When you think of Life Is Strange, you think walking simulator with a couple supernatural powers used here and there and a really good, well-told story where you untangle the secrets or troubled lives of the protagonist’s friends or family. Life Is Strange: True Colors veers away from the ‘untangling’ bit and presents us with a protagonist that can dig deeper into the feelings of those around them, feeling those emotions themselves and learning to use them to help or hinder.
The game follows many of the same mechanics we’ve seen in all of the other Life Is Strange games, but oh my, is it visually beautiful!
Alex Chen (our protagonist) is a child of the United States Foster Care System. She’s bounced from home to home and orphanage to orphanage. Finally, her brother, Gabe, who she was separated from when he ended up in juvie thanks to stealing a car, finds her in her latest home and invites her to join him in the beautiful Colorado town of Haven Springs. The town is beautiful and the community is close-knit and supportive. Alex though, carries with her years of childhood trauma. And her gift of amplified empathy has caused her to be a danger to herself and those around her before. Alex has therefore never told anyone about her gift and lives under the pressure of it, even while hoping for a fresh new start with Gabe in the beautiful new town.
A fresh new start?
Just as Alex is settling into her new home, a tragedy occurs and the town is rocked to the core. Stuck back in trauma central she has to learn keep it together and it is here that the story of Alex Chen in Haven Springs really begins… The game follows many of the same mechanics we’ve seen in all of the other Life Is Strange games, but oh my, is it visually beautiful! I played on PC, and the game did take a little bit of a toll on my system, but nothing it couldn’t ultimately handle; I was able to keep a stable 60fps on my GTX1070. From other reports across the internet, it seems that the game may have some frame rate issues, but I didn’t experience any. The voice acting is excellent and again, the environments are so full, alive and well designed.
There’s always something for Alex to interact with, examine, or talk about. If you interact enough with the environment around you, new dialogue options then become available. As always, choices matter, and even though the game comes as one big download, the chapter system is still implemented. So choices carry across chapters and involve the game having multiple endings, and so, a lot of replayability.
There’s always something for Alex to interact with, examine, or talk about.
Everyone is so nice here.
The one thing that threw me out of the game (and the seriousness of the situation that Alex finds herself in) was that everyone was so kind. Even the “baddies” were kind in their own way. So there was no baseline or true emotional reason for the player to be able to develop a great disliking for any one character. That isn’t to say there are no triggers. In fact, the game is full to the brim of triggers, some of which I really wanted to list here:
- Terminal Illness
- Mental Illness
- Childhood Trauma
- Sexuality (including Transphobia)
There are deeply emotional moments tied to the triggers above, and they are the foundation on which the game builds your connection to Alex. Please do take the warnings for these triggers to heart if you have past trauma. It helps to be able to play the game in shorter bursts; There are five chapters at around two – two and a half hours each. However, even then I sometimes had to get up and walk away from certain moments or decisions because they were deeply relatable to me. In some instances, a choice you make may result in the consequence that is linked to a trigger mentioned above.
This is not to say the game is all gloom and doom. There are wonderful moments that made me smile and laugh, in almost equal measure to those that had me choked up. The narrative is excellent in its delivery. You can often find yourself enjoying a zen moment; admiring the beauty around you, or playing the air guitar with your brother. Of course, just moments later, you’re thrown a punch in the gut that rips through Alex, bringing you swiftly back to her reality.
Empathy is a power?
People in real life have empathy. You do, and I do. The amount of it we have differs from person to person. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. As mentioned earlier, Alex is an empath, but an extreme one. Early on she mostly identifies negative emotions; so stuff like rage, guilt, and sadness. A bit later on though, with some time in Haven, she realises there is good out there, and she may be able to identify some of the joy in the world too. She experiences others’ emotions very strongly. Sometimes she involuntarily takes them on as her own. She then reacts outwardly, in a violent, chaotic manner. At other times, she can take them on of her own accord. However, even then the consequences of doing so are unknown to Alex and the player.
Visually this is depicted in colour. Thanks to Alex’s power, a man on the street who looks likes he’s calmly talking on the phone but is internally seething with hatred, radiates a distinctive red aura. In this particular case, there was nothing I found that I could do to help him, but there were other residents of Haven who, by reading their auras and deciphering their feelings, I could help. Whether that was by finding a bird in a tree or a missing doggo for a bereaved owner. These small moments are helpful reprieves from the dark underbelly of Haven and the mission that Alex finds herself on.
People in real life have empathy. You do, and I do. The amount of it we have differs from person to person. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Ladies in the lead
One of my favourite things about this game is the strong female characters throughout the game. They were portrayed as proper, complex people. The player also has the ability to romance a male, female or both, and the game handles those relationships and their subsequent ups and downs well too. Alex also represents the Asian minority, so players will get some glimpses into that amazing culture.
When all is said and done, Alex is an amazing, interesting protagonist, who I hope we get to see more of. Her power can seemingly be applied to a variety of situations she finds herself in and she could become a fan favourite, which could really bode well for future titles particularly if the writing remains this good. And on top of all that the game is remarkably beautiful. So much so, that I’ve decided to end off with a gallery of some of the screenshots I took while playing. Let us know what you think if you venture into Alex’s world and the beautiful mountain town of Haven Springs.