Nether Preview: All Is Lost

The idea of being dropped into a post-apocalyptic world filled with creatures from someone’s twisted nightmare, and having to rely solely on yourself to survive, sounds like a really exciting game in theory. Unfortunately for Nether, there are currently so many game breaking issues that it’s difficult to find much enjoyment while you’re wading through the crap.

Nether is a first person, urban survival game currently being developed by Phosphor Games. It’s still very much in the Beta phase and the environment is loosely based on Chicago. The game prides itself on forcing players into a “high-tension environment” where players have to use their skill to find food, weapons and supplies to survive.

NOT SO HIGH TENSION

Before I get into the technical issues plaguing Nether, I need to address a few fundamental gameplay flaws. While having large, open world and relying on other players and nasty monsters to create a unique story might seem like a great idea, it’s really not. A majority of most players’ time spent in Nether will be doing very lonely or monotonous tasks. The world is quite large, and with most servers having between 10 and 40 players on them at any given time, it’s possible to walk for hours without ever interacting with another player.

Nether

Most of Nether looks like this

Not only is player interaction scarce, it’s usually a bad thing. The worst parts of humanity comes out on the Internet and 99% of the time someone is going to start shooting before they stop, press “enter” and try to communicate with others. The worst part is that once you die, your character stays dead; it’s time to start a whole new character, with a few small perks based on your account level. What this game really needs is short-range voice communication, which at least gives a chance for less hostile interaction between players. It is possible to join a group and go adventuring together, but Nether either spawns players in the safe area or a random spot on the map, which requires a lot of walking to find your perspective group (good luck not dying on the way).

The Nether creatures, on the other hand, spawn very sporadically. It’s possible to go 30 minutes without walking into one and then all of a sudden a dozen spawn and kill you. Sometimes the creatures will be in areas that make sense: destroyed camp sites, buildings, city streets, and other times there will be one single Nether just standing in an open field. These are supposed to be intelligent half-demon, half-human creatures but most of the time they act like zombies.

The main reason for the lack of player interaction appears to be the lack of direction in Nether. There’s nothing driving players to a certain area or much reward for working together. Occasionally events will trigger and certain outposts need to be defended or supplies retrieved for the safe zone, but the effort is hardly worth the walk. This could be tweaked with giant world-boss Nethers, or meaningful events, that require a decent sized group to successfully undertake and have substantial rewards. Walking for 20 minutes, picking up a box, and walking back isn’t worth 100 experience and $50.

Players can also join tribes, for a fee, and capture certain areas and outposts in the name of their tribe. Unfortunately, there isn’t much reward for doing so. Capturing an area literally consists of standing in one spot for about 5 minutes as the meter fills up to 100% and that’s it. There’s no reward, no congratulations, but that wouldn’t really fit with the “realistic” aspect of the game. So there are a ton of areas that can be captured and then defended, but with no apparent reason to do so. Being able to fortify and defend the zones could lead to some interesting events, but I didn’t witness anything to that degree.

Nether

Always bring a gun to a knife fight

Despite the gameplay issues, the combat mechanics aren’t too bad. If you can actually get your hands on a gun they’re pretty rewarding to use and grant a huge advantage over knives and swords. However, most of the combat will be done at melee range as players only spawn with a knife and finding a firearm requires a lot of luck. When the A.I. works correctly, the Nethers will teleport around and make fairly coordinated attacks, but sometimes they seem to just get stuck in the ground and don’t reappear for several minutes.

STAY OUT OF THE WATER

…Because apparently the solar flare that created the Nethers also created invisible sharks or toxic water. Whichever it is, walking in waist-high water sucks characters in to their untimely death. There’s nothing visibly swimming around and it looks like regular water, but I still died to it on three separate occasions. So this is either a huge glitch or something that should have been explained before the game started. These are both big issues with the game right now: lots of bugs/glitches and no tutorial/instruction guide.

With the latter I understand that Phosphor is trying to create an atmosphere, but anyone who survived the events should at least have a basic understanding of what’s going on. A confusing tutorial consisting of taking a box to three different locations and crafting one weapon, doesn’t really give anyone an idea of what’s going on. Who should I talk to? Where should I go? How do I buy items? These questions were constantly in the global chat, are essential to having any chance at survival and they could have easily been implemented into the “tutorial.”

Nether

There are literally mountains of “floating” trash

Visually speaking, the game is mediocre. The texture quality is pretty good in some areas, the starting area looks like a legitimate last bastion of civilization, but out in the wilderness everything looks the same. There are a lot of destroyed buildings, cars, dying grass and trash. There is so much trash in this game. The world might have fallen apart, but Hefty must be still making a killing because I haven’t seen this many trash bags in every other game I’ve played put together. Speaking of trash, there are an inexcusable amount of obvious visual errors. There’s floating grass, floating trash, float buildings and various other clipping issues. Some of the holes are large enough to where I thought I could crawl under them, but instead I ended up on top of literal nothingness.

WAIT FOR THE PIECES TO FALL TOGETHER

In its current state Nether should really be avoided, unless you enjoy doing bug reports. The idea behind Nether isn’t bad, but since it hasn’t been put together well it is very much a bad game. Once the bugs have been ironed out, and players are given a reason to actually play the game, it could be really fun. Until then it’s just frustrating and mostly consists of people fighting each other on the outskirts of the safe areas. I’m hoping that Phosphor can make drastic changes before launch and deliver a solid product.

Pros:

  1. Interesting concept
  2. Lots of immersion
  3. Massive potential

Cons:

  1. Endless wandering
  2. Too much trash
  3. Frustrating glitches

Check out the live action Nether trailer down here:

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.