We've taken a look at the next instalment in the Life is Strange franchise.
Empathy is a word we have had to learn to deal with over the last year. Made difficult and tiring by an unexpected pandemic, which made us fragile, tormented, but at the same time able to feel others' emotions in a deeper way, precisely because we were (and still are) experiencing something similar. Empathy is also the great and vigorous theme around which Life is Strange: True Colors is built, the new chapter of the popular episodic anthology franchise, created by Dontnod and to which Deck Nine Games has also contributed. In fact, they are the true developers of this new experience which, despite representing an important step forward compared to the two previous and spin-off games from several points of view, maintains unchanged some aspects that have made Life is Strange a real cult phenomenon, among the graphic adventures in drama genre.
In Life is Strange: True Colors we play the role of Alex Chen, a young woman who has recently emerged from the vortex of foster care system, who's ready to start a new life in Haven Springs, a small mountain town where her older brother Gabe lives. Alex and Gabe have not seen each other for about eight years: from the video presentation we saw, it's not clear why the two siblings were separated, but it's immediately evident that that their bond - abruptly interrupted a few years earlier - never broke. When she arrives in Haven Springs, also armed with her great talent for music, Alex also meets two new characters: Ryan - a great friend of her brother Gabe, with whom Alex has a certain loving feeling - and Steph, a young woman who manages the music record store in town and which shares with Alex a great passion for music.
What seems an idyllic moment of great happiness for Alex, after years of suffering, is tragically interrupted by the sudden death of Gabe. What seems only a dramatic fatality, due to an accident, nevertheless seems to hide a secret. And this is how Alex, helped and supported by her new friends, tries to understand the causes behind her brother's unexpected death, despite the fact that the entire Haven Springs community seems to be doing everything to prevent her from discovering the truth behind his death.
Exactly like the previous games, Life is Strange: True Colors also branches out its plot starting from a mystery to be solved (a disappearance, a sudden death, etc.), to which several very interesting themes are linked, which seem to be taken from many teen and family dramas that we usually watch on TV. Family, mourning, the value of friendship, tormented lives are just some of the themes that Nine Deck Games returns to explore in True Colors, which is accompanied by the supernatural element, the inevitable trademark present in all LiS games. In this case, Alex can exploit the super-power of empathy: the girl, in fact, is able to perceive people's auras, she is able to feel other people's emotions and understand why and what they are feeling. This allows her to get in touch with them, discover more of their hidden sides, but all this has a price: if "infected" by something big, by an emotion that is difficult to contain, Alex can lose control. The best part of it is that this power is fully yours to control from the very beginning.
This new mechanic also allows True Colors to offer greater freedom to the player, even in terms of exploration. By interacting with people, harnessing the power of Alex's empathy, players can therefore discover Haven Springs' and its inhabitants' many secrets. During the presentation, Deck Nine Games did not detail what they mean by exploration and if, compared to previous games, players will be able to be freed from more linear paths or, as happened with Dontnod's Twin Mirror, you can choose to explore a certain area in the way we prefer. We hope to know a little more in the near future as we get closer to its launch date. In this regard, the wait for Life is Strange: True Colors will not be long: the launch of the game, in fact, is scheduled for September 10 and it will be released in a single solution with all 5 episodes included. No more waiting between the publication of one episode and the next: in True Colors we can choose whether to play the whole experience just like when we binge watch our favourite series on Netflix or enjoy it a little at a time, at our own pace. During the event we attended, the platforms on which the game will arrive have not yet been revealed, but we will keep you updated.
Music has always been an important part in Life is Strange games and the same thing is true for True Colors too. But not only for the soundtrack, which has always been one of the memorable elements of any game in the franchise and signed by great artists (Syd Matters for Life is Strange's OST or Daughters for Life is Strange: Before the Storm's OST), but it also represents one of the narrative threads of the game, given Alex's visceral passion for music. If the actress Erika Mori plays, voices and performs the protagonist in the game, it's the American singer-songwriter and YouTuber Mxmtoon (Maia) - who among other things is a huge fan of Life is Strange - sings Alex's songs. In the video we previewed, Mxmtoon plays a version Radiohead's Creep which gave us goosebumps, and which gives us hope for all the excellent music that awaits us in the final game.
True Colors represents a kind of new beginning for Life is Strange, a more mature way to reflect on the themes that have always accompanied the games in the franchise. A growth that can be perceived not only from greater introspection in certain issues addressed, but also from greater maturity at a technical level. In addition to graphics that have made great strides compared to the first game back to 2015, even the sequences acquired with motion-capture, at least from those we saw during the presentation, have a more next-gen flavour. After this glimpse of Life is Strange: True Colors, we can't hide an insatiable curiosity about the full game. The protagonist, Alex, has all the qualities to establish an extraordinary relationship with the player, in a story with faded outlines that are just waiting to be discovered and brought to light. We can't wait to experience the many emotions that True Colors seems to hide within itself, on 10 September on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, PS5, and Stadia.