When emotions take control of you, take control of your emotions.
It’s weird to have been with a game series from its very start and to experience all of its twists and turns over the course of six years. DONTNOD’s Life is Strange captivated gamers that asked more of TellTale, those that wanted a non-franchise story told in an engaging, choice-driven fashion. I recall the terrifying wait of each chapter releasing with a few months in between with agonizing cliffhangers that kept my mind racing. Then, Deck Nine Games handled a prequel in Before the Storm, crafting exposition and building off the first game’s memorable characters to expand the LiS universe. Now, Deck Nine can deliver a full-sized game in the vein of True Colors, bringing back a fan-favorite from Before the Storm and exploring small-town Colorado in detail.
After a brief cutscene establishing the main character, Alex lands in Haven Springs, Colorado by bus. With several cuts to the scenery and a slow walk speed, the player gets to immerse themselves in the breath-taking sights the town has to offer. A flowing river passes under a bridge adorned with several flower arrangements. You then get the chance to take a gander at the river in the first of the game’s Moments of Zen: a cutscene where the character reflects on their journey and current thoughts as the camera cuts to their surroundings. Some of my own tears flowed along with the river as I felt like I was right there in an idyllic Haven Springs thanks to picture-perfect immersion 5 minutes after starting the game.
Aside from the standout environment, the graphics and visual performance are a big enhancement from previous iterations in the series. My biggest gripe with these entries was the motion-capture being janky and not how a human would naturally move, but this was completely remedied in True Colors. In conversation, characters are more expressive here, as well – eyebrows furl in anger and raise in delight, dimples show after a hearty laugh, and it complements the auditory side quite well in doing so. This is the best Life is Strange has ever looked, so much so that I’d love to lose myself in this small town in a free roam mode.
The audio design in Life is Strange: True Colors is masterful in just about every aspect. When we call it an indie soundtrack, it’s actually bands you’ve never heard of, while still being perfectly in-context with the game’s themes and tone. These accompany the fantastic sights in the Moments of Zen, and while the player has the option to bring them to an early halt, it’s worth hearing the whole song in almost every instance.
Voice acting is on point and makes characters feel like genuine people with a full gamut of emotions. You can hear the rage, the despair, the nervousness of characters whose minds are in disrepair. Wholesome characters have a homely vocal presentation, whereas suspicious individuals sound conniving and serve as a frustration point when they get smug with you. It’s thanks to precise vocal direction meeting talented voice actors/actresses that these characters come to life.
In addition, the sound design of the world is prime. There were a few moments where I confused the game with real life thanks to this attention to detail, such as a frantic knocking on the door sounded seriously realistic. Whether it was creaking floorboards, a purring kitten, or a gas-lit lantern running out of fuel, I was zoned in at every step. The only issue was that Alex’s dialogue trigger whenever she entered a certain area would result in me hearing her say the same thing 2-3 times once I moved to a specific spot – otherwise, the sound in the game is mechanically strong.
Gone are the days of waiting for the next episode of Life is Strange to release – True Colors has its full story available upon launch. Alex’s time in Haven Springs has enough suspense riding on each scene that when the game took a break to become a LARP (Live Action RolePlay) complete with a turn-based system, I felt the needed break somehow kept me even more immersed into the story. Choices really do culminate in the last scene as you’ll truly see who’s with you and who’s against you. With a tentative runtime of 10-12 hours, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome and provides enough of an experience to stick in your head long past the rolling credits.
Like the rest of the titles, Life is Strange is an adventure/point-and-click with the quirk that you can move around freely. Inspecting the environment is a must, as you can unlock interactions and new dialogue if you keep a keen eye out for what’s around you – for example, a birdwatcher struggling to locate an adverse aviary can do so once you find it and coax it in the right direction. These little interactions are summed up at the end of each chapter and compared against other players, so you can see the choices they made, too. I couldn’t imagine playing this game without viewing every possible thing around me – it’s excellent for attention-to-detail gamers that love exhausting their surroundings.
The best Life is Strange yet?
Life is Strange: True Colors gets everything right that the previous games got wrong. The voice acting is superior, the motion-capture is finally spot-on, the length of the title maintains a fast pace from start to finish, and the few bugs are getting squashed with post-launch support (none of which I experienced in my playthough save for the audio). After suffering a loss in the family soon before my playthrough, I knew I’d resonate with the grim moments to come – the cry count hit 5 before all was said and done thanks to gripping voice acting, cathartic payoffs, and a setting that I’d love to retire to. This is indeed the best Life is Strange game to come, and an easy GOTY candidate.
So, why should you play it?
- You love a knockout soundtrack, sound design, and voice acting backing edge-of-your-seat climactic moments.
- You crave characters that you will effortlessly love/hate with ample opportunity to help/hinder them.
- You love a story that rewards going off the beaten path, trying new things to get different outcomes in subsequent playthroughs.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- You can’t be bothered to explore what’s around you in a game, and desire instant gratification instead of a slow burn payoff.
- The $60 price tag may feel like too much for a 10-hour experience.
A press copy of Life is Strange: True Colors was provided courtesy of the publisher.