Jun 14, 2021 - Technology

Life is Strange: True Colors’ double-edged sword

Girl crying in front of another person.
Image courtesy of Deck Nine

Deck Nine’s upcoming episodic game, “Life is Strange: True Colors,” has given its heroine an empathetic superpower that allows her to tap into people’s innermost thoughts.

Details: Alex sees people’s emotions as colorful auras. Once activated, the world will alter according to whatever emotionally charged state she’s entered.

  • Lead writer Felice Kuan told Axios that the team wanted to show empathy as “nuanced, on either end of the spectrum. At the beginning, Alex sees her power as a curse,” Kuan said.

Narrative director Jonathan Zimmeman told Axios the team has been “wrestling for the last four years” with the question of how to turn empathy into a superpower. “We were pretty obsessed with that question of what makes games such an empathic medium?” he said, and how they could “engender that in the player.”

  • “Empathy can kind of be a double-edged sword,” he added. “I think there is obvious value in seeing the world [with empathy] and understanding and feeling what others are feeling in order to more intimately connect with them.”
  • “But there’s also the risk of losing oneself in the process and losing the integrity of who you are and what’s worth defending about your own lived experience.”

That idea will play out in the game’s story, as Alex faces decisions on how to interact with, and in some cases manipulate, people’s emotions.

  • In one segment, Alex ponders whether to take away someone’s anger. “If you take that experience away from somebody, what does that do for them in the long term?” said producer Rebeccah Bassell, pointing to the decisions they may make later. “How does that impact yourself, too, if you take all that on?”

What’s next: Unlike previous "Life is Strange" games (which were typically developed by Dontnod), "True Colors" is an episodic story where all episodes will drop at once.

  • “It definitely changed the development process,” Zimmerman said, pointing to the ability to smoothly rework the overall story.
  • “But from a storytelling standpoint, really not much actually changed because we're still releasing it as a episodic story.” Players can binge the game at once, or space it out as they want. The game will still have cliffhangers as episodes conclude. 
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