I can’t help but be drawn to Steph Gingrich. She was an artist, a passionate dungeon master, and I fell in love with her as she first appeared on Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Chloe Price might have said it best in her journal when she wrote that she couldn’t tell if Steph was the coolest or nerdiest person in Blackwell. That’s part of Steph’s charm and appeal; she completely indulges in her interests without caring what other people think.
When Deck Nine brought Steph back for True Colors, she reached a new level of awesome, still completely throwing herself into roleplaying, but also pursuing her passion for music by working in the record shop and DJing for Haven Springs’ local radio station. The new Wavelengths DLC serves as a True Colors prequel to bridge the gap between Steph moving to Haven Springs after the events of the original Life is Strange and Alex Chen’s arrival in the small Colorado town. Deck Nine once again excels with witty and relatable writing, while finding intriguing ways to involve the players in Steph’s story that do justice to her personality and interests.
Wavelengths has you living out days in Steph’s life over the course of four seasons, seeing her settle into her new life and grow as a person as she confronts her past and future. Steph starts her new job at the radio station as the host. The DLC is set one year prior to Alex arrives in Haven Springs. Your job consists of picking out music, answering calls, and reading and displaying advertisements. You also have some downtime to get Steph’s dating profile activated and swipe for matches to resurrect her love life.
Having to perform Steph’s job day-in and day-out has its advantages and disadvantages. Although it was exciting to run a DJ booth, I soon found myself bored. After I gave up on finding a new playlist, the gig became tedious and I felt like I was just doing the job to complete a list of annoying tasks set by my employer. This is part of the point. This is Steph’s transition from being a nervous rookie to an experienced professional. It makes perfect sense for her future choices. The monotony of her daily life was what kept me from being engaged. I wanted more.
That being said, controlling Steph’s dating profile was a nice reprieve from some of her DJ tasks, and I thought it was a clever way to implement player choice into the experience. It can sometimes feel tedious to read text conversations. But Deck Nine keeps these interactions interesting and memorable thanks to humor and the all too-real problems with dating apps. One time, for example, I realized that I was actually talking to a bot. A few other times, I didn’t hit it off with someone and discovered I had been ghosted. These exchanges represent the awkwardness of dating apps, while also showcasing the unexpected connections people can make through them. I won’t spoil where some of my relationships went, but I found it refreshing how the writers explored common dating issues like miscommunication, while also representing more personal struggles such as identity and mental health.
People looking to find more connections and callbacks to Life is Strange entries in the past will be able discover a lot more information here than they could with True Colors. Before the Storm is recommended and Life is Strange in general before you start this DLC. Steph has a connection to Arcadia Bay with Chloe and Rachel Amber, which isn’t ignored in Wavelengths. A great deal of the experience touches on Steph coming to terms with what happened in her hometown, and it’s done in a way that feels very true to a young person facing their first big tragedy and realizing the fragility of life.
What’s most admirable about Wavelengths is how it stays true to the character of Steph and finds cool ways to represent hobbies, personality, and identity into the experience. For instance, you decide how to craft a song she’s writing, from the instruments to the tone of the break. She also talks about her experiences as a queer person, including her Pride memories and the isolation she felt in small towns lacking diversity. I enjoyed hearing her perspective and learning how she’s grown to become the more confident person she is in True Colors.
Wavelengths is a great actor who makes an already fascinating character more interesting. It touches on Steph’s past and where she’s headed, giving me a new appreciation for the role she plays in Alex’s journey. This was my favorite encore to True Colors. It captured the same cleverness and depth. This DLC is worth the return trip to Haven Springs, especially to see things from Steph’s perspective. There’s a reason so many people have latched onto her as a character, and Wavelengths only further proves why she’s so captivating.
Wavelengths for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S (PS5), Xbox One (Google Stadia) and PC are now available.
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