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Alterium Shift Early Access Review – Promising JRPG

Alterium Shift is a 2.5D JRPG developed by Drattzy Games and published by Gravity Game Arise. It launched on Steam early access on July 6, 2023, and features three branching story arcs, turn-based combat, side quests and fishing! Despite being in early access, there’s plenty of content with three main characters with unique stories and is a visual throwback to 90’s JRPGs like Chrono Trigger.

The story of Alterium Shift is set in the fantasy world of Alteria, which is recovering from a long and brutal war with the Dark Elves. The people of Alteria have discovered special amulets that allow them to shift between different realms, and they hope to use these amulets to restore balance and prevent all worlds from destruction. Once you gain the amulet, the story got much more engaging. We first start in the small town of Summiton where we need to choose between three characters – Atlas, Pyra or Sage.

I started a new game with Pyra who had a mix of melee and spells, and each character has their own unique personality and story arc. The starting quests are quite mundane initially with simple fetch quests but thankfully these are over relatively quickly. They helped me learn the town layout and a small section of the larger world map. Player choices will affect the outcome of the game though we aren’t able to play through the full story yet as the game is still in early access.

The gameplay of Alterium Shift is classic for most isometric JRPGs. Starting in town, we can move around the streets, pick up flowers and chickens (which is tied to a side quest), and there’s an overworld map. On the map you can see fishing locations as well as lands further away showing other villages and caves to visit. As you travel from one area to the next, the locations feel much bigger than they look on the map but can be confusing too. You will be following a path that you think takes you east, which ends up winding south. Sometimes there are signposts which are helpful but other times it’s trial and error.

Alterium Shift has a unique save game system that is attached to each of the three characters. This allows you to jump back and forth between character saves and make changes to the world that is beneficial for all of your characters. Where each character can influence the world is with their special abilities. Pyra uses a spear to smash through boulders, Atlas is an archer and can shoot across chasms, and Sage is an essence mage. This allows each character to open areas that the others cannot access which can contain hidden treasures and other story-based elements.

As you are running around the forest areas, you will come across monsters roaming an area. You can try go around them or engage them in combat. While other times monsters can jump out at you from behind bushes. Combat is turn-based with a turn-order at the top of the screen allowing you to plan attacks, use items or guard yourself from the next attack. However, one big issue is that you cannot see the health of your opponents. All you can do is remember how many hits it takes to kill a monster type and remember it for next time.

Similarly, there is no quest log or journal in the game which got frustrating. There will be a red icon on the map but you may not remember what you need to do there, or if you had to collect items first. I would run around talking to npcs to try remember who gave me the quest , and then hope they had an option to remind me of what to do. Often they would just say something like “have you done what I asked?”. It would be much better to have a journal, even if it’s just simple dot points.

I don’t play many JRPGs, but the graphics of Alterium Shift are reminiscent of some 2D pixel art games I played in the 90s which has a certain nostalgic charm. When the game switches to combat, we get a slightly different view of the characters and both humans and monsters are well animated. The music is atmospheric and fitting for the game’s setting, and the sound effects match the on-screen action, especially when you fire off a full burst attack.

Overall, Alterium Shift is a solid JRPG with a lot of potential for an early access title. The story is engaging so far leaving you wanting more, and the gameplay is fun. Some quality-of-life updates like a journal and seeing the enemy health bars would be beneficial. I look forward to seeing the game grow over the early access period.

This review utilised a key provided by the publisher and Alterium Shift is available now on Steam early access.


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