Wowsers! If you’re anything like me, you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seat ever since March 11th. Why? Because that’s when Square Enix Presents announced it would feature a preview of the latest instalment of the Magic Hipster Simulator, otherwise known as Life Is Strange 3: True Colors.
Unfortunately, if you’re uncannily a lot like me, you were too busy to watch the presentation live. But never fear! I’m here to recap, overanalyse and generally geek all out over the March 18th presentation.
Okay, let’s get to the most important question: when is Life Is Strange 3 coming out? True Colors will be available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, and Stadia from September 10th, 2021.
Six months might seem unbearably far away for some, but there is an upside. In a major breakaway from previous games in the franchise, you will be able to get True Colors in one complete package.
The game still promises to be jampacked with content. The plot will be divided into chapters, providing breathing space for players between emotionally charged story beats.
However, all chapters will be available as a single purchase on September 10th. This marks a departure from the series’ previous framework, in which games were released episodically.
Already calling up your boss to book September 10th off work? You’ll be pleased to hear Life Is Strange 3 is available for pre-order now.
It’s not just the release schedule that’s different. In addition, for the first time, a major instalment of the series, Life is Strange 3: True Colors will be developed by Deck Nine Games.
Previously, Deck Nine developed Before the Storm, a mini prequel series following Life is Strange 1 deuteragonist Chloe Price. Zak Garriss, Lead Writer for Before the Storm, will be returning as director.
Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2 (including its one-off prequel, Captain Spirit), on the other hand, were both created by Dontnod Entertainment. With Dontnod moving on to new narrative-driven adventures like Tell Me Why and Twin Mirror, True Colors will be Deck Nine’s chance to cut their teeth on a full-length Life is Strange game.
I for one am intensely curious to see how they fare. Before the Storm is an award-winning game. This includes such high accolades as “Game of the Year” and “Most Significant Impact” from the 2018 Games for Change Awards.
However, it received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. IGN called the finale episode, ‘Hell is Empty’ gut-wrenching, but also “rushed and somewhat tunnel-visioned”.
From my lofty position of having never even attempted to make a game before, I’m inclined to agree. But prequels are deceptively difficult.
It’s one thing to tell a story.
It’s quite another to make the story you’re telling set-up someone else’s. All whilst trying to keep pre-established characters feeling authentic and providing suspense for players who already know what’s going to happen next.
The full-length Life is Strange games, on the other hand, are largely standalone affairs. There’s the odd call back here and there in 2. However, you could still play it without knowing anything about Life is Strange 1. And I’m waiting with cautious optimism to see Deck Nine tell their own story in the universe.
An all-new story needs an all-new player character, of course! In Life is Strange 3, players will don the denim jacket and over-ear headphones of Alex Chen.
At 21 years old, Alex is the oldest Life is Strange protagonist to date. Life is Strange 1 in particular made the most of a high school setting. With awkward first crushes, queen bee bullies and teachers to disobey.
In Life is Strange 2, on the other hand, the heart of the game was 16-year-old protagonist Sean struggling to take on a parental role for his 9-year-old brother Daniel.
Though Sean was younger than the previous protagonist Max, Life is Strange 2 saw Dontnod move away from angsty teen melodrama towards a more mature story, dealing with police brutality, racism and the harsh realities of modern-day America.
That’s not to say the first game didn’t have its own dark themes, it definitely did. Just that, in my own opinion, the sequel handled them with more grace. Does an older protagonist indicate Deck Nine is hoping to do the same?
Certainly, it seems Life is Strange 3 will stay committed to presenting a diverse cast of characters and exploring experiences that aren’t always represented in mainstream gaming. At the beginning of the game, Alex has just exited the foster care system, and according to her actress, Erika Mori, has “already weathered a really tough life”.
Joining Alex will be a host of new characters, including her older brother Gabe – albeit not for long. Going by the trailer, it seems Life is Strange 3 will be returning to the original game’s small-town-mystery theme. And the mystery in this case? Gabe’s sudden death. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say this is gonna be a tearjerker.
Like Max and Sean before her, Alex is queer, and players will have romanceable characters of different genders to choose from. In the red corner is Gabe’s best friend Ryan. Ryan is “a kind-hearted, dorky park ranger”, according to Square Enix.
Meanwhile, in the blue corner, fans of the series are already showing their excitement at the return of Steph. First appearing in Before the Storm, Steph is a DJ and roleplay enthusiast, and many are hoping for the chance to play more TTRPGs with her.
Steph’s implied prominence in the story marks another turning point for the Life is Strange franchise. It seems like True Colors will still be newbie-friendly, but this story is the most any of the main instalments have been related to each other so far.
Life is Strange 3 is set in the ironically titled Haven Springs. A Colorado town so peaceful, deer can be seen in the trailer drinking from the river in the centre of town. Could this be a callback to the spectral doe that featured so prominently in Life is Strange 1? A theme Deck Nine seemed keen to continue in Before the Storm with Chloe’s supernatural dreams of a crow?
A game as long as Life is Strange 2, focusing on one setting as Life is Strange 1 did, is an exciting prospect. A subversion of the classic American road trip, 2 capitalised on making the player feel always on the run, unable to get too comfortable in one spot for very long.
