Oh hi there; happy weekend! This latest Let’s Chat is focused around the recent Square Enix Presents, a digital showcase in the Nintendo Direct vein that showed off several of their upcoming releases. Prior to the show starting, it was announced that there would be the world premiere of a new mainline Life is Strange game, a series Ashley Harrison and I are both fans of; so, that is the focus of this Let’s Chat. If that is the main reason you are here, you can go down about two thirds to get to our discussion of the Life is Strange news specifically! There was also plenty of other reveals, though, and we talk through those as well, so I encourage you to stick around for the whole article and even let us know your own reactions in the comments!
Before getting into it, just a note that you may have noticed articles are now tending to go up every Saturday here on this site. This is not a coincidence; as I am a bit more busy now, I am going to stick to this schedule of posting every Saturday for now, so that there is a consistent flow of content here but I do not burn myself out. There may be the occasional extra post in the week (I am thinking Tuesdays, maybe), but Saturdays are going to be nailed-on. Right, now that is out of the way, into the discussion!
William Robinson: Hey Ash, how’s it going? We don’t do a Let’s Chat for every digital games showcase that is broadcast, but Square Enix is a publisher of multiple games we are fans of, whether they be Tomb Raider (me), The World Ends With You (you), or Life is Strange (both of us)! So, the 40-minute Square Enix Direct – I mean, Presents – was an exciting prospect. We knew that the next Life is Strange game would be revealed, and also expected Tomb Raider news with Square Enix posting about the series on social media beforehand. As we get closer to the start of the showcase, I was getting quite excited, actually! How about you?
Ashley Harrison: For me, it was more intrigue than excitement. We’ve already seen multiple other companies present their versions of digital conferences over the past year, so I was interested to see exactly how Square Enix would present theirs. Obviously, knowing that the newest Life is Strange game was going to be shown was the main reason for me tuning in, but I was also hopeful that we’d get to see something more of NEO: The World Ends With You. I said to you before the presentation that if that showed up I’d be more than happy with the showcase overall, but even so, the Presents was genuinely so much better than I was expecting.
WR: Intrigue is probably, yes, a better way to put it. For all their faults (and ridiculous naming conventions), Square Enix has an impressively varied line-up of franchises. In this Presents, they seemed to adopt the quickfire-game-announcements style that is working so well for Nintendo and their many imitators, with the occasional interview mixed in to give more context as needed. They started with Outriders, the upcoming co-op PvE game that has you and two others fighting against enemies in a setting that appears a mash-up of fantasy and technological. I’ve gotta say, I was indifferent about this game beforehand, but seeing gameplay has me considering grabbing two friends for it, as it seems a third-person shooter with immediacy and substance that I could really dive into.
AH: Yeah, I’ve got to agree with you there. I wasn’t really all that bothered about it beforehand, with it being an online co-op shooter and whatnot. After that showing, though, I’m genuinely considering it too. With it being available on Game Pass on day one as well, it’s definitely a lot more convincing to me now. Grab a few friends to play it with and I actually think it’ll be quite fun to play.
WR: Wait, it is?! Wow, OK, yeah, I am definitely going to play it then, and that makes it easier to encourage my friends to dive in as well – even though, sadly, it is not on PC Game Pass. It seems sort of Mass Effect-y with the third-person cover shooting combined with various customisable skills unique to your character, and the ability to refine them over time in an extensive skill tree seems very satisfying. It might not be the most original shooter, but that doesn’t necessarily stop it being a thrilling time suited to relaxing with friends. One curious aspect is that the game is a full price release, with – apparently – no microtransactions. It is a bold stance to take, and one that could pay off if they stick to their gamer-friendly stance. We shall see how it turns out, but it feels decidedly retro in a positive way that all the content is their in the launch edition.
AH: The fact that we’re celebrating the fact that it’s supposedly microtransaction-free is incredible to me. It goes to show just how much we’ve accepted that kind of exploration within the industry over the past 5 years or so.
WR: Sadly, yeah… Though, the game releases on April 1st (not long!) so maybe it is all an April Fools and there is an in-game store after all. We shall see.
AH: That’d be the worst April Fool’s joke of all time.
