Life is Strange: True Colors preview: First glance at a true gem

Square Enix
Square Enix /

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and play the first chapter of Life is Strange: True Colors.  Square Enix has now trusted its beloved franchise with Deck Nine as opposed to the normal crew at Dontnod.

And usually that comes with a bit of worry. Normally when a new studio takes over for a beloved franchise, the results aren’t great. Sorry Sackboy, but you know I’m looking at you.

Luckily, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Life is Strange: True Colors.  Taking control of protagonist Alex Chen is a little overwhelming at first. She’s had a troubled past, she’s in the middle of a major life change, and, if you read through her text messages (which get so personal I almost felt guilty), you see she’s had a pretty rough go of it. It’s filled with everything from messages from guys that tried to help her out as a thinly veiled method of trying to get some; messages from extended family that want her to just go away forever; and friendships that have dissolved…spectacularly.

Luckily, after a lifetime of being bounced around in America’s less than spectacular foster care system, your long-lost biological brother has found you and invited you to live with him in Colorado.

Getting out to a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere might seem like a nightmare for some, but for Alex it’s a blessing. One, she just needs a new start. But secondly, and arguably more importantly, she has powers and they have made her life a living hell.

Alex is empathic. And powerful at that. She can see a colored aura radiating from people that allows her to know what they’re feeling (Oh, NOW, I get the subtitle). And if they’re experiencing feelings strong enough, not only can Alex mimic them but she can mimic them so strongly that she will feel the same thoughts as them.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

She can see a person’s nightmares. She can hear the anxiety attacks in a person’s head. And, in some cases, she even experiences the same chemical reactions.

For example, very early on a fight breaks out. I won’t spoil who it’s between but Alex is close enough where she not only feels the rage of the person starting the fight but her adrenaline kicks into overdrive and she ends up just beating the…well, someone gets hurt. But Alex couldn’t control it. It was so overwhelming it just took her.

Fortunately, a small town like this should be a great safe spot for her as long as she doesn’t have to encounter a bunch of dramatic moments, stressful elements, life-threatening situations, and a massive mystery.

Unfortunately, as Ron Howard once said while narrating Arrested Development, “she did”.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

Being a Life is Strange game, it’s going to be very heavy on moments that involve choices and your decisions are absolutely going to have an effect. And I mean anything can have an effect. Everything from a song you choose to play, a recreational activity you choose to do, or things you just don’t bother to do (seriously, visit the people around town) will all come back in some way shape or form that feels organic.

Just get ready for some of them because I’ll tell you right now, just because it has a new developer, doesn’t mean you’re not going to encounter those choices that make you pause the game and walk around to just think. Those moments where, after you’ve gone and done it, you talk to your friends about it to see what they did. Those moments are here and you absolutely will feel them.

And yes, just like the past games, this game will let you know how many people made the same choices as you or make you feel REALLY bad when you made a bad choice and find out you’re in a minority. You can also see the choices your friends have made if you really want to rub salt in their wounds for messing up. They’ll absolutely hate you for it.

But in between those choices both trivial and dire, you’re treated to one of the most beautiful in-game worlds I’ve ever seen. Not only is it just visually stunning but it’s thoughtfully detailed. Every building you go into looks like it’s actually owned by a different person. The aesthetics are different and you’ll never see the same model used in a second building. Different chairs, signs, flooring methods, decor. It’s all different and real.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

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If you’re playing it on the PS5, the game also features some of the best DualSense features I’ve encountered thus far. You access Alex’s powers with the left trigger, and if she’s scared you actually feel the controller tremble realistically. And if she doesn’t want to do something, the controller will feel a lot harder to pull — as if you’re experiencing the physical embodiment of the weight she faces. I was blown away by it.

Life is Strange: True Colors releases on September 8th for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S. And I am both ready to dive back into this gorgeous jewel of a game and terrified to see how my potentially bad choices will affect the lives of all these characters I’ve grown to care so much about.