Deck Nine and Square Enix took a gamble on making Life is Strange: True Colors a full game from the get-go as opposed to an episodic adventure. But the decision has paid off, delivering one of the series’ more refined entries to date. Haven Springs is a joy to explore, and Alex’s emotional journey is one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
- One of the series’ most effective stories yet
- Haven Springs is brilliantly realised
- Character design and animation has greatly improved
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Plenty of glitches popped up during the playthrough
- UKRRP: £49.99
- PlatformsPS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia
- GenreNarrative adventure
After the surprisingly effective Life is Strange: Before the Storm, developer Deck Nine has returned to helm the series for its latest mainline outline, Life is Strange: True Colors.
At a time when the supposedly new and improved Telltale Games is still hard at work on upcoming titles, and Quantic Dream sticks to the time-consuming process of delivering near Hollywood-esque visuals, it’s the Life is Strange series that has been left to carry the baton of choice-driven narrative adventures.
And thank goodness I say – so far the series has done a tremendous job of blending the supernatural with young adult drama, delving into the themes of responsibility, consequences for one’s actions and now, with the latest instalment, the emotional effects of grief.
At its core, True Colors remains faithful to the main mechanics of the Life is Strange series. The game is driven by conversations between the player and NPCs, and also items in the environment, which can open up new dialogue options, or even offer solutions to various puzzles. Spontaneous conversation (introduced in Life is Strange 2) makes a return here, giving you the chance to respond to dialogue that occurs while you’re exploring the environment.
Of course, it just wouldn’t be a Life is Strange title without the existence of a super power to spice things up. While Max had time travel and Daniel had telekinesis, the heroine of True Colors, Alex Chen, is able to detect someone’s emotions, indicated by a colourful aura that envelops their being. This supernatural power feels far more intertwined with the series’ emphasis on establishing relationships with other characters.
This extra layer of empathy allows Alex to understand the reasoning behind a person’s state of emotions – a secret piece of information that might not be shared otherwise. It isn’t just people that Alex can scan, as certain objects around the game’s setting of Haven Springs can also be analysed for the strong memories associated with them, helping to establish a sense of worldbuilding that simply wasn’t possible in previous games.
The more considered superpower isn’t the only thing that’s different, however, as a lot of work as gone into making the game more accessible. For instance, timed choices can be lengthened, and any moments that require quick reactions can be skipped entirely.
What’s surely to appeal to Twitch streamers is the addition of ‘Crowd Choice’ which allows your viewership to vote on what happens next, with extra tweaks including how the votes are tallied and the period of time given to vote. It’s impressive stuff, and it makes a great deal of sense for a game that a large portion of people will simply watch opposed to playing an active role. Now, they can do both.
In a series like Life is Strange, True Colors’ success is pinned almost entirely on its central narrative. To make things even more daunting, this is the first game in the franchise that hasn’t been released episodically, instead opting for a full story that’s ready to play from day one.
This move has paid off, with True Colors offering up a far more grounded story by comparison to any other Life is Strange title, but one that is succinct in knowing exactly what it wants to say, all the while reaching its conclusion without any unnecessary fluff to pad out the journey.
True Colors sees Alex Chen, a young woman who’s been in and out of orphanages for several years, finally escape the system to live with her estranged older brother in the idyllic Colorado town of Haven Springs. While the mountain town appears to offer some much needed refuge for someone with such a troubled past, Alex’s moment of bliss is cut short when a tragic accident seemingly claims the life of her brother Gabe.
With many mysteries left to solve surrounding the accident, True Colors feels a world away from the multi-state trek of Life is Strange 2, instead deciding to contain the story to the centre of Haven Springs and its various shops and hangouts. The decision to stick to one location also lends itself well in allowing the player to more deeply connect with Haven Springs, just as Alex does, the longer she stays there.
The town itself is also filled with plenty to do. There are several mini-stories happening about the place that can be missed entirely if you don’t pay attention, so exploration is always encouraged. There’s also two arcade cabinets with proper games loaded on to them for some sweet high-score chasing.
I won’t spoil any of the major plot points here, but I will say that I was thoroughly pleased with the story’s conclusion, and I’m quite eager to go back and see how the five other endings fare.
At multiple points during my playthrough, I found myself dumbstruck at just how far the series’ art style has come along. Character detail and animation for instance, while not on the same level as something like Detroit: Become Human, are leaps and bounds ahead of anything the series has put out before.
The visual improvements are emphasised with Steph Gingrich’s character. When you compare her character model in Before the Storm to True Colors, it feels as though a greater attention to detail has been applied, allowing her personality to shine through in a more natural way as a result.
Unfortunately, the technical achievements of Life is Strange: True Colors are marred somewhat by an abundance of glitches. During my playthrough, scene transitions were all over the place and in one instance, the credibility behind a heart-to-heart conversation was decimated when Alex broke out into a T-pose. I can only hope that these glitches are fixed soon so that they don’t impede on anyone’s enjoyment of the story.
Should you buy it?
If you enjoy a good story:
Life is Strange: True Colors is a must-have title to add to your library if you’re looking for a fantastic, emotional story.
If narrative-driven games just aren’t your thing:
Life is Strange: True Colors sticks largely to the same blueprint as its predecessors, so you won’t find much fun here if you’re not into narrative-driven games.
Deck Nine and Square Enix took a gamble when ditching the episodic blueprint for Life is Strange: True Colors. But the decision has paid off, delivering one of the series’ more refined entries to date, and one that isn’t hampered by needless padding. Even though it’s held back slightly by one too many glitches, Haven Springs is a joy to explore, and Alex’s journey of grief and the importance of expressing your emotions is one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played through the entirety of the single-player campaign
Reviewed on PS5
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No, this is a single-player game
Between 7-10 hours.
Yes, but the Switch version is coming out at a later date.