Every so often, a game comes around that you don't want to let go of. When I finished Life is Strange: True Colors, I didn't feel ready to leave Haven Springs and the characters I'd fallen in love with behind. One of the biggest highlights of my time in True Colors was undoubtedly getting to know Steph Gingrich, a character whose warmth, passions, and bright confidence had me utterly smitten. Thankfully, developer Deck Nine is giving us a reason to return with the Life is Strange: True Colors Wavelengths DLC – a bonus episode which will put us in control of Steph for the first time. It's an additional story that the team has wanted to tell for a while now.
"We knew that we wanted to bring Steph back [for True Colors] if we could, and once we figured out where she could fit into the story we all had our own little questions about it internally," says Mallory Littleton, senior narrative designer. "How did Steph exactly end up in Haven Springs? What's happened to her since Before the Storm? How have those things that happened in the earlier games affected her and shaped her as a person? And so when we were approached about making a DLC, those were the questions that we wanted to explore ourselves. It really kind of felt like a no-brainer to give Steph the DLC and explore all of those questions, while at the same time getting to play around in a record store and run a radio show."
Wavelengths will give you the opportunity to see new sides to Steph by directly stepping into her world when she first moves to Haven Springs. As a prequel that takes place a year before the events of Alex's story in Life is Strange: True Colors, you'll be managing the Rocky Mountain Record Trader and running the one and only radio show over the course of four seasons. From choosing songs to picking lines to deliver commercials live on air, you'll be the one who gets to decide how the radio show plays out from Steph's perspective in the DJ booth. Everything you can do and the freedom of choice you'll have is all part of Deck Nine's aim to truly make you feel like you really are Steph.
"When we wanted to do a Steph DLC, and we wanted to set it in the record store, it was just too fun and interesting to not go into the booth and let the player push buttons, pick songs, and do all that good stuff," Littleton explains, noting the importance of the record booth in Wavelengths. "We really do want the player to feel like they are Steph, that they are running this show and you're making the calls. So we really wanted to fill that space out into a full kind of gameplay area. And just really let the player take the wheel."
In Wavelengths, we'll be able to gain insight into Steph's views on different situations thanks to her inner monologue, not unlike Alex in True Colors. We'll also get to play around with other features like a dating app, which will open up a window into Steph's romantic history in a way that feels relatable and realistic. "The dating pool for queer folks in a small mountain town isn't very big," continues Littleton, "but we still wanted those interactions and to sort of build up that history and get that understanding of the character."
"And so it became clear to us that the way to get that in there was through the dating app. That's, I think, an increasingly common way that people in the real world meet and interact with each other, so we wanted to replicate those experiences in the game," Littleton adds. "And then also, you know, this was made during a pandemic, and we wanted to keep Katy [Bentz] safe. So the dating app allowed us to include that content that we thought was so fun and important, while making sure everyone could stay safe and healthy."
Along with the dating app, the team at Deck Nine decided to include features that will draw you into Steph's experiences and allow you to steadily learn more about her and her past. As Littleton explains, these smaller interactions really let Steph's personality shine through and let us get to know her in a more in-depth way. "We have a lot of different kinds of content available to players in this DLC, which we're very excited about, like the dating app," says Littleton. "In the main game, it might be called 'side content', but we really wanted to focus the DLC around those smaller interactions. To let players get inside Steph's head, hear her VOs, her thoughts, and how she just reacts; those little moments, we really love those. And so we tried to build as many of those into the DLC as we could."
The Life is Strange series has always been complemented by some truly stellar soundtracks, and I couldn't think of anything more fitting than a music-centric DLC to add to the True Colors experience. Marrying Steph's appreciation for music with the series' own love for a great track, the music in Wavelengths will help tell Steph's story as you DJ the radio show. "We wanted the music to really help tell that story in a very active way," Littleon explains, "and it holds hands really nicely with the whole radio DJ role. We're very excited about it."
Flip to the B-side
Actor Katy Bentz relished the opportunity to reprise her role, and to again play "a character that is just really true to herself", using the smaller interactions written into Wavelengths to add more layers to Steph. "Coming into True Colors and then into Wavelengths, there's just so much more about her that it's really exciting for the fans to be able to explore," says Bentz. "And as an actor, that was exciting for me to be able to explore. I remember being able to do the first emotional scene with Steph in True Colors, and I was like, 'This is amazing!'. I get to experience sadness with Steph, which I've never been able to experience before, like true true sadness. And that was the first time that I was really excited to dive in deep with this character."
Littleton, who worked on Before the Storm, was also eager to delve deeper into a character who is "so unabashedly herself", along with the rest of the writing team who jumped at the chance to do more with her character in True Colors and Wavelengths. "If I think back to Before the Storm, when we first started writing Steph's very first lines, she felt like a fully formed character to the whole writing team almost immediately in a way that's really unique," Littleton says. "We were just so excited to give her more lines and more content and a much larger role in the story. And for the DLC, getting to shift that even further and get even more into her psychology and her thought processes, it was just super fun and really rewarding."
Since the release of True Colors, Bentz has seen first-hand just how much love there is for Steph. The actor has been floored by the response so far and can't wait to see players react to Wavelengths when it launches on September 30. "It's just been incredible," says Bentz. "I had no idea really what to expect. And it's just like, I'm just getting flooded with so much love. And it's awesome to see everybody, all the fans, give all of this love and recognition to everybody who was involved. You know, from Square [Enix] to Deck Nine, the actors, and it's just really, really heart-warming to see it all."
"Finding out that she was going get a DLC was just so exciting for me," Bentz adds. "Because I was excited for the fans, because the fans really love Steph, and they wanted to see more of Steph. They connected with her so much, so the fact that Deck Nine created a whole DLC revolving around her is just so awesome. And I'm so pumped for everybody to play it."
Life is Strange: True Colors Wavelengths is out on September 30, 2021.