1 on the other hand hinged on making the player feel immersed in the setting of Arcadia Bay. But the shorter playtime and at-times odd pacing left many of the townspeople and areas feeling underdeveloped. Life is Strange 3 looks poised to offer the best of both worlds.
Fans who preferred the larger scope of Life is Strange 2 need not necessarily be disappointed by the return to a single setting. In another revolutionary move for the series, it seems True Colors will offer some level of open-world exploration.
According to Square Enix: “with a new level of freedom for the series, you can roam the streets, stores, and hidden spaces of Haven Springs, solving puzzles and helping the local townsfolk with your power.” Square Enix, are you cereal?! Ahem. Sorry.
Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.
Let’s talk powers.
Life is Strange 1 gave players the power of time travel. The perfect ability for indecisive players to torture themselves with. Before the Storm didn’t make Chloe magic, but it did turn her snarky attitude into a gameplay mechanic with the “backtalk ability”.
Captain Spirit is pointedly about a protagonist who has no powers but does wield the imagination of a nine-year-old boy. And if Life is Strange 1 was all about giving the players total control of the timeline, then 2 was about taking control away. Sean doesn’t have earth-shattering telekinesis; Daniel does. All players can hope to do is teach Daniel how best to use it.
Life is Strange 3 puts players back in the driving seat. Alex has supernatural empathy-based abilities. It’s all a little vague for now, but we know for a fact that Alex can see people’s emotions, surrounding them like colour-coded auras. With enough “focus”, according to the trailer, she can even “understand why they’re feeling it”.
Despite being the wielder of the supernatural abilities this time around, it seems players might be forced to give up control in another way.
The downside to Alex’s power is that she feels whatever those around her feel. And strong enough feelings can cause her to “lose control”. This could just refer to inexplicable outbursts of anger or sadness, of course. But the trailer shows shots of destruction, like a wall of glass windows shattering.
Could it be that Alex expels overwhelming emotions in massive concussive blasts?
If this is true, then the mechanics of Alex’s power could be a kind of bridge between Max and Daniel’s. The raw physical power of telekinesis, combined with Max’s habit of steering conversations and convincing characters to open up, by using information only she has access to, thanks to her powers.
Have I mentioned yet how utterly gorgeous Haven Springs looks? Life is Strange 3 boasts updated graphics and is the first game in the franchise to use full performance capture technology. Gone are the days of awkward lip-sync totally ruining the moment during tearful love confessions!
The indie soundtrack is essential to the character of the Life is Strange franchise. Licensed music and acoustic scores have underpinned the highs and lows of every game in the series to date, and it looks like Life is Strange 3 will be no different. Novo Amor, Radiohead, Phoebe Bridgers and Gabrielle Aplin have all been confirmed for the soundtrack so far.
Both main instalments and Before the Storm featured optional collectables players could collect by indulging in the main character’s preferred artistic pursuits.
Max took photos, Sean drew, and Chloe coated Arcadia Bay in graffiti. Max in the first game could also play the guitar, and the trailer reveals Alex does, too.
What’s more, professional musician MXMTOON, aka Maia, will be lending her talents to the game as Alex’s singing voice. She co-hosted the Life is Strange segment of Square Enix Presents, where an in-game clip debuted of Alex performing an acoustic cover of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead.
My money is on playing music being the optional side objective players can partake in whenever they need a break from the harrowing main plot. In any case, music as an art form is all about feeling. That, coupled with the fact one of the love interests is a DJ, makes me confident music will be playing a major role in the story one way or the other.
And at last, we come to the DLC. Like Chloe in Before the Storm, Alex’s outfits are customisable, and so of course bonus outfits are in order. Pre-ordering the standard edition of Life is Strange 3 will net you four bonus items for Alex to wear.
Probably most enticing is the bonus story that comes bundled with pre-orders of Life is Strange 3: True Colors Deluxe Edition. Titled Wavelengths, this additional chapter lets players assume the role of Steph as she manages her radio show. If there are going to be any major callbacks to previous games, expect them to be here.
The Deluxe Edition also comes with a ‘Hero Outfit’ pack, based on clothing worn by previous protagonists.
And finally, pre-orders of the Ultimate Edition will come with all of the above, plus a bundled remaster of Life is Strange and Before the Storm. These remasters feature a stunning graphical glow-up, but the Ultimate Edition does come at a hefty $80 price tag. Though technically you’re purchasing three games, so perhaps that isn’t unreasonable.
So, that’s everything we know about Life is Strange 3: True Colors. Set to release in one complete package on September 10th, the game has been developed by Deck Nine.
It will feature a new protagonist with emotion-based abilities, a new setting and a new cast, plus returning character Steph.
With its focus in the marketing on romanceable side characters, and what looks like a small-town-with-a-dark-side murder mystery storyline, the game does appear to be returning somewhat to the aesthetic of the first Life is Strange, rather than 2’s harrowing journey to the border.
But the hinting at an open world does promise that Life is Strange 3 will still be full of new innovations, both gameplay and story-wise.
Only one question remains: ready for the mosh pit, shaka-brah?