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Life is Strange True Colors Preview: Deck Nine on Alex’s empathic powers

Rebecca Bassell from Deck Nine shares what Alex’s ability can really do.

The next chapter in the Life is Strange series is nearly upon us, and Square Enix has shared more about the game’s new power set during the publisher’s E3 presentation. Life is Strange True Colors follows a 21-year-old Asian-American woman named Alex Chen who suffers tragedy, loss, and confusion when her life suddenly changes with these unique abilities. Our last chat with Deck Nine was all about building Alex as a character; this screening focuses on her exceptional empathic powers.

The short video opens with Maia (aka ‘mxmtoon’), Alex’s singing voice actor, introducing the deep-dive into her power in action. Producer Rebeccah Bassell says working with the talented musician to develop these moments was an excellent opportunity for the team.

“[Maia] is a big fan of the Life is Strange franchise, and we’re equally big fans of her and her music; when the opportunity arose to include her in the brand campaign and the game, it all just clicked,” she explains. Bassell wasn’t able to share whether these musical sequences are interactive like the guitar playing in The Last of Us 2, but she tells us they’ll leave players wanting more.

One of the first effects of Alex’s empath power we see in this preview is her mirroring Steph’s nervous foot tap. The physical impact this has on her raises questions as to how strong her empathic abilities can be. According to Bassell, Alex initially considers her psychic powers as a curse. They are so intense around others that she doesn’t understand how to control herself or her newly adapted feelings as “it infects her and she loses control.” However, Alex and her empathy skills develop throughout the game in some intriguing ways.

We see Alex experience a “nova” moment in this preview. The explosive aura of emotions happens when she encounters a person experiencing deep troubles or feelings. Novas distort and alter the reality surrounding her, seeing the world as the other person sees it in their state. Alex will use her power to gain context clues around what is causing these intense emotions, gain information about what they are thinking, and help resolve the problem with her unique abilities.

She can “literally walk through the world with a visual layer of a character’s emotion, coloring and altering the space temporarily.” Basell describes her Nova ability as a surreal and vivid life-twisting mechanic that players will absolutely love.

Another exciting feature of Alex’s empathic powers is the ability to absorb emotions. In the preview, we see a character named Charlotte working on a sculpture as our protagonist enters the scene. The glowing, red aura around her resonates powerfully as Alex reaches out to “take away” her pain. These effects may be “unforeseen” and can potentially cause harm or other impacts upon her wellbeing.

How Alex reacts in these situations doesn’t always mean the happiest results. We see her interact with a character called Mac, who is hiding something serious from his partner. In this scenario, Alex makes a difficult decision to reveal the truth or hide it, and we see both outcomes in the preview. Bassell shares, “relationships with the inhabitants of Haven Springs are incredibly important to the story and its branching, so definitely pay close attention to your choices.”

“Each of these decisions, big or small, impact your experience with Alex in Haven Springs. We definitely encourage players to explore Haven to ensure you’re getting all of the optional content that will affect the story!”

Mac may not be the only person players will meet with deceitful behaviours. There have always been captivating characters throughout the Life is Strange series, and True Colors looks to be no different. Writing violent, malicious, or criminal personalities that are both engaging and realistic isn’t always the most straightforward task. Deck Nine endeavours to write real people into their stories.

“One of the hallmarks of the Life is Strange franchise is creating stories with real people experiencing real-world problems. When you tell stories about real people, you see everything; the good and the bad. In reality, we’re not “good” or “bad” people; we’re just people. We try to keep this in mind in developing our characters because real people are complex, layered, and complicated.”

Life is Strange True Colors is set in 2019, several years after the last few games. They still all feel fairly timeless within the 2000-20s era, and Colorado is no different. Deck Nine is based in the city, so Basell explains that the team is beyond excited to pull upon their own home and share it with the world.

“One of the most special elements for us in Life is Strange True Colors was getting to show off all of the wonderful quirks and beauty of Colorado… it was exciting to draw inspiration from the types of events, traditions, and current trends in our state. These can be seen all around Haven Springs, and we leave it up to our players to sleuth around for them.”

We’re all on the edge of our seats to see how Alex Chen’s story evolves. Life is Strange True Colors releases on Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and Stadia from 10 September 2021. Don’t forget the Life is Strange Remastered bundle with Life is Strange and Life is Strange Before the Storm is coming this year, too.

Life is Strange True Colors

10 Sept 2021, 7 Dec 2021 (Switch)
PC PS4 PS5 Switch Xbox One Xbox Series S & X

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About the author

Omi Koulas

Omi's a passionate gamer from Melbourne, Australia who can't live without their Nintendo Switch and PC. Community engagement worker and writer by day, live-music punter and devourer of weird foods by night.