You may not have heard much about AlternativA, a new game from Czech studios F1rst Reality and Centauri Production that flew well under the radar during its lengthy period of development. This sci-fi adventure sketches a very bleak, disturbing future that should appeal to fans of games like Blade Runner and Nightlong. Its themes are equally dark, exploring such issues as violence, corruption and abuse. Clearly, the world of AlternativA is not a nice place to live, but is it one that’s worth visiting for a short time? The answer to that is mixed. Despite its grim setting, the game itself looks great, and the gritty subject matter can make for a thought-provoking experience. Unfortunately, the actual story and gameplay behind it leave much to be desired.
The year is 2045, and with only the briefest introductory cinematic, the game starts with you (Richard Rocek) being dropped in front of a gate. An android tells you that your employer no longer has any need for your services and takes your employee pass away. Without that, you know you will be unable to find a new job and therefore be confined to the Prague Slums, the poorest of the city districts. Everybody lives in cities now, which are divided into three districts: Slums, Industry and Government, and to travel between them you need an employee pass. Making matters worse, although Richard still has his travel card, it has no credit left on it. That means he can’t even get home, so you'll have find a way to refill it through unconventional means. Once you have done so, other parts of the Slums become accessible, and later in the game you will travel to the Industry District and eventually to another city, this one in Brazil.
At first Richard accepts everything that has happened to him without thinking. When it finally sinks in, however, he starts to wonder about the way the world around him is organized and if there might be something he himself could do to change it. His former employer, Endora, is one of two gigantic corporations that now hold power over the world in tandem with the global government. Money and crime no longer exist, but nor do civil rights. Officially, neither does unemployment, but everyone without a pass is effectively doomed, as they have no possible means of getting the credits needed to live, eat and travel. There are rumours of a Resistance that might be trying to sabotage the system, but nobody wants to talk about it, as people who do tend to disappear.
With nothing left to lose, Richard decides to contact the rebel group anyway, and soon he is sent on a journey through Prague to find documents or items for people who promise snippets of useful information in return. Whether they really are with the Resistance or just trying to get someone to do something for them remains to be seen. Along the way, slowly Richard grows into a person you start to care for. As for the people he meets, they range from corrupt officials and uncooperative receptionists to friendly bartenders and amicable taxi drivers. Most of them are only a small part of the story, but some, like your roommate Andy and a mysterious person called NoName, are recurring characters. A girl named Andrea, who claims to work with the Resistance, accompanies you from Prague to Brazil. It is not always clear what everyone’s exact role is or what their motivations are, so you’ll never really know who you can trust.
Your PDA offers more background details as you progress, but there is simply not enough information to create a believable world. There are huge gaps in the history, and the player is left in the dark about many aspects of this dystopian future. The story itself is dark and depressing, telling a tale of greed, abuse, rape and corruption. It is not a future to look forward to, and the detail in which some of these stories are portrayed can be quite graphic. This makes playing the game not a very enjoyable experience, but rather a thought-provoking one. Such a story could have been a very strong point of AlternativA, but due to translation errors, inconsistently spelled names and leaps in logic, it is not nearly as compelling as it could have been. Richard sometimes seems to know details he couldn’t possibly be aware of, and there are situational discrepancies as well, such as a particular location appearing abandoned for months despite being populated as recently as the day before. None of these issues are critical, but they combine to continually chip away at the immersiveness of the story.
As you begin to explore, you’ll discover a Prague that looks devastated. Buildings are falling apart, rusting cars and machines line the streets, there’s debris everywhere, and a derailed tram in the middle of a square. Apparently the cleaning robots have stopped visiting the Slums and the garbage containers are overflowing. There are also defunct androids everywhere, and the only green in sight is plastic grass. Although it certainly isn't a scenic world, the graphics depicting this desperate, desolate world are nicely done. There is a lot of detail and animation such as running water, flapping banners, and twitching androids. The developers have even added a couple of Easter eggs in the advertisements that adorn the walls of airports, malls and train stations, like a pest spray with a rabbity logo called Samax. Less appealing than the backdrops are the character models. They tend to glide rather than walk, and there are a couple of instances where Richard spins around awkwardly when he positions himself in front of an object.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of AlternativA
Posted by CaptainD on Jan 26, 2018
Great atmosphere, but gameplay is lacking
I really, really wanted to like this game. The atmospheric portrayal of a bleak dystopian future almost rivals that of Westwood's "Bladerunner". Sadly that's where the comparisons to an all-time great end. The visuals are very nice, moody music, decent...
Posted by TrevimusPrime on Dec 12, 2015
Painfully unfinished, Alternativa may be the worst point and clink game Ive played in years. Firstly, the game crashes a lot. This can be remedied by running in as an admin, but the game will still however crash sometimes during cutscenes (which it did...
Posted by millenia on Jun 6, 2012
I really wanted to like this game. It looks good, the cyberpunk setting is great and the plot itself is interesting and full of potential. The game just doesn't deliver what it promises. The whole touch to the world seems very superficial - and artificial (...