WR: Next up was the Tomb Raider portion of the Presents, so cue me getting excited, aha! Ultimately, it was more of a montage of the series so far combined with some tidbits of info about future projects and collaborations this year. We did already know about the Netflix anime series that is in in development, as well as the upcoming sequel to the 2018 Tomb Raider (with Alicia Vikander returning!), but it was positive to get reconfirmations of them both with all the delays going on in the world right now, especially for live-action films. I am really intrigued to see where they go with it; going by the Let’s Chat we did after it released, we both enjoyed the Alicia Vikander film, and Ben Wheatley (Free Fire, Sightseers, High Rise) is attached to direct the next one. He has a very unique filmmaking style, so it is going to be fascinating to see how it turns out.
AH: I’ve honestly never seen any of those Ben Wheatley movies haha, so I’m not sure at all what to expect directing wise. The first Alicia Vikander movie is honestly probably my favourite live-action game movie of all time, so I’m definitely excited for the sequel. However, it seems so strange to me that there wasn’t a new Tomb Raider game announcement; with it being the 25th Anniversary this year, I’d have put money on there being a new reveal.
WR: On the topic of Ben Wheatley, think very British, very dark comedy style. He has a distinctly quirky approach that revels in a sort of comedic realism and ridiculousness… I agree, the 2018 Tomb Raider film is my favourite game adaptation film too – it was a solid action picture that kept the compelling tone of the modern trilogy. Speaking of 2018, that is when Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the final game of said trilogy, was released. Therefore, as you say, you’d think we might hear about the next game in the series – whichever form it takes – imminently, especially with this year being the Anniversary (seriously, so many gaming Anniversaries this year!). We did get some other news, such as teases for upcoming crossovers with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and War of the Visions Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. There is also an awesome-and-expensive-looking figure and a cookbook in the works, and a newly-packaged digital bundle of the modern Tomb Raider trilogy. To anyone who has not already, I recommend that trilogy, as the new discounted price is incredible value for three phenomenal games. Before closing out this segment, Square Enix had a one-more-thing reveal, and for a moment I did wonder if it would be a new game – but actually it was that Croft Manor is going to be in Fortnite… I gotta say, that doesn’t really excite me much. I’m just not into Fortnite myself.
AH: Tell you what, I have to give respect to whoever thought it’d be a good idea to do the “oh, there’s one more thing” trick and for it to be a Fortnite collab of all things. That takes serious balls, because we’ve become conditioned to expect a new game with the “one more thing” tease, so for it to be a collab is absolutely hilarious to me, what a troll.
WR: Now, get excited, because this led into the mobile-game-section of the show. Stick with us, this Presents was good, really…
AH: Can we just skip this whole section? I think we’ve made our thoughts on mobile games very clear in the past, haha.
WR: Yeah… I mean, I am sure that there is merit to the Just Cause, Hitman, and Space Invaders mobile games in the works, but they get shown off with these slick cinematic trailers that don’t actually show gameplay and are completely unrepresentative of the final product. It isn’t as though actual gameplay was shown. Therefore, there is not much to say about them. Next was a montage of games from Taito, but none of them really grabbed me. I was actually unfamiliar with all of them except puzzler Bubble Bobble. I am sure there is an audience for these (as with the mobile games), but I don’t think it is us, and I am predicting a “skip” from you…
AH: I was so excited when I saw Bubble Bobble pop up, because it’s such a good casual game to play when you’re not really in the mood for anything super serious. However, when I saw it was something completely different to the bubble popping puzzle game I enjoy, I completely lost all interest.
WR: This transitioned into news for Marvel’s Avengers, which launched last year and has had a rocky reception, with the player base dropping off significantly – yet, Square Enix is continuing to support it, and there was quite a bit of time spent on it here. It is now updated for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, and the new expansion is a new futuristic Hawkeye story. This is all free for people who already owned the game, which is nice. I was actually curious to see the extended gameplay demo they showed, as I have not really kept up with the game and don’t know much about the moment-to-moment action, but seeing it in action actually just put me off more. As we were remarking to each other as we watched it live, it seems very empty and clunky, with not much to do and movement that is not very fluid. So, despite the content roadmap going into Spring, Summer, and further, I don’t see myself botting it up anytime soon. It is cool they are adding Black Panther in the newly-teased expansion, though!
