Alternate Reality: The City is a 1985 RPG game by Philip Price and published by Datasoft. The game is the first in a planned series of games under the Alternate Reality name, however, only two were released: The City and The Dungeon.
The city opens with a short cutscene about a UFO-like object attacking a modern city. It’s strange because there’s no further reference to this anywhere in the game – the rest of the game is set in a kind of medieval city. But hey, limited hardware won’t let us have much space for story, so pictures of a flying saucer attacking some buildings has to be enough, right? Let your fantasy do the job! Or maybe the manual explains a bit more, I haven’t seen it.
Past the opening sequence lies a menu with character creation option. Character creation is like a slot machine: there’s a bunch of numbers scrolling past, you hit a key at some point and the numbers on the screen are the stats of your new character! Faster than D&D, that’s for sure.
I have all this explanation about the parts before the game, because the game itself isn’t really much. You wander around in the city. You can enter some shops and inns and all that to get items or rest. You have random encounters which sometimes try to kill you and often succeed in it. And that’s it. There doesn’t seem to be a further goal except surviving and building a good character for the next installment of the series. I suppose you could make a map of the city. The game doesn’t really give much motivation to play along – no story, no conclusion, and it’s hard. Maybe it would be called a sandbox these days.
There is some fascinating tech behind the game though. The viewpoint is raytraced textured 3D (think Wolfenstein 3D, 7 years early, on way more limited hardware), there are a load of stats that are tracked and the city area is kinda large. But tech demos are not games. If you are fascinated with numbers, stats, and pointlessly mapping an area (there are maps on the internet), then you might have fun with this. It’s not my cup of tea. 3/10.