The post-apocalyptic survival genre has been picking up a lot of momentum over the years.
With titles like DayZ and Rust at the head of the pack, it’s only natural that others want to catch up and capitalise on the burgeoning scene with their own interpretation. Nether is one such title.
Developed by Phosphor Games, it tries to bridge the gap between accessibility and the hard reality of a game-world where every occupant is out for your blood.
It’s a pity then, as it falls woefully short of its lofty goals, and quickly descends into a clunky mess - with a multitude of technical issues.
You’ll spend the majority of your time in Nether scavenging for weapons and supplies in blasted-out buildings, and shooting the occasional monster (literal computer ones, and figurative human ones) in first-person shooter fashion.
Dotted across the decaying landscape are safe-zones – havens where players can’t hurt each other, and you can craft or buy new supplies.
The supplies generally break down into first-aid kits, ammo, and food (which will replenish your stamina, and stop you from starving).
The apocalypse itself isn’t really explored at all. I’m glad that the game didn’t feature zombies, but at least they’re easy to explain away – we’ve spent the last 80 odd years in film finding ways to show how they’ve destroyed the planet.
Here, the main enemy are ‘The Nether’ – unexplained monsters that vary in size and ability. The bulk of them all have one common trait though; the ability to teleport.
While this sounds interesting, most fights with them break down into some of the absolute worst combat I’ve experienced in a while. If you’re using melee, fights typically boil down to you back-stepping away from enemies, wildly swing your weapon about.
When the monsters teleport, you’ll be whipping your camera around, hoping to see them before they appear behind you.
Constantly moving your view around becomes nauseating (especially if you have motion blur turned on), and this continues for virtually every non-human enemy you encounter.
As you kill said enemies, you’ll level up and gain stat points that you can allocate into several trees.
The upgrades aren’t that game-changing, and generally just make surviving easier than it already is (during my time in the wasteland I never once died of starvation). Indeed, your biggest foe in Nether isn’t your ever-decreasing hunger meter, or the teleporting monsters – it’s other human players.
It’s hard to make players band together in these types of games. Why forge a fragile alliance with someone when you can just kill him and take his stuff?
Nether tries to circumvent this attitude through the idea of ‘Tribes’ – factions that you align yourself with very early on in the game.
None of the factions are given an in-world explanation, and exist purely to delineate your allegiance to other players (simply by tagging the front of your name with the title of your chosen faction).
Scattered around the map are multiple control points that tribes can fight over, but having them nets you nothing.
You get faction points for recapturing them (which increases your disposition with your tribe), and the process involves sitting around waiting for a bar to slowly go down, then crawl back up.
Killing players of the same faction damages your reputation, which reduces the rate at which you gain account-wide experience (a level separate from your character that increase overall HP, starting cash, and the like).
This really doesn’t stop it from occurring though.
The draw of killing someone and getting a shiny new gun seems to outweigh the hit in reputation you take, which you can just grind out again later.
There are no real NPC interactions in Nether either. NPCs occupy stores in safe-zones, and stand still behind counters, but they never talk to you. Instead, they just accept packages and items, and spit out others.
What makes this even more jarring is when a safe-zone is under attack – monsters’ screams and gunfire echo down the streets, while Vlad the Weaponsmith just stands there and watches it all burn like some detached sociopath.
A bevy of presentation issues and bugs also bog Nether down. Pop-ups are constantly on-screen telling you that your faction’s territory is being contested, but the location isn’t given on your map (and exploring over 20 territories in the hopes that you find the right one is an insane thing to ask of the player).
Quest markers often won’t update, or even worse, won’t disappear (even upon completing a quest).
Some objects in the environment have no collisions associated with them. This makes it possible to clip through tables, chairs, book-cases, and the occasional tree and street lamp.
You’ll repeatedly find yourself sinking into the floor, and any time you enter waist-height water your character becomes a gyrating mess, bobbing up and down uncontrollably.
This is, of course, when the water actually chooses to exist – sometimes you’ll just fall straight through the map. Sometimes you’ll enter a room and discover that everything inside is at a quarter scale – the doorways included.
Tie all the technical issues together with some questionable in-game monetisation (you can pay real money for another currency – on top of the money you’ve already paid for the game), and you have Nether; a game with bad combat and progression that doesn’t matter.
Given the online nature of the product, maybe they will iron out some of the kinks in the future – but in a market with better produced alternatives, Nether is impossible to recommend.
From: Phosphor Games