AH: I’m fully with you. As we mentioned whilst watching and you’ve just reiterated, the gameplay demo didn’t do it any favours whatsoever. It didn’t look fun to play at all, and movement animations seem to just play one after the other with no interconnecting animations, with jarring results. It was never a game on my watchlist anyway, but after having seen that gameplay demo, I can definitely see why so much of the initial player base has already ditched the game.
WR: The final announcement before the main event was BALAN WONDERWORLD, a magical action platformer. The art style is fun, but this is another I may struggle to get to unless it is on Game Pass or something.
AH: I can’t see anything about it coming to Game Pass, sadly, although Square Enix are definitely one of the best third-parties for putting their games on the service, so I can definitely see it coming at some point down the line, which is also when I’ll probably give it a go.
WR: Right so here we go, the world premiere for the new Life is Strange game, named Life is Strange: True Colors; I think it is smart to lose the number and go with a subtitle, as otherwise people may be put off by feeling as though they need to play the previous games; in addition, it separates the game from the mixed reaction to Life is Strange 2. The reveal of a new Life is Strange was a very exciting prospect going in, and I’ve gotta say it delivered. Before we go into more detail, maybe give an update on your history with the franchise? We’re both very invested in it, but the last Let’s Chat we did on it was back after the Farewell episode of prequel Before the Storm. Did you play any of the other releases, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit or Life is Strange 2?
AH: Oh, this absolutely delivered, WAY more than I was expecting. In terms of the releases of Captain Spirit and Life is Strange 2, I played the former and the first episode of the latter, but stopped there because I didn’t enjoy either. With how much both of us love the original Life is Strange and Before the Storm, I felt like Life is Strange 2 was such a huge letdown honestly.
WR: Yeah, I was surprised how much I liked Captain Spirit, and then I played the beginnings of Life is Strange 2 – it was OK, certainly not at the level of the Max and Chloe stories, but I was sticking with it even through the slightly nonsensical plot. Just as I was starting to get more invested in it, though, I ran into the widespread glitch that deleted your save after Episode 2, as I have told you many times, aha… It really put a dampener on my progress and I have not gone back to it yet. I should, though, as I paid for the whole season… It is just that the idea of retracing my steps for around 5-10 hours is not exactly enticing. The vibe I got from True Colors, however, seemed a lot closer to the essence of the original Life is Strange. It is noticeable that this is developed by Deck Nine (who were behind Before the Storm), not DONTNOD, which might actually be good for freshening up the series. I felt as though DONTNOD may have gotten too caught up in attempting to replicate the vibe of the original for Life is Strange 2.
AH: I’ve said to you before that I prefer Before the Storm to the original Life is Strange, so when it was mentioned a while back that Deck Nine had taken over the series, I was definitely delighted. I think as well as the shift in developers, the fact that the games are moving from Unity to Unreal Engine should provide a further fresh outlook on True Colors.
WR: So, the premise is that this time you play as Alex Chen, who is returning to her home in Haven Springs, Colorado to reunite with her brother. When her brother is tragically killed, a whole emotional story follows as you seek out the truth of how it happened; you always have some form of inherent ability in Life is Strange, and this time it is that Alex can read and feel the emotions of other people. Whilst this can help you read other people, if it gets too much it can backfire with explosive effect. This certainly sounds as though it has the potential for spectacular and dramatic storytelling.
AH: It clearly seems like the most “normal” power yet of a Life is Strange protagonist, yet there’s still that bit of the supernatural tangled within it. I’m definitely interested to see how the power to read emotions actually affects the gameplay when compared to, say, Max’s rewind power in Life is Strange.
WR: Yeah, to a degree – it is certainly different to the previous games, and not being able to control it at all times is going to, I imagine, play a part in several situations. Furthermore, the music, including the song we heard performed in the presents by mxmtoon, who voices Alex, has that endearing Life is Strange vibe and as you say, the visuals seem a step up from before. At first glance, does the story grab you?
