New Video Game Set In Colorado Harnesses The Power Of Emotion

Colorado’s soaring mountains are the backdrop for one of the latest narrative adventure games. Set for release on September 10, Life Is Strange: True Colors is a murder mystery centered on the power of emotion. Set in the fictional town of Haven Springs, Colorado, the narrative-style game follows Alex Chen, an Asian-American woman who grew up in a foster family. Upon moving to Haven Springs to reunite with her brother Gabe, Alex finds initial relief in the peace and quiet of the mountains.

But the homecoming is short-lived when Gabe dies suddenly. The town treats his death as an accident, though Alex and Gabe’s friends believe otherwise. The event unleashes Alex’s hidden power: empathy. Alex possesses the psychic ability to use empathy as a way to connect to the emotions of others. Players follow Alex as she uses empathy to learn the town’s secrets and solve her brother’s murder. 

Life Is Strange: True Colors is the third game within the Life Is Strange series, designed by Deck Nine Games and published by Square Enix. This game will be the first to feature Alex Chen as the lead character. Based in Westminster, Colorado, Deck Nine Games is a game design company focused on narrative adventure games. Life Is Strange: True Colors is also the first game in the series to take place in Colorado, Deck Nine’s home state. 

Haven Springs, Colorado

Deck Nine, Square Enix, Life Is Strange: True Colors, Ellie Sullum

Photo courtesy of Deck Nine

Set in Northwest Colorado, Haven Springs is a fictional mountain town. It’s located near the real-life towns of Marble and Carbondale. It’s complete with views of the mountains from all sides, aspen trees, a gold rush era main street and flannel shirts all around. The design remains highly accurate and gives players a sense of realism. Someone who’s never visited a Colorado mountain town can get a strong sense of the experience through playing the game.

The game has plenty to offer locals too, including inside jokes. When she comes to Haven Springs, Alex learns about a “historical” institution known for cliff diving and questionable food.

“We wanted to create a location that encapsulated all the small things we loved about
towns in the Rocky Mountains, both past and present. Some places the team went for
inspiration were Nederland, Golden, Idaho Springs, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Vail and
Georgetown, among others,” said Rebeccah Bassell, producer at Deck Nine Games. 

According to Bassell, Haven Springs’ architecture, town history and traditions all stem from her team’s extensive research and lived experience. In the game, Alex comes to Haven Springs weeks before Spring Festival. Think Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland or Crested Butte’s Wildflower Festival. 

Town History

As part of the world-building experience, Haven Springs comes with its own history as a former mining town.

“Like many other small mountain towns in the Rockies, Haven Springs was founded in 1864, just three years after the Colorado Territory was established. The town’s primary purpose was to act as a hub for would-be miners, migrating to the west to establish a new life. Today, there is tension between the old and new Havenites, with some parts of the community relying on the mining industry and some parts wanting to change old ways,” said Bassell. 

While some elements of Haven Springs are largely atmospheric, others have potential storyline connections. It may be possible that the old and new Havenite tension has a connection to Gabe’s death. Alex has the opportunity to explore Haven Springs’ history as she investigates what happened to her brother. 

Empathy As Power

Square Enix, Deck Nine, Life Is Strange: True Colors, Ellie Sullum

Photo courtesy of Deck Nine

One of the most notable game features is Alex’s power of empathy. She wields the ability to absorb people’s emotions in order to gather information. Unlike typical gaming, where powers range from the supernatural to the supersonic, empathy is a normal ability that nearly all people possess. Using creativity and powerful storytelling, the game creators turned a human trait into a superpower that can solve a murder. 

“I think Alex’s journey with her power is an excellent mirror to our own less fantastical experiences of emotion: If you feel another person’s emotions too much, you lose yourself, but if you shut yourself off to feeling anything, you can’t connect with people. Alex’s progression with her power portrays a nuanced balance to empathy, which we think a lot of players will also connect with,” said Bassell. 

Emotions Represented By Auras

Each interaction with another person gives off their aura, represented by a radiation of color. Alex has an additional psychic mind-reading ability, giving her the information she needs to get closer to the truth. Deck Nine’s design team utilized color to emphasize each time Alex uses empathy on a townsperson.

“Our four main emotions are happiness, represented by a golden aura, sadness, represented by a blue aura, fear, represented by a purple aura, and anger, represented by a red aura. When an emotion is strong, the aura becomes a raging display of color, prompting Alex to use her power to make the aura explode outward into a nova, coloring the entire world as that individual’s emotion,” said Bassell. 

The Role Of Storytelling 

Haven Springs, Life Is Strange: True Colors, Square Enix, Deck Nine, Ellie Sullum

Photo courtesy of Deck Nine

For Deck Nine, storytelling remains central to their craft. They design their games to provide an emotionally compelling experience. Players have the opportunity to connect with characters on a deeper level. 

“The unique joy of developing a game is crafting an experience that necessitates player involvement. By design, games are empathy machines, forcing players to put themselves into a scenario and asking what they would do. Movies can be watched, books can be read, but games demand that you’re an active participant in crafting the story that you get out of the experience. At Deck Nine, we know just how special this ability is, and want to give the player as many opportunities as possible to have their choices honored in-game,” said Bassell.

Deck Nine’s commitment to strong storytelling adds value to the narrative adventure genre of gaming. Narrative adventures games create a uniquely emotional experience. The latest installment of the Life Is Strange series continues to push the boundaries of video game storytelling. 

Life Is Strange: True Colors is set to release on Friday, September 10 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, and Google Stadia. You can pre-order here