Life is Strange: True Colors - how powers work in gameplay

Christopher Sica, Game Designer for Life is Strange: True Colors takes you through some of the ways you’ll be able to use Alex Chen’s psychic power of Empathy.
By Christopher Sica

Hi everyone - this is Christopher Sica, Game Designer at Deck Nine.

Life is Strange: True Colors stars main character Alex Chen, a gifted individual with the unique psychic power of Empathy. This power allows her to connect with individuals around the town of Haven Springs, learning about who these characters are, the struggles they face, and the backgrounds that shaped the dynamic characters we interact with throughout the game.

From a gameplay perspective, the development team wanted a fun gameplay mechanic that supports our strong narrative and allows players to use the Empathy power in unique ways to learn more about Haven Springs, the characters surrounding Alex, and ultimately Alex herself.

Life is Strange: True Colors

Gameplay Mechanics

Alex’s power can be used in a few ways throughout the game:

Environmental Power Moments

Life is Strange: True Colors allows players to use the Empathy power in “environmental power moments” that are frequently found in the open spaces and the town of Haven Springs. Here, the power can be used in different ways to advance gameplay and deepen the player’s engagement with the narrative.

Here are just a few examples:

Characters will be hiding secrets, and not telling Alex everything they know directly up front. For example, if a character is afraid in the moment and does not want Alex to know how they are truly feeling, they will only give her a shallow response.

Alex can use her psychic power of Empathy to gain more information from these characters, delving into how they truly feel, and using this unspoken information to help characters trust Alex and connect with her.

Many of the townsfolk on the streets of Haven Springs will have storylines that you can follow across the chapters in the game. You can, for example, chart the story of a young couple as they try to figure out their relationship.

These storylines are completely optional. If Alex wants to skip these interactions, she can, but they bring additional color to those willing to explore further, and allow Alex to connect deeper with the town of Haven Springs – and its uncertain future.

Other characters will offer additional insight into the current situations in the game. These moments give Alex background on what is happening around town, and allows her to better understand the people of Haven Springs and connect with the struggles, triumphs, and experiences they are going through.

Pressing and holding the power button allows Alex to see nearby “emotion auras” on NPCs. The emotional auras on these NPCs are subtle, and Alex can only see them once she actively looks for them. Alex can walk up to the NPCs to interact and trigger an emotional insight. Alex will respond to each of these insight interactions with her thoughts, observations, and how she is feeling in these moments.

Story-Vital Power Moments

Life is Strange: True Colors also features “story-vital power moments” where Alex will explore the emotions of the primary characters in our story in depth. These characters have an emotional aura around them where the aura is so strong that Alex can always see it.

Alex absorbs a character’s emotional aura by connecting with the character, to truly feel their emotional state. At this point, Alex is transported into the unique emotional world that this character is feeling, the emotions of the other character coloring and transforming Alex’s perception of the world around her.

The player then explores this new emotional environment, looking for “emotional insights”. These emotional insights lead to hidden secrets about the character and give the player more information on the emotions that the character is going through. Alex can then use the secrets she learns from these insights to interact with the character and help them.

Visual Design

The development team worked hard on the visual design for the psychic power of Empathy to help players understand and feel immersed with Alex’s power.

Characters will shimmer with different colors of emotional auras, to help Alex identify which emotion they are feeling.

Blue auras symbolize Sadness; Purple auras symbolize Fear; Red auras symbolize Anger; Gold auras symbolize Joy. Each emotion has a unique UI icon, animation, and VFX to connect the visual design with the emotion. Characters where Alex can use her Empathy power will also feature unique “hotspot UI” with an animating circle dot next to their name to help indicate this is a special power interaction.

Emotional auras also feature different intensity levels depending on how strong of an emotion the character is feeling. Alex will come across various emotional intensity levels throughout the game - be prepared for surprises in store as the intensity of these emotions increases!

So that’s a brief explanation of how Alex’s powers work in gameplay, and some of the ways you’ll be able to use it to discover the secrets of Haven Springs.

You’ll be able to try it for yourselves in just a few months, when Life is Strange: True Colors releases for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC on September 10, 2021.

We’ll have much more to share about the game in the coming months, so make sure you follow the team on social media for updates: