I want my box back!
I must admit that when I first jumped into the Nether beta, I really didn’t know what to expect. A post-apocalyptic future awaited me, filled with teleporting monsters, players who will kill you as soon as look at you, and a box with a flashing red light.
Nether, by Phosphor Games, is currently available in early access on Steam, which obviously means that the game is not finished. For this reason, players may come across bugs, glitches, unfinished features and such. While this can be a pain, getting in on a game which is feverishly updated by the developers on a regular basis does mean that something which annoyed you during a previous session may well be fixed by the next time you play. It also means that the game is constantly changing, evolving if you like, and the player can even contribute by suggesting new features for the developers to include.
Which is all very nice, but didn’t save me from my first foray into Nether…
Nether is one of those games that gives the player very little guidance when they first step into the game. There is a reasonable character customization section when first beginning that allows the player to set up their character as they see fit, although a nagging feeling in the back of my head suggested that I should not spend too much time here and get too attached to my character as they will likely not last long. With my newly, not lovingly, created character, I jumped into the game.
There does not appear to be much by way of story. You are a survivor, and you must survive. Something has happened in the world and now everything has a post-apocalyptic feel. Oh, and there are some evil-looking, teleporting beasties called Nethers that are killing the survivors. Best to stay clear of them, and other players for the most part as survival will require killing your fellow man and stealing their stuff, something we have all learned from The Walking Dead.
A recent major update to the game introduced Tribes as a way of stopping players from keep killing each other. By joining a Tribe, the new player is almost guaranteed at least a degree of protection from their Tribe members, although for the most part I chose to avoid other players all together and wallow in the paranoia induced by a game where starving to death is as likely as being killed by another player or a teleporting monster.
I started off the game in one of the safe zones, an area of the city in which the player is more or less safe to trade with the various vendors, explore different factions, get some crafting done and pick up missions. The first few missions that I was offered seemed to act as a tutorial of sorts, although tutorial may well be stretching the description as I was still left feeling incredibly lost. In this first-person open-world, the player is encouraged to work things out for themselves, even down to the very basics.
So yeah, I picked up a package from this guy and dropped it off with this other guy, and so on, each time being rewarded with stuff that allowed my to craft my first serious weapon. There are plenty of options for crafting in the game, and scavenging for parts, items etc., is a good way for the new player to spend their time as long as they watch their backs and don’t stray too far from the safe zone early on.
This was where I went wrong. Somewhere along the way I managed to pick up an “escort” mission that would involve me leaving the safe zone to pick up a package. Despite my still not really knowing what was going on, I figured “how difficult can it be?” and headed out into the “no longer safe” zone.
The journey to the package was not too taxing. I found myself sneaking for the most part from one derelict car to another along what seemed to be a freeway of sorts. When I came face to face with my first Nether, it was a little disconcerting, especially because I could not work out how to equip my gun. After a quick melee battle, I walked away feeling that nothing could stop me, complete with some Nether bone which could be traded back in town.
It took a little while to find the box as it was resting on an overhead walkway, but once I climbed the walkway, I could see the flashing red light easily and grabbed the box with both hands. At his point I realized that both hands meant no weapons, so getting back with the box could be tricky. And the flashing red light really was doing nothing for my stealth tactic. So, although the safe zone was a fair way off, I decided that dashing like a crazy person would be the best approach.
So I ran, and ran. I jumped over cars, bounded across holes, and zig zagged between obstacles, all without incident. Then there was a red flash, I was being harmed from somewhere. Another red flash as I stopped and tried to work out how to drop the package so that I could get out a weapon, although I was unsure of what to do with the weapon as I could not see my assailant. And then, my body crumbled to the ground and I was glad I had not invested in this first character.
As the camera panned out from my still body, I watched with slight frustration and slight eagerness to create a new character and get back into the game, using what I had learned. As my body lay on the cold ground, I watched another player run over and grab my package before heading for the safe zone. Was it this player that had killed me? Was it the teleporting Nether who had attacked and this player only happened to be in the right place at the right time. I didn’t care, that was my damn package that I had worked so hard for. Vowing to find that player and exact revenge, I started a new character.
Nether is an evolving game, as yet unfinished and rough around the edges. But surely this is the best time to start investing in a survival game of this type, where players can find their feet and become accustomed to the various features before new features are added. Nether is not for the faint-hearted though. Permadeath is something that can hit hard, especially if the player has managed to spend a lot of time without dying and have become attached to their character.
There is a lot going for Nether at the moment, considering how many other survival games there are. The crafting system is solid, and leveling your character gives a good sense of progression, even though there is a chance you could lose everything at the drop of the hat. The Tribes system seems to have tamed the PvP side of things a bit, which is handy for new players, and the Nether make an interesting foe, with a few different types requiring different tactics to fight. But overall, it is the sense of desperation and tension that makes Nether enjoyable to play, even in its unfinished form.
Nether should be on the radar of any survival fan – the game is available on Steam Early Access right now.