Nether is a first-person survival horror MMO set in a post-apocalyptic environment loosely based on Chicago. The MMO is currently under development by Chicago based developer, Phosphor Games Studio and available on Steam through the Early Access program.
Thrown in to a random location within a city spreading several hundred blocks, Nether puts gamers in to the shoes of a survivor trying to stay alive after an apocalyptic event destroyed the world. With rubble littering the streets and abandoned skyscrapers still reaching for the sky, players must tread carefully as they navigate the urban terrain looking for scraps.
Danger awaits around every corner as other survivors and the Nethers, demonic monsters, roam the streets. It’s a place where survival of the fittest is a trope for the day-to-day routine of being either the predator or the prey. Can you best your foes? Can you establish wealth in a collapsed economy? Can you live to tell your story? It’s your quest to find out.
Life, if you want to call it as much, begins with the creation of your post-apocalyptic persona. You will level up your character much like any traditional RPG, spending stat points to improve not only your skills but also your chances of surviving. Currently character appearance has only minor options available, mainly the colour of your clothes.
Without a big emphasis on character cosmetics, players are left to focus on their skills and will set themselves a part from other players through a unique set of skill combinations. Do you want to sprint longer distances or move more stealthily? Who you are defines how you survive, though don’t grow too attached – if you die you lose your character and all skills.
Permadeath is harsh at the best of times, constantly reminding players to take every step carefully and make every decision as if it were their last – because it very well could be. Upon setting out in to the world, players will immediately begin their hunt, searching for anything to survive with such as food, drinks, medical supplies, weapons, and other goods.
Anything of real value is scarce, meaning players will often search through blocks of buildings only to come out with some painkillers and some mouldy food. If lucky however, players may come across high-powered weapons or a pile of cash – a blessing and a curse as picking up anything visibly valuable makes survivors an immediate target for bandits.
The only salvation from the harsh nature of the world that survivors will find is in the safe havens, fortified zones in which players can trade with NPC merchants for basic goods or stash away items in a global inventory. The global inventory can be accessed by any of a players current or future characters – allowing players to gear up quickly before heading out.
These safe havens don’t come without a cost though, they are subject to attacks by the Nethers and must be maintained or defended. If players fail to maintain and protect these safe havens they can be lost, leaving players alone in the dark. A scary situation as the Nethers are not a foe to be taken lightly considering their unique abilities and strength.
From teleporting short distances to temporarily blinding survivors, the Nether are formidable creatures that make up the core of Nether’s PvE experience. Perceptive and ruthless killers, Nethers will give survivors many reasons to stay indoors at night in a safe, secure place; cradling a rusty shotgun and praying for morning’s saving light.
While navigating the city blocks, players have plenty of abandoned cars and shelled out buildings to use as cover. Those who move slowly and stay low will often be able to avoid detection by other survivors and Nethers, unless they are peeking down from one of the many rooftops that offer high vantage points high above the streets and their hiding spots.
The map so far is quite impressive and a lot of fun to explore, however it’s not without its inconsistencies. Some large, multi-storey buildings you enter have a first floor with no stairwell – which is not the strange part – there’s no signs anywhere that there ever was a stairwell, even though there are obviously more floors above. Odd, but not gamebreaking.
While exploring the city there is more to do than scavenging and fighting for your life. Random missions and events will pop up occasionally, giving players a reason to group up and take on a challenge in return for various rewards. Escort missions and loot drops will often appear on the map offering players cash or gear as a reward for their efforts.
While the developers are adding events and missions like these to give players more reason to team up rather than kill on sight, it’s still just a reason to play with friends more so than strangers. There should be no disillusion about the fact that like many other survival MMOs, this is primarily a kill on sight environment – survivors are scarcely friendly or civil.
Nether is attempting to move away from this mentality however I believe it has been too engrained in the gamers of this genre – leaving only strictly moderated servers free of asshattery. There are activities to take part in, from events to crafting and securing safe havens – however these get old pretty quick and all that’s left to do is kill other players.
The game is still in early stages and therefore has a ways to go but even taking that in to consideration, Nether is currently a game for those who want to loot & PvP. While personally I am at a stage where I need more from my survival games than that to keep my attention, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun if that’s exactly what you’re looking for in a game.
New additions and improvements are constantly being made to the game by the developers, with one of the latest updates introducing a motorbike for players to ride around on. If you like the survival genre but would prefer something more supernatural and demonic over the zombie apocalypse, there’s no reason not to poke your nose in Nether’s direction.
To take part in the Nether Early Access, visit the official site.
Related: Early Access, Nether, Preview, Steam