Alterium Shift Preview – Heartfelt Homage

We’re currently in a remarkable era of gaming. There are many innovative titles that redefine genres and pay tribute to the classics. Regardless of your preferences, you’ll surely find something that caters to your specific interests. RPG enthusiasts have been treated to an abundance of options. The drass_ray-developed Alterium Shift stands out as a nostalgic nod to beloved classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. I had the opportunity to play a beta version of the game, and I found enjoyment in the beautiful adventure it offers, despite some frustrations with the progression.

Alterium Shift has players choose between one of three characters as the protagonist, though the other two will still appear in the story. Pyra is a spear-wielder and the group leader, coming off as cold with a no-nonsense attitude. Atlas is an archer who excels at his craft yet isn’t exactly a conversationalist. Lastly, Sage knows how to utilize this world’s mana equivalent, known as Alterium Essence, but their ego is quite hefty, to say the least.

While I’m not especially far into the journey, the meaning of choosing a different protagonist is immediately noticeable. The character you choose is silent but has a clear personality, illustrated by how the rest of the cast refers to them. Further, you’re given several conversation choices, helping shape the relationship with party members and crucial story characters. A pretty interesting balance is sustained here between the pre-established facets of characterizations and how you wish to see them develop.

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Alterium Shift is also quite confident in its world-building. Right from the beginning hours, you have access to a library housing books delving into the basics of this world’s history and features. And this isn’t just flavor text either, since you’re tested on specific details of those books soon afterward during the main story.

Granted, you don’t need to know the world’s history in order to progress, but attentive players are rewarded. The combat system is as classic as you can get, though. The later hours may increase complexity, but it’s been a relatively to-the-point health and magic system hearkening to the genre’s roots.

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The presentation doesn’t need any particular emphasis; a quick glance at it should reveal any inspirations. Pixel-style games in the modern age aren’t novel anymore, but that also means that, at least in the realms of familiarity, they’re approaching the same levels as next-generation defining experiences. So, while Alterium Shift hasn’t amazed me in the same way as earlier pixel games have solely due to the genre’s sheer quantity, that doesn’t mean the design should be overlooked.

However, as much as I’ve been enjoying my time playing, traveling to previously explored areas can be needlessly cumbersome. Since there’s currently no fast travel system, going out of town for a few minor sidequests and returning can take five to ten minutes, depending on the distance. Thankfully, there are plans to implement a traversable version of the map, so this grievance will likely be remedied by release. I also encountered a few bugs that have been primarily minor, like cosmetic oddities. Unfortunately, the most pressing of these problems was my save data getting erased following an update, but that’s to be expected given the early access state.

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Alterium Shift is shaping up to be a dense enjoyable throwback RPG that understandably needs polish and has a few kinks to iron out. Its strongest traits are easily the writing and worldbuilding, which makes up a bulk of this early build. Further, the combat system offers a refreshingly simple system that provides a nice dose of nostalgia. I’m really looking forward to seeing what collective result ultimately bears fruit from this team.

Alterium Shift is available now on Steam Early Access.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.