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The Alters Hands on Preview (It's Wild)

"Alters" from 11 Bit Studios, releasing later this summer, is a blend of sci-fi tropes, light base building, third-person survival gameplay, and a Telltale-like story. It follows the main character after he crash-lands on a distant planet.

Youtube Link to the Preview Video

You can click the link above to see and hear my preview for The Alters as well.

In my experience, merging this many gameplay styles often results in a Frankenstein's monster of a game, with elements that can seem disjointed and chaotic. My time with the preview, however, removed a great deal of those worries and left me wondering just when I was going to revisit my clone ME to see what he was up to.

This game begins with you crash-landing on an alien planet. Quickly you piece together the catastrophe that scattered life pods and left the main base empty is even worse than you thought. Your mission is to gather resources, construct items, build up the base, and find a way off the planet before time runs out. You must stay ahead of the sunrise to avoid being fried by stellar radiation, a peril that comes with the territory in star systems rich in valuable resources, but inherently unstable.

The game creates a sublime sense of the otherworldly. It juxtaposes the claustrophobia of exploring tight, clinical tunnels with the desolation of vast alien landscapes. As you look out over massive valleys, realizing you must trek miles to gather distant resources, the isolation feels palpable, as does the otherwordly presentation.

As you progress, you ponder what changes you can make and what actions might save you, if anything. The story unfolds with each moment of exploration, from eerie alien caverns to stunning vistas and hostile mountain passes. The visuals are breathtaking, reminiscent of "The Martian" and "Moon," with a touch of the video game "The Solus Project" as well as the clean aesthetic in the film Oblivion.

Locations are a major draw here, coming over a rise the soft red glow of natural deposits and the greenish-blue vents spewing resources are both beautiful and informative. The character's movements are faster than expected but still cumbersome in a large spacesuit, giving a teetering feeling as if he could fall and crack his visor open on alien rocks at any moment.

The gameplay is divided into several parts. The first is resource gathering, which, though tedious, is essential. Scanning and extracting resources has a Sims-like feel, with each hour ticking away as you collect organics or perform deep surface scans. These resources allow you to build and expand your base or create equipment needed for exploration, such as sensor pylons or climbing tools.

Construction and base management are central to the game. You constantly balance what you have against what you need, venturing out to gather supplies and returning to build. Construction is depicted through a time-lapse, with hours blurred as you scurry around at super-speed. Cooking, repairing, or mining are all timed, keeping an eye on the clock as nightfall brings dangers too great to face outside and the constant ticking down to nighttime adds a sense of urgency, making every action feel critical.

When you finally rest for the night, you can choose how long to sleep, with longer rest periods allowing for more work the next day.

Sometimes the day ends or begins with a quick call to your employer. The main narrative unfolds through communications back to your base and interactions with your other Alters. It feels like a mix of a murder mystery podcast, creepypasta, and dystopian future simulation, constantly leaving you with unanswered questions.

With some work behind you and a great deal in your future, you realize you can’t do everything alone. With your crew dead, your only option is to create the namesake of the game: Alters.

Alters are clones, created from particularly memorable events in your life where you made monumental life decisions. These clones share basic early memories but diverge at significant moments, leading to variations in skills and personalities. This adds depth to the storytelling, raising philosophical questions about identity and self.

For example, one version of you might have taken a technical job and become a skilled mechanic but neglected social skills, making them an awkward addition to your group. The game handles these dynamics well, exploring the conflicts and questions that arise from interacting with these altered versions of yourself. The voice acting is phenomenal, with the lead actor portraying the original characters and their emotions convincingly. It’s like a nightmare from "Twin Peaks," with each character bringing a unique twist to the narrative.

This characterization wouldn't be nearly as impactful without some excellent voice acting from the major lead, challenged with portraying each clone or Alter as if they were a different version of himself. So far his performance is excellent and while it may be difficult to deliver the leveling of writing I could see in the preview, I am hopeful.

My preview time with "Alters" has been a pleasant surprise. The game ambitiously merges various gameplay styles and storytelling elements, and while it could become unwieldy with more characters, it has the potential to be an exceptional experience. The mystery of what brought you to this planet remains, but like the quantum memories of Alters sharing a meal, the game's elements come together in unexpected ways, some sad, some humorous, and others of a much darker nature.

The hands on Alters preview wasn't perfect; it is a demo to be clear. There are some control issues and preview jank, but these are manageable if addressed before launch. "Alters" offers a fascinating mix of space disaster movies, cautionary tales, and deep sci-fi adventure, all wrapped in a third-person survival game.

If "Alters" can stick the landing, unlike its protagonist's crash-landing, it could be a standout title.

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