- Life Is Strange: True Colors' story packs an emotional punch
- You play as Alex Chen who has the power to read people's emotions
- It's a 10-hour story with a cast of incredibly interesting characters to talk to
Life is Strange: True Colors is the latest narrative adventure in this series about people with special powers making their way through everyday life. The series is known for its powerful characters and how effective they are at drawing out player emotions, and this time that’s the entire focus of the game.
After control over time in the first game and telekinesis in the second title, we now play as Alex Chen, who has the power to read people’s emotions. But if you’d ask her, it’s more like a curse.
Before you read on, I want to state that this will be a spoiler-free review. The single most important aspect of the game is the story and how it affects the people in it, so I won’t take away from your enjoyment by spoiling any major story beats.
A blessing or a curse?
In Life Is Strange: True Colors, we play Alex Chen, a young woman who’s finally reunited with her brother after spending years in orphanages and foster families. The siblings lost track of each other after the tragic events with their parents and now that her older brother Gabe has finally found her, he asks her to come live with him in Haven Springs, Colorado.
What Gabe doesn’t yet know, however, is that Alex has developed the ability to read people’s auras, and in extreme cases, even their thoughts. And whether she wants to or not, this sets in motion some major events.
At the start of the game, it becomes clear that Alex hasn’t yet mastered her power and is afraid of it. When someone gets really angry, she gets equally furious and this hasn’t exactly made her life easy.
A helping hand
The longer she spends in Haven though, the more at ease Alex becomes with the townspeople and she starts to realize her powers can be used for good. What’s interesting is that not all of these are required to finish the story, but if you’re a people-pleaser like me, you won’t be able to turn down the opportunity to help make someone else’s day better.
When Alex really syncs with a persons’ emotions, she can start reading into objects that mean a lot to them as well. A great example of this is when she meets the flower shop owner from the image above, who’s struggling with dementia, and tries to help her retrace her steps through the object in the area, so she can remember the important task she had to do.
What’s really neat is that you can often read people’s emotions before entering into a conversation with them and this can give you extra dialogue options or help you decide what to say to them.
There are a lot of semi-funny interactions here, most of them optional and all exemplary at making the little mountain town feel like a true community.
Home is where my people are
While the story itself is indeed interesting, I have to admit that it plays second fiddle to the first-class characters in the game.
There is a whole cast of characters here that each has a considerable amount of depth. You learn about their past, their backstories, and how your presence in Haven has affected their lives.
Normally you can only hear what people have to say, and even in games and movies, you can tell that they are holding back their true emotions. But Life Is Strange: True Colors really plays into this and gives you a deeper understanding of what people are really going through.
That may not seem fair, and always gives you an advantage in any conversation. If you play your cards right, there is even a choice to be made for a romantic love interest…
What really helps bring this home is how simply fantastic the facial animations are in True Colors. You can tell the game runs on a new engine and they’ve done wonders with the facial rigging.
When a character laughed, I laughed, when they were sad, I was sad… I’ve been on the brink of all-out crying more times than I care to admit because of the game and that’s a truly magical thing to achieve.
But while a lot of the cast was endearing, none were more so than Alex herself. She really steals the show in her own game and comes across as a strong and likable, yet vulnerable person.
Possibly one of the best protagonists ever
I’m as surprised as you are, but Alex Chen may be my favorite female lead in a game since… well, ever. She’s strong, she’s opinionated and the way she deals with what happens to her is inspiring.
There’s something about the way she wants to help people around her that I can really connect with as a person and as a player, you just want things to go her way and you’re rooting for her to get the happy ending she deserves.
She’s attractive, has a great personality, and has a fantastic voice actress that really makes her a credible character. Add some mysterious powers into the mix and you’ve got the workings of a very interesting urban superhero.
And let’s not forget about her awesome fashion sense. I know being superficial like that and forming an opinion about someone’s looks isn’t always appreciated, but this girl’s got style! And yes, you can even change her outfit in every chapter:
While we’re on the topic of aesthetics, let’s dive into the visual appeal of the game. I’ve already mentioned the impressive facial animations and characters design, but what else is cooking under the hood?
