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How “Life is Strange: True Colors” Can Right Franchise’s Course | Column from the Editor

Back in 2019, I wrote a scathing review on Life is Strange 2. The game itself was a miserable mess of a follow up to the well received first iteration of the series.

In less than one month at the time of writing this, Life is Strange: True Colors is due to release. The first LiS game was incredible, the second was a bitter disappointment, can the third entry right the ship?

As it stands, there is plenty of reason to assume it can. Let’s assess what we know about True Colors and talk about what it needs to set DONTNOD straight.

Starting off with what we know:

The main character

Where we had Max Caulfield in the first game and Sean Diaz in the second, Alex Chen is due to be our protagonist here in the third. Each game has given some type of supernatural power to the main character. Max was capable of time travel, while Sean’s younger brother Daniel possessed telekinetic powers. Alex’s ability is billed ‘Empathy’, and she will have the ability to detect people’s emotions based on a color she spots on their person. The specifics for that are unknown, but it’s probably safe to assume, for example, that someone who’s angry would probably be perceived with a red color by Alex, sadness might be a blue color, and so on.

Overall, this ability gives interesting gameplay and interaction potential. Much like Max Caulfield, Alex’s ability seems that it will only really be noticed and used by herself, whereas Daniel’s telekinesis was much more in everyone’s faces and was more tangibly noticed by others who weren’t just him. 

While still episodic, True Colors is handling their game differently than in the past.

In that major set of criticisms put forth here on InReview against LiS 2, perhaps the most damning was how slowly content was rolled out up until it was finally finished. Between the time LiS 2’s first and last episode had come out, roughly a full year and a half had passed. Episodes were averaging about three and a half months between one another. 

True Colors wields the same episodic structure, but the game in its entirety will be available right from day one. As such, there will be no lengthy waits in between content, players will get the full package right then and there.

This is a very promising change, and is ultimately somewhat of a gamble on DONTNOD’s part. Their former competitors at Telltale Games never handled their titles like this, and they managed to thrive on the scene for over half a decade. DONTNOD’s first Life is Strange game was generally very well received, and it too did not offer all of the game’s content up front like True Colors will.

It’s possible that DONTNOD witnessed the manner in which Telltale Games ultimately collapsed, decided for themselves that gaps in content to maintain an episodic structure wasn’t a sustainable company model, and decided on this as a means of changing things up. An applause worthy stance for sure, and it would be amazing if it works out for them in the end.

An announcement on upcoming DLC has already been made

Life is Strange: Wavelengths will be upcoming DLC due for release on September 30th, just shy of three weeks after the base game will hit the shelves. It will apparently explore the backstory of Steph Gingrich, who will be an impactful character in True Colors, and will function as a prequel to the base game of some kind. 

How will this title ultimately put DONTNOD back on the map, and help to forget its awful second game? Let’s see-

Fluid, memorable individual episodes

Good content is always better than fast content. Many of LiS 2’s episodes began very slowly and had a general theme of seeing the main characters walking in a straight line, engaged in boring dialogue, for a long time. Ideally, True Colors will boast more dynamic gameplay where episodes have not been rushed or consolidated to meet some internal deadline of some kind.

The general gist of it is, hopefully quality was not sacrificed in order for this game to not put forth all of its content now, rather than over the course of a year and a half.

Apart from that, there is no need to reinvent the wheel

Telltale Games won many, many awards with ultimately basic concepts of offering interactive gameplay with an interesting story. If the story itself is good and player decision truly does shape the story, or at least influence it faithfully, True Colors will be a smash hit. Offering very false, meaningless choices in which the outcome is relatively the same either way will remove player weight and make it feel like it’s just like watching a movie. Following the same basic model that’s worked well since 2012 will do True Colors well.

Ultimately, True Colors has a lot going for it right now. It’s reasonable to predict about a B+/A- type quality of a game out of it, with a higher roof offering potential to be more. The first major step was to eliminate pointlessly large gaps in content that plagued LiS2. Now, let’s just hope they didn’t cut any corners to achieve that goal.

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