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The Alters preview: Death Stranding meets the Sims

The Alters preview: Death Stranding meets the Sims

The Alters has quickly become one of my most anticipated releases of 2024

The Alters has quickly become one of my most anticipated titles of the year, and I can’t wait to experience the full thing.

After spending a few hours with the game, I was reluctant to let go of the keyboard, and found my mind racing with possibilities as to what else it might have in store.

Check out the trailer for The Alters below.

Simply put, everything you need to know about The Alters stems from a single question. What if? Players take control of Jan Dolski, the sole-survivor of an expedition to locate and secure a rare but powerful energy source, rapidium.

As the sole-survivor, Jan quickly realises that he has no chance of escaping the planet alone. His mobile base is built for multiple hands on deck, not just two, and he’ll need help in order to survive. This is where the Alters come into play.

Before we get to that though, let’s talk gameplay. The Alters is one part open-area exploration, and another part base-management simulator. When outdoors, Jan is on the hunt for various materials, some of which require complex machinery to acquire.

The alien planet is harsh, violent and unforgiving, but oddly beautiful in its own way. In the short time I had to explore the planet, it felt very much like its own character - and even an antagonist at times. Jan is like a small flea on the back of a mighty beast, and it desperately attempts to shake him off whenever it finds strength.

As you explore, kicking up rocks and putting whatever materials you find into storage, you’re at the mercy of the planet, and if you spend too long outside, you’ll eventually be met with an incoming radiation storm that rushes you back to your base.

The Alters-
11 Bit Studios

Inside you’re safe from the elements, but left with the cold realisation that you’re alone, in a complex of rooms made for an entire crew, now manned by a singular person. When you’re at your base, you use your newly excavated materials to build new rooms, like storage containers, a kitchen, a leisure area and more. You can also build gadgets and heavier machinery to assist in your exploration and mining, as well as review data logs in the captain’s quarters.

You'll also spent a fair bit of your time sleeping. Rest is a vital part of your survival as the days are long and Jan needs energy to work at top efficiency. Almost every action in the game takes a chunk out of your day, and trying to work while you’re tired will hinder your effectiveness, making time management vital for success.

As said earlier though, Jan can’t do everything alone as while he’s a talented builder, there are some jobs that he just isn’t qualified for, like repairs in the base. This is where Alters come into play, which are essentially clones of Jan that have been plucked out of an entirely different timeline. Jan tests the cloning tech with a sheep at first, and yes you can pet it.

Players must review and alter the timeline of Jan’s life, with the first clone you create being a manifestation of Jan that became an engineer, rather than a builder. While technically being the same person, every Jan is different with an additional set of memories, skills and personalities. All Jan’s are performed by Alex Jordan, known for roles in Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3, who puts a fantastic performance into each version of the character.

It was great seeing how these versions of Jan differed from one another, and the narrative does a great job of tackling the ethics of the situation, and how the Alters might react to learning they’ve essentially never existed, yet do exist at the same time. I’m also really interested in seeing what becomes of the Alters if Jan actually does escape from the planet, as I’d imagine there’d be a lot of questions if he arrived home with a ship full of…himself.

The Alters-
11 Bit Studios

Any Alter you create will just sort of chill at your base after completing whatever story objective it had to do, but you can chat with them and send them outside to gather some materials for you, which is great for saving time. Of course, the challenge comes when some of them refuse to help for their own reasons, meaning you have to find them, talk to them and find some sort of common ground to persuade them to help you.

Again, I found this to be a really interesting concept, as how can you find common ground with a version of yourself who made completely different decisions? Ones you might have disagreed with?

As far as gameplay goes, constructing and maintaining your base and its new inhabitants was definitely the most enjoyable part of the game so far, and the narrative only made things better. I was fully invested in Jan’s story and even though I knew I’d only be playing the first few chapters of the game in the time I was allotted, I still found myself thinking “I'll come back to that another time”, somehow forgetting that’d be when the game launches.

Exploring the planet also felt rewarding, and once you get to grips with surveying, mining and sending your alternate selves out on jobs, the challenge quickly ramps up with more to do and less time to do it. Personally I can’t wait to see what the speedrunning community does with this game.

The Alters-
11 Bit Studios

More importantly though, I left my session with The Alters pondering a very important question, and one that’s at the very core of the game, what if? Whether it be how I spent one of the in-game days, how I managed to get the first Alter on my side, or what surprises might await Jan in the full game, I was left with loads of questions and a desire to find the answers.

Hopefully The Alters delivers on its promises of challenging survival gameplay and a narrative that keeps you motivated and guessing, but after playing the opening chapters, I’m confident the full game will impress.

Featured Image Credit: 11 Bit Studios

Topics: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Preview