AH: From what little we know so far, it’s definitely grabbed my attention, yeah. I wish we’d have seen a bit more context to some scenes that were shown, but I obviously understand they don’t want to reveal too much at this moment in time. The music, like you say, is genuinely incredible once again; that’s an area where DONTNOD and Deck Nine consistently hit the mark on all 3 of the previous Life is Strange games, and so I have to give them props for that. I’m very interested to see which licensed songs are in this game, after some previous bangers like Santa Monica Dream and Obstacles in the first game.
WR: Despite all of my issues with Life is Strange 2, the music was an area that was still brilliant – I just adore that independent pop/rock vibe they strike. Also at this rate, you are gonna get me listening to the Life is Strange soundtrack again, aha; Spanish Sahara makes the tears flow every time. Another departure for the series is that this is not episodic – it is all going to be released at once on September 10th, which is intriguing. It may help fix a lot of potential pacing issues, perhaps; Life is Strange 2 had some issues with slow pacing, for example.
AH: The fact that it’s not an episodic game makes it even better in my opinion, with it completely eliminating the wait time between episodes. I know one of peoples’ major complaints about the first Life is Strange was the 2 month wait time between episodes, and 3 months between episodes 4 & 5, so the story felt slightly disjointed as you forgot parts whilst waiting. Maybe it’s the “Netflix” syndrome of dropping a full season of a show at once and allowing you to binge, but instant gratification is so much better than having to wait in my opinion.
WR: I think it helps to streamline the whole situation. Also, it makes it less confusing to buy, especially as they are also announced the Life is Strange: Remastered Collection, a new release of Life is Strange and Before the Storm with updated visuals! This is so exciting to me; I will definitely be playing this and experiencing the story again, maybe making different choices this time around. It is going to be available separately, but will also be in the Ultimate Edition of True Colors. However, the whole physical/digital split is a bit complex right now, as it seem the Ultimate version is only digital, but there is a steelbook for the non-Ultimate version…
AH: We’ve spoken at length multiple times about our love for Life is Strange and Before the Storm, so I’m definitely excited to see how much the change in engine affects the game. From a visual standpoint, we’ve already seen just how much better in looks with lighting, and if it was gameplay within the reveal trailer, it definitely seems to look smoother animations-wise to me. Whilst I’ve already played both of the games enough to see how each choice affects gameplay, I’m absolutely going to be playing through and enjoying them again, especially Before the Storm. With the release of True Colors‘ special editions though, I’m so annoyed that the Ultimate Edition is seemingly digital only. If I was an Xbox Series S owner like you, I wouldn’t have been too bothered, but since I have an Xbox Series X instead, I’d much rather have a disc copy. As a result, I’m now torn as to how I’m going to buy it; physical and hope there’s a “deluxe edition upgrade” kinda thing available, or just go full out for the digital Ultimate Edition.
WR: You say that, but for Life is Strange I would like a physical edition to add to my other Limited Editions for both the original and Before the Storm. So, I feel as though I may end up buying it twice, as a physical version would not work on my Series S… It would be nice if, as you say, you could get it physical and have the digital version included. I might wait a bit longer to see if there is any more news on this. Maybe they’ll be really nice and put it on Game Pass? Please? Either way, I’ll be playing it once it launches on September 10th. It isn’t that far away, really, and I should be done with games such as the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD by then!
AH: I’d be surprised if they did put it on Game Pass haha, but I could definitely see Life is Strange 2 being put onto the service to help build interest in True Colors. I don’t think they’d put either Life is Strange or Before the Storm on the service with their Remastered versions coming out around the same time as True Colors, but I’d imagine that Square Enix would want to do something for easy promotion, which is why I’m guessing Game Pass will see Life is Strange 2 at some point. Gotta get that Skyward Sword HD mention in there though right? Side note: Come on Nintendo, let me pre-order the Joy-Cons already! But yeah, I can see Skyward Sword HD being the next new game I buy, and then True Colors being the one after that. Either way, September 10th can’t come soon enough for me.