Visual issues and bugs
Life is Strange: True Colors finally uses a new game engine to showcase some of its capabilities on next-gen consoles, but it’s a game that’s also playable on the Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch, and I can’t help but think it’s been held back a little by those platforms.
The game looks great most of the time in screenshots, but while playing it on the Xbox Series X, I still noticed a considerable amount of texture pop-in, and for some unknown reason: green inexplicable flashes at the edges of the screen.
At the end of the game, there are a few scenes where we switch locations and it visually flashes those environments for a second before actually loading them. I even noticed a T-pose once and can’t help but think the game could’ve used a final pass-over before going live.
Other issues I’ve encountered: Voice lines repeating themselves, characters getting stuck, and running in place. It’s immersion-breaking and not really something I’d expect from a title of this price and quality.
*Reader Raises hand*
*Aren’t you going to talk about the out-of-place screenshot above?*
Ah yes, about that…
It does a few very interesting things
I absolutely adore Life Is Strange: True Colors for going the extra mile and including a chapter full of RPG gameplay. The entire town of Haven Springs participates in a LARP (Live Action Role Play) and it’s freaking amazing!
While you can talk your way out of half of the battles and the attacks aren’t really that impressive, it fits so well into the game and it’s heartwarming to see all the townspeople work together to make a young kid’s day.
Next to this welcome surprise, you can also play a game of Arkanoid or play some foosball against Steph. I’m always excited when games include other stuff to do outside of their main gameplay and Life is Strange did not disappoint in this department.
A stellar soundtrack to chill out to
Music has always played a big role in the Life Is Strange series, after all, it’s one of the methods people use to cope with difficult situations, and that’s no exception here. There’s a fantastic mix of well-known songs like Dido’s Thank You or Kings of Leon’s Don’t matter but also some lesser-known indies that get a turn in the spotlight.
This did raise an interesting discussion on Twitter with multiple streamers laughing at the music-less air-guitar sessions because the game’s streamer mode opts to go in full-on mute when a licensed track is playing. But that’s a topic for a different article entirely…
Achievements and completion
How long does it take to beat Life Is Strange: True colors? This depends on how much time you spend talking to people and looking around town for things to interact with, but my first run was around 10 hours.
If you’re going for 100% completion/1000G: Most of the achievements require you to find memories attached to objects, so you’ll have to pay close attention in each chapter and see if you can spot them.
The good news is; you won’t have to replay the entire game to get the missing achievements. After beating the game you can reload each chapter and even specific scenes and it shows you in which scene you’ve missed memories. Also, any cutscene you’ve seen before can be skipped with a press of the RB button so it shouldn’t take long to grab the missing ones.
Fair warning though: the save-file system is very unreliable. Even when you see the saving icon, there is a big chance it will set you back a few cutscenes when loading the file and when I was hunting for achievements it stubbornly refused to track one of them until I decided to beat the entire chapter from scratch.
Final thoughts on Life Is Strange: True Colors
- An amazing cast of characters with convincing emotions
- Reading people's emotions makes for a very interesting superpower
- Fantastic soundtrack and superb voice acting
- Unreliable save-files
- Some minor bugs here and there
- Main story is somewhat lacking compared to the characters in it
Final Score: 4.5/5
Life Is Strange: True Colors is the best entry in the series yet. With a loveable main protagonist, an interesting superpower, and a simply fantastic cast of characters that will win over your heart during its 10-hour runtime, it will leave you wanting for more.
Sure the main story ends on a somewhat disappointing note, but the people I’ve met will be with me for some time to come and Alex Chen especially will be mentioned for years to come when people ask me about my favorite videogame characters, and that’s an incredible achievement. I can’t wait for the DLC where we’ll focus on Steph’s side of the story.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Review copy provided by the publisher.