The continued growth of Life is Strange is a real source of happiness for me.
How this once experimental series began so modestly, releasing episodically, gradually introducing us to its cast of characters, thrusting them in powerful, challenging scenarios like nothing else out there.
The bravery the series has also shown in alternating its protagonists has always stuck with me. It would have been so easy to have the continued adventures of Max Caulfield, a deep, compelling, character, well layered and intriguing, but since that first game we’ve walked in the shoes of Chloe Bennett, Captain Spirit, Sean, Daniel, and now Alex Chen. All very different.
It’s quite clear how Square Enix now values the series, building up to a full-fledged release in True Colors, no longer splitting it up like a season of television, marketing it as one of its biggest releases of the year. Though, interestingly, this works as much to the game’s credit as its detriment.
Alex Chen might just be one of the most likable, endearing protagonists in a game in recent memory and easily among my favourites throughout the entire series. Her power lies in connecting to others through emotion, for instance when they’re happy, sad, angry.
Alex can sense their aura and connect to it, helping piece together what drives that emotion, while also understanding how to help them. This makes up most of the game’s puzzle-solving, major story beats and naturally leans into most of the decision-making.
For me, though, decisions lacked some of the spark that the series is renowned for. Bar one decision, personally, everything came quickly and naturally to me. I didn’t find myself stewing over anything for longer than a minute. In contrast, I spent a good ten minutes pondering over one or two decisions in both Before the Storm and LiS 2.
Still, the themes the game touches on are as powerful as ever. Loss, connection, atonement, and courage are just some of the major ones at play.
Interestingly, the lack of spaced-out episodes made things move at a much quicker pace, not leaving much room to speculate and consider what comes next. I guess part of me missed the cliffhanger between episodes as I always used to play a guessing game with myself as to where the characters will go next and what they’ll do. Still, it was also nice to smash through the whole story in a weekend.
The entire game also takes place in the same remote town which also feels like a divergence from what we know, with previous games mixing up locations, widening the scope of the world. This almost reminded me of sticking around Kirkwall in Dragon Age 2, which, similarly, made me feel closer to the environment than some of the characters within it.
To counterbalance that, True Colors feels a little more open world compared to other LiS titles, in that during most episodes you can walk around Haven Springs, visit different shops, listen in on random conversations, help people out with their problems. There’s a lot of optional stuff to find as you move from episode to episode, including collectible memories to fill out your Trophy Collection. You can even play some fun little arcade games to pass the time.
As with other games in the series, you can look back at historical text messages with friends, colleagues and indeed get more backstory with the people you meet in the game. There’s also a form of bulletin board social network in the game where people post messages about activities around the town and in response to events which happen in the game. It all helps paint more of a picture of Haven Springs beyond what you see with your own two eyes.
It’s also the most beautiful game in the series to date, with a real emphasis on colors brightening up scenes while also highlighting the impact and significance of others. You can tell what a character is feeling with the color of aura around them, the cinematography going beautifully hand in hand with an altogether iconic soundtrack.
I really enjoyed the story from start to finish. It’s perhaps slower-paced than you might expect from Life is Strange, and certainly way more than most games, but I loved learning about Alex Chen, what’s going on in her head, how she tries to adjust to her new life, and indeed, why she has always struggled with fitting in. The bonds she builds, undoubtedly, produce the game’s most interesting moments.
I was glued to Life is Strange: True Colors right up until the end and the messages that flow throughout the game will stay with me for years to come. Some of the dialogue is extremely powerful and the quality of direction is first class. Everything flows beautifully.
While I find myself preferring the episodic format of the games and didn’t find the decision-making quite as challenging as I have before, True Colors is a well-told story with a fascinating cast of characters, in a stunning environment. Everything clicks together just right and makes for an enjoyable ride you won’t soon forget.
I cannot wait to see what the series has in store for us next.
+ Stunning cinematography and direction
+ Wonderful soundtrack
+ A fascinating cast of characters
+ Alex Chen is wonderful!
+ Lots of optional extras to uncover
– Didn’t need to think over many decisions
Life is Strange: True Colors is now available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox, and Stadia.
Code kindly provided by Square Enix