Dilapidated landscapes of an urban sprawl are littered about with fractured telephone and light poles while rusted vehicles that have long since been abandoned litter the roadways. This post apocalyptic environment is the setting for Rust, er, I mean, State of Decay. Wait, not that… Day Z? Or, um, Nether. That’s the one – Nether. A survival game at its core, Nether forces players to navigate the decayed wasteland to scavenge supplies, especially food, that’s essential for basic player survival.
While exploring the cityscape of Nether, players will encounter ghastly alien foes that only say, “Yes” to a hefty amount of bullets – and of course it would be rude for the player not to oblige. On that subject, other players also show up from time to time and they also require a decent number of rounds to dispatch. Of course, it’d be best if everyone could just get along and work together for a greater good…but trusting that people are going to let you live through an encounter is basically ensuring your own respawn. Of course, you don’t have to rely solely on ballistics to defeat all of the creatures assuredly out to kill you, as melee weaponry is an option, but guns are the finest answer to most problems presented in Nether despite being expensive and difficult to find.
Gunplay in Nether is actually quite impressive, as each type of weapon has a different way it fires despite being exceptionally accurate. Combine this with the fact that there’s a hearty selection of firearms to choose from and you have the recipe for something that makes looting an exciting and interesting experience each time you come across a new weapon. When low on supplies, it’s also quite possible to sneak around foes to avoid combat every now and again, though it does very little to level up your character. Of course, stockpiling important items for encounters you simply can’t avoid is also an element that savvy players can use to avoid dying when suddenly surrounded by the teleporting alien Nethers.
Players with higher leveled equipment can be a constant issue, as it can be a fairly simple task of them to eliminate you and continue on their way. Fortunately, griefing is at least marginally discouraged by forcing more of the titular Nethers after players who repeatedly player kill. Oftentimes this isn’t enough to protect new players from getting killed, however (at least in my own experience), which is a shame as the game gets pretty boring without anyone else around assuming you can forge a kind of PvE pact for no player killing. Wandering around for supplies in an area for over an hour to only find one single enemy does not an exciting time make when alone, after all. Of course, running into few enemies means that your chance of dying is less, in turn meaning a lowered chance of losing all of your progress, but it also means you have very little to do.
Speaking of dying and how horrible it is, meeting your end in Nether returns your character level to zero. Even though gaining levels and improving at specific elements of the game was exciting the first couple times, players can quickly become numb to the whole process, as losing progression repeatedly does. Thankfully there is another level that doesn’t reset when you die, however it increases at a rate that is so slow it’s painful – it does, however, offer small, permanent stat bonuses. Players will also collect a fair amount of money as they progress that can be spent on weaponry, food and other types of gear, such as a mask that suspiciously looks like Wolverine or Boba Fett.
Invisible walls are extremely common, usually cropping up around objects that players don’t even visually touch, ceasing your movement entirely. This causes frequent issues while trying to run away from foes or while backpedaling, easily frustrating even the most composed of players. Clipping into objects or getting stuck inside of something which should have been solid is also a relatively prevalent issue that just shouldn’t have existed to the extent at which it does. Buildings that are blatant copy-pastes clutter the landscape while other structures don’t even allow the player to enter with very little consistency. Trying to trek through any amount of water may similarly leave the player stuck drowning, which only furthers the sting of dying.
Performance issues are also quite common: On a rig with an i7 4770k and a GTX 770, the frame rate would dip from 60fps to the 30s and 40s for seemingly no reason at all even while inside of a building (changing the draw distance seemed to do very little to avoid specific frame drops at sporadic moments), and that’s without turning all of the settings to their highest. Attacks registering in melee combat is also an ongoing issue, as sometimes there’s a brief delay between pressing the attack, the animation of the weapon swinging and the damage actually registering on the intended foe. This makes melee combat a sometimes precarious proposition when low on health, as you can sometimes swing the weapon to deliver the final blow to a foe, but it not die immediately. Instead it will hit you one more time and then suddenly die from the blow you delivered a moment before.
Of course, a server specifically for player versus environment play would be fantastic, as it would actually force players to work together, rather than arbitrarily kill one another for, “The lulz.” While the shoot and loot gameplay of Nether combined with the post apocalyptic setting sounds fantastic initially, when players are supposed to work together in areas like safe zones in order to revive them (which is important to access weapon crafters among other things) but simply choose to ignore that sort of thing entirely and grief anyone they see trying to enter or leave the zone, there’s a problem in how the game motivates the players. Of course, since the goal in Nether is simply to survive, there’s really not a lot to do once having leveled to 20 or so there’s not much else.
In summary: Nether is a game that had, or even still has, a lot of potential. The actual game itself isn’t awful, as the addictive loot system is very reminiscent of Borderlands meets State of Decay combined with the gunplay of an arena-styled shooter is actually incredibly entertaining. The numerous technical issues, such as clipping through an object, slipping into water, getting stuck in the aforementioned water and being forced to slowly accept the fate of drowning to death despite having feverishly attempted escape is quite disheartening considering you lose your progress upon death. Performance can be an issue on many computer builds and just reinforces the idea that Nether is still far from finished. The fixing of various glitches would go a long way in making Nether worthy of its purchase price – especially a dune buggy: For some reason, becoming a passenger in that vehicle may sometimes keep you from exiting it or even makes your held weapon start firing until all of your ammo is depleted…it makes no sense.
The game can be fun, but it can also be endlessly frustrating so…your mileage may vary with Nether. Those who are more forgiving of rampant glitches, or have lots of fun with such things, would more than likely find a game worth playing underneath the layers of technical issues in Nether. As such, it earns 2.5 GiN Gems here. Some folks may like it, but others will find the technical frustrations and constant player killing too disheartening.