and joy as well.
Life Is Strange: Before The Storm had some of my favorite moments in the franchise. An example of that being when Chloe has the opportunity to play Dungeons & Dragons with Steph. This small part of Before The Storm was what I heard other people talking about most, there was a lot praise, and rightfully so, for the way that it was executed. Clearly, Deck Nine heard that feedback and focused on creating an experience that captures the same energy of that Dungeons & Dragon moment but increases it tenfold. Halfway through the game, there’s an entire chapter focused on a live action role play (LARP) taking place that transforms Haven Springs into a fantastical world and I loved all of it.
On the note of Life Is Strange: True Colors having a fantasy element to the narrative, there were several times where the tone of the story had me interested in seeing Life Is Strange tackle different game genres outside of the “coming of age” tales. For example, some of the locations that Alex explores gave me some big Until Dawn or My Bloody Valentine vibes, and it got me thinking that I’d really enjoy seeing a Life Is Strange game based in horror. I doubt that we’ll see the series venture into darker genres but hey, a guy can dream.
For those unfamiliar with the Life Is Strange franchise, you may not be aware that the fan base is split on its reception of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm. The reason that there’s a divide regarding Before The Storm is that the title is developed by Deck Nine, not the series’ original team over at DONTNOD, it replaced Ashly Burch as the voice of Chloe Price due to the SAG-AFTRA strike taking place at the time of development, and removed the supernatural element of Life Is Strange. While I wasn’t a fan of the voice actor replacement, the team at Deck Nine created a prequel narrative that until recently had made it my favorite entry in the franchise.
With Life Is Strange: True Colors, Deck Nine has not only surpassed my love for Before The Storm, but also has thoroughly convinced me that the series is in great hands moving forward. Alex Chen has broken through to become my favorite series protagonist and Steph Gingrich is a character that I’ve unexpectedly come to adore on the same footing as Chloe. By no means is this game an all time masterpiece, but it is a great, intimate story filled with wonderful characters and a banger soundtrack that impacted me on an emotional level I didn’t see coming.