Life is Strange: True Colors Review – Empathetic Empathy
Title: Life is Strange: True Colors
Developer: Deck Nine
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Square Enix
The Life is Strange series has encompassed many elements of growing up and human interaction. While some of these narrative moments miss the mark entirely, the series gave us a few great ones with a dash of supernatural features. However, where the series would go next was anyone’s guess until Deck Nine revealed the newest entry, Life is Strange: True Colors. Here we have a story that seems to grow with the fanbase as we dive into a sea of empathy through choice-driven dialogue.
Life is Strange: True Colors stars the new protagonist, Alex Chen. She’s lived through a life of loss and loneliness after being separated from her brother through the foster care system. The developers touch on this subject, but instead of injecting into a heap of angsty dialogue, Alex conveys her emotions through how she interacts with people. Most of this outward persona is shaped by the player, and it gives Alex a range of possible ways that her upbringing affects her present mindset of people and dealing with tough situations.
That’s not to say Alex doesn’t have a set personality, though. She’s a caring and relatable character in how she navigates conversations and deals with some truly tragic moments. She’s a pretty strong person, too, which can be understood by simply reading her old text messages. I love this sense of understanding while still being able to shape the outcome.
In the opening moments of gameplay, Alex finds herself in a new environment as she’s reunited with her brother. However, events don’t play out kindly for the long-lost siblings, and Alex is left to reflect on how she’d like to live the rest of her life. It’s tough because instead of understanding her brother through hanging out with him, she’s forced to learn about him through the stories of others.
The game’s narrative is fueled by a desire to obtain the truth. Something is happening in this town, and the people around may know more than they let on. Aside from that, I feel like the town itself is also a character as it evolves throughout the chapters opening new areas and introducing new characters. Further, players can follow NPC stories that are completely optional but rather entertaining.
Exploration and discovery are a significant part of Life is Strange: True Colors. Players can head straight to the mission objective, but it’s possible to tackle other side objectives as well. Naturally, this affects the outcome of the narrative and Alex’s relationships with the other characters, but it also gives the player a chance to play the way they see fit. It may not feel that way, though, as the game has several triggers reminding you that if you progress here, you can’t go back, but you’re free to do as you please.
Alex can see and even feel emotions. Using her special power, she can connect to a character and piece together their issue by interacting with items. It’s almost puzzle-like in some aspects, but once you get into these moments, there aren’t any consequences for getting something wrong. These characters deal with a lot, so, interestingly, many heavy scenes are kept optional.
There are paths through dialogue. While some affect your relationships, others don’t really change anything except for perhaps a sarcastic comment from Alex before the story just moves on. However, other moments will provide you with two choices that may take a bit more time to answer. The effect these questions have is story-changing, and characters will return to this often.
Players can also use Alex’s power to explore environments. This can potentially unlock memories between other characters or even dialogue options. It pays to check out each area to limit any potential roadblocks. Everything is listed in Alex’s journal, which serves to keep players updated with her day-to-day actions. From the menu, you can also check Alex’s phone for story updates.
Across the 6 chapters, there’s surprisingly a lot to do. From mini-games to additional memory puzzles, don’t expect to be in conversations all of the time. Still, the dialogue is amazing, and the voice talent for the character did a great job. This game covers a range of emotions, so this is a crucial feature. I also enjoyed the character facial animations. Seeing the sadness and uneasiness in Alex’s eyes change throughout the game depending on how I shaped her was amazing. The team did a great job of portraying a person who is at a real crossroads in life.
Everything boils down to get great character moments and possible romance. There’s a lot to enjoy about the narrative, but some responses just don’t fit with what Alex says. I know this is a constant complaint about the series, but some responses can be so general that they feel unneeded.
Luckily, these responses don’t affect the narrative, but I wish the text reflected what Alex was going to say. Further, there were a few graphical auditees where I could see through character models, but this didn’t happen often. I also felt like the loading screens limited attempts to backtrack since some areas were behind three loadings screens, which only hindered main story progression.
Life is Strange: True Colors presents a great adventure in this beloved series with significant choices and player-driven interactions. The result is a beautiful story of empathy and new beginnings where players have the freedom to shape the narrative the way they want and deal with the consequences along the way. The character animations and voiced dialogue only elevate it to new levels of quality, but long loading times and strange responses can hurt the pacing tremendously.
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