Long after I’ve reached the close of the Life is Strange: True Colors Wavelengths DLC, I can’t stop thinking about just how well it wraps up Steph Gingrich’s story and brings everything so full circle. All of the Life is Strange games take place in the same universe, and as a character that we first meet in Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Steph is our direct link back to the characters and the events of the first game. With True Colors focusing on the story of Alex, we don’t really get to explore Steph’s connections to Arcadia Bay, or how her history has shaped her as a person. By taking up the role of Steph in Wavelengths, we really get to delve into her past experiences and gain some closure on the conclusion of the original Life is Strange from a new perspective.
Throughout the DLC, we get to open up a window into Steph’s past with cameo appearances from characters like Chloe and Rachel, and see first-hand how she tries to deal with a painful anniversary that relates to the first game. As a long-time fan, Wavelengths really feels like the perfect conclusion to Steph’s story that leads us into True Colors so effectively, and I truly relished the opportunity to gain a better understanding of her as a person. And if you’re new to the franchise, the DLC provides a fantastic set up for Steph, who is arguably one of the best characters in the series.
If you’re new to Life is Strange, be warned that there will be some story spoilers for the first Life is Strange game and Wavelengths.
Memories of Arcadia
I had to emotionally prepare myself before diving into the Life is Strange: True Colors Wavelengths DLC. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this bonus episode was officially bringing my time with True Colors to an end – throughout the years, each Life is Strange game has claimed a corner of my heart, and I tend to have a hard time letting go. While Wavelengths did end up feeling like a proper farewell, I didn’t expect it to make me think back on my time with previous Life is Strange games in so much depth.
A question pops up on screen at the beginning of Wavelengths that quickly brings a swell of emotions to the surface. It’s a prompt asking you to confirm whether or not you’ve played Life is Strange Season 1. If you answer ‘Yes’, you’re then asked about the final choice you made relating to the fate of Arcadia Bay. Immediately, these questions establish that the ending of the first game will in some way affect Steph’s episode when she first moves to Haven Springs.
If you played the first Life is Strange, you’ll know that the final choice you have to make is by no means a small one. Do you save Chloe and destroy Arcadia Bay by doing so, or do you sacrifice Chloe and save everyone in the seaside town? In the end, the consequences of this choice weave into Steph’s story throughout Wavelengths, as we see her struggling to move on from the past. During one season in the DLC, a more subdued Steph pushes everyone away as she tries to handle the anniversary of what transpired in Arcadia Bay. Along with references to her experiences in Before the Storm, we see her try to deal with these painful memories with encouragement from her old pal Mikey North. As someone who opted to save the town, I experience how my choice continues to affect her through interactive objects in the record store that conjure up memories of Arcadia Bay.
Window to the past
Having only ever experienced these events as Max in the original game, there’s something so powerful about seeing things from Steph’s perspective. As a resident of Arcadia Bay who knew Chloe and Rachel, Steph wasn’t directly involved in Max’s story or the eventual outcome for the town. Even though she’s on the fringes of the first story and we only see her for a short time in Before the Storm, she’s understandably affected by the decision you made, and on a very personal level is still trying to overcome it. I never quite expected to think about how my actions would come into play all these years later, in the fourth entry in the series, but Wavelengths really pushed me to think about everything Steph, and by extension me, has been through in the lead up to this DLC.
When I came across a photo of Steph and Mikey playing D&D, along with a note from Mikey that reads: “Thought you might like a reminder of how far we’ve come”, I’m once again drawn to reflect back on my time with the series. I still remember the first time I encountered Steph as Chloe in Arcadia Bay, and how quickly I grew fond of her character. Now, years later, I’m getting to see Steph lead her own story and see first-hand how far she really has come since her first appearance.
By exploring Steph’s memories of Chloe and Rachel, and her time in Arcadia Bay, Deck Nine really fleshes out her experiences and makes her all the more relatable as a character. Steph tries to confront her own feelings about the past, and the moment I hear flashbacks of her time with Chloe and Rachel, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness right along with her. I’ve become so attached to these characters throughout each iteration, and even after all these years, I still grapple with my own feelings towards the events of the previous games.
The DLC makes me realize that I’m clearly still not over stories of the Life is Strange games that came before it, and I don’t think I ever will be. But as I watch Steph gain a sense of closure and have the chance for a fresh start in Haven Springs, Wavelengths really allows me to appreciate how much the series has come to mean to me over the years, and how it continues to make me deeply care about its characters. When the DLC comes to a close, with Steph’s first encounter with Alex in the record store, it successfully leads us right into True Colors and really rounds off Steph’s story. There are many reasons why I’ll continue to think about Wavelengths for a long time yet, but the way it brought my love and attachment to the series to the surface is something I’ll never forget.