WR: This was not quite the end of the Presents, though! I am not sure if you have gone back to see this yet (your stream seemed to cut out at this point), but they ended with a game from Luminous Productions; a brand new IP, Forspoken, which appears to be a sort of open-world fantasy action game with a focus on quick, fluid traversal. I gotta say that the gameplay looked fun to control with such speed to movement. There was some snippets of combat where you have seemingly magical ways to attack and defend, but otherwise we don’t know much about the story or the surrounding game mechanics, so it is hard to say too much right now. I am going to keep an eye on it, though!
AH: It seems to be the final name of Project Athia, first revealed back in June 2020 (jeez that feels so long ago now). Since it’s coming to PlayStation 5 and PC, and not Xbox, it’s one I’ll keep an eye on for if I ever build a top of the range PC or pick up a PS5, but alone it’s not something that’s going to make me buy a new console honestly.
WR: That is a good point, though maybe our new PCs we have built could run it? Or perhaps by the 2022 (if it makes that) release date, we will own PS5s. By the way, there didn’t seem to be any explanation for why the main character Frey Holland was in modern clothes in the fantasy setting… I guess we will find out eventually. Perhaps that is the outfit that Ella Balinska (who plays Frey) wore to performance capture that day and they just decided to roll with it.
AH: I honestly didn’t even notice that, is it supposed to be set in ancient times or something? Maybe the main protagonist is actually a time traveller if that’s the case, who knows?
WR: Oh, okay, so reading up on it, the premise seems to be that Frey is suddenly put into this new world. So imagine, maybe, one of those anime where someone in modern times falls into a fantasy setting? Could be intriguing. The Presents ended by teasing another show for Summer; maybe they will tell us more about the Forspoken story then. Which other games do you hope we find out more on in the next Presents?
AH: I’ll bring it back to a game I mentioned at the beginning of this Let’s Chat, and say NEO: The World Ends With You. The first game is one of my favourite games of all time, but with no official mention of a sequel from the 2007 release, I was almost certain it wasn’t getting one, even after the HD re-release on Switch a couple of years back. From the reveal trailer, the game style has definitely changed, so I’m definitely interested in seeing more (and maybe even a release date?)
WR: Yeah, I am slightly surprised it wasn’t in this show, actually. For me it won’t be a surprise: I hope that there is soon more news on Tomb Raider and where that series is going; there is only so long that your games montages can keep including clips from the modern Tomb Raider trilogy that has been out for years, Square Enix… Perhaps there will be another of the Camilla Luddington games, or the series goes in an entirely new direction. Also, it’ll be fun to find out more of the cast for the movie sequel, let’s hope Nick Frost is back again! In terms of Life is Strange, I don’t need to see any more now, I know I am in. Unless they would like to reveal it is on Game Pass, of course, haha!
AH: I need Nick Frost in every movie ever, so I fully agree on that sentiment. I’d be interested in seeing a bit more of Life is Strange: True Colors, and finding out how Steph has ended up moving from Arcadia Bay to Haven Springs and the role she’ll play in True Colors, but at the same time I’m also perfectly content with seeing nothing else now until release.
WR: Oh yeah, we didn’t even mention that! Glad you brought up the Steph cameo, it is great to have those links to the original Life is Strange games without them overshadowing the new story. Isn’t there a bonus episode in the Ultimate Edition of True Colors focused around her, too (as well as some extra outfits for Alex, by the way)?
AH: Yeah, the Steam listing mentions that the bonus episode is focused around Steph, so I’ll be interested in seeing her story. I enjoy when games give side characters stories, and since basically all we know of Steph is she’s a huge nerd who pirates DVDs, plays D&D, and has a crush on Rachel, I’m definitely interested in seeing what she’s like outside of that.
WR: Sigh. We’re gonna be buying this game twice, aren’t we.
AH: Most likely, yeah.
WR: Ah well, what can ya do. I am still hyped! I think that brings us to the end of this Let’s Chat. Thanks for joining me again, Ash! Glad to be excited for a Life is Strange game again. Feels like it has been a while.
AH: No worries, have a good one Will!
Thanks for reading this Let’s Chat! As aforementioned, feel free to leave a comment below, whether you agree or disagree with us. In addition, you can read the back catalogue of Let’s Chat here! Have an amazing day!