Nether from Phosphor Games has been available for a while but has since been updated to fix all manner of issues and adds some new elements to its urban survival gameplay. We took the plunge and entered its dark foreboding world and came out the other side more adventurous. With many hours pumped into the game, and some lost, is Nether worth checking out. Take a look at our Nether video review for the full picture.
Today we enter the world of Phosphor Games’ Nether which is available now via Steam and offers a heady mix of urban post apocalyptic survival and first person shooting action. To begin, players are thrust into the game world with little fanfare, you choose a starting male or female character with which you can spend real money on for a different look, or go cheap with some default skins, perform the most basic of customization options and then jump into either a safe zone to learn the basics, or be dumped into the vast world with nothing to guide you. The former is obviously the best choice, although by definition, the safe zones can become more hazardous than the actual open world when they get attacked by the Nether creatures that litter the now fallen and shattered remains of the city based setting.
Starting out with just a basic knife for comfort and nothing else, players can take on courier jobs, escort missions or partake in events that involve teaming up with other players. There’s a choice of tribes to join and a meta game of controlling territories to mess around with, but ultimately, there’s much fun gained from just heading out into the wild and seeing how long your character can survive on their own. Players can search through the wreckages and barren rooms to find items such as health packs, weapons, crafting parts and food, and then balance out what they carry with how much weight they currently have. Hoarding too many items means you’ll have to drop some stuff, which is never a pleasant thing as most items are well needed in some way or another, even the innocuous parts of Nether that can be collected and traded in at the safehouses.
There’s some chilling atmosphere on offer with a transition from day to night and a terrifying element of the unknown. Players can be wandering stealthily or at pace for quite some time with no hint of activity, and then bam! Nether or other human players can ruin your day and come from nowhere. What makes the game so tense is the fact that these moments of emptiness heighten the actual combat elements when they do occur, and the fact that once your player is killed, all items are dropped and stats reset back to zero as you spawn in as a new survivor. There’s an overarching account levelling system which provides bonuses for the starting character but these don’t make up for being properly tooled up with rifles, ammo and sharp swords and then losing them upon death.
With each kill and some actions, the player character levels up and can distribute gained points into various skill trees which up the survivability no end. Each skill is most useful and rather than steer players towards a particular class, are more rounded to suit the overall style of the game. It’s a good system and makes playing all the more rewarding when leveling up especially as extra bonuses are acquired every few levels.
In terms of looks the game sports some neat visuals which portray a ruined dilapidated city filled with the remnants of previous survivors. The Nether are a little generic looking, but with their teleportation skills prove to be formidable opponents when in groups. There’s some neat details on offer here although it’s not the most smooth playing game in terms of movement and often there will be times when players can’t make seemingly small jumps without levelling up a stamina skill first. Aside from some blocky looking shadows the game is visually pleasing despite being quite barren in terms of characters.
Audio is pretty basic but features sound that is very much key to surviving as the player sound can attract more enemies, and the direction of where enemies teleport to is important to listen out for in combat. In this regard there’s a blank audio palette with only ambient sounds for comfort, which actually suits the eerie nature of game very well.
In terms of length, Nether is a game you can sink many hours into and then get killed in an instant from unfriendly humans who turn on you, or a mass of nether which can appear from nowhere. There’s plentiful moments of solitary reflection under the cold moonlight here, but the element of being hungry always drives the player forwards to search for more supplies and thus offers its constant threat of a dangerous encounter around the next corner. Players can team up with others and as the saying goes, there’s much safety in numbers but this doesn’t always work out as players turn rogue or attract larger groups of nether with noise.
To conclude, Nether is a fun post apocalyptic offering that’s steeped in simple design mechanics that works very well for what it presents. The shooting and melee combat is fun, the exploration top quality and the feeling of impending doom captured well. There are customization items which can be purchased using real cash which remain with your character even after death, but for the most part are not a requirement to enjoy the game. The only criticisms would be levelled at a lack of cohesive story and introduction for newcomers, some generic looking enemies and perhaps the absence of varied solo objectives other than courier missions, surviving and levelling up the character. For the asking price, this is well worth a punt if you like survival type games, and with its impressive recreation of a fallen city, proves to be a game you can get lost in for quite some time. The game is still early access at present and hopefully will have more content added as time goes by, but for now in its current state, it’s definitely worth checking out as it continually evolves for the better.
Score 8.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram.