Should I be excited about… Nether (PC)
After selecting a server and quickly customising the appearance of my character, I spawned on a street corner, with no other living soul in sight. I took a moment to figure out the controls and analyse my surroundings. Several different directions I could go in, each as desolate and deserted as the last. Armed with only a knife, and moving slowly just in case anything should happen, I decide to head West. Walking down the middle of the road doesn’t seem like a great idea so I stick to the insides of buildings. I’ve walked for a few minutes, my journey completely uneventful, when I stop;
“What was that noise?”
Nether is the latest in the popular Survival Horror MMOFPS genre that’s been popping up for the past year or two. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic city littered with abandoned vehicles, empty buildings, and a scattering of strongholds you can enter to stay safe from the enemies you’ll encounter; both the titular Nether, and the other players.
As an MMO, a Nether server can hold 64 players. Even when full, though, the city doesn’t feel crowded. The place is huge, which can create a real sense of loneliness and abandonment as you travel. The trees and grass littering the pavement, the rows of cars left in the middle of the road, the desolate buildings, long since looted for all value, all add to the world you find yourself in. Naturally, the players of Nether will fall into two categories; those who want to get ahead by working together, and those who are already ahead and have weapons that allow them to kill the other players.
My first death came at the hands of a player. I’d pointed out in chat that I was brand spankin’ new to the game, and was looking for some assistance. Nether, like Minecraft, doesn’t have any sort of tutorial and instead the player must rely heavily on the Wiki to advance their knowledge. I had decided to see how far I could get without the Wiki, though. When a veteran player offered to help me, I was overjoyed! I told him where I was, and within a few minutes he arrived.
And shot me down.
“Lesson One.” He’d said. “Don’t trust other players.” He looted my body, found that I had no gear to steal, and went on his merry way.
Every time you die, you have to start again with a new character. The new character is level 1, with very minimal gear. You can gain experience and items by killing other players, Nether (who I’ll talk more about in just a second) or, the easiest way, completing the quests you can find in the Strongholds. The map has three Strongholds, filled with traders and parcels that you can deliver to the other strongholds for money and XP. When you start playing, it’s not terribly difficult to get your hands on a parcel, and sprint to the next stronghold. Delivering it safely will definitely grant you a level or two.
That’s what I tried to do when I had my first encounter with the Nether.
As I’d avoided the Wiki and even the game’s website, I had no idea why it was called Nether. The Nether, as it turns out, are a species of hard-hitting, thick-skinned, teleporting zombie-like creatures that would like nothing more than to eat your face. My first encounter with one brought on a sense of real panic, as it disappeared and reappeared right beside me. I flailed wildly at it with my knife until it died. I had only barely won the fight; I had less than 100 HP remaining, but I was alive. I looted it’s corpse and levelled up.
There are several different skill trees you can advance down while levelling up, which cover the expected skills like Melee, Stealth, Shooting and Survival. Every level gets you a single point to place in a tree of your choosing, and each tree has a passive that you gain access to immediately upon placing a point into it. Additionally, at the first, fourth and tenth skill points, you can add a new ability. I opted to place my first point in Melee, which would grant me a bonus to melee damage and the ability to block incoming attacks. Considering the only weapon I had was a knife, it felt like a solid enough choice.
There’s also a stamina and hunger system in Nether but it’s fairly standard stuff. The more you sprint or attack, the more you drain your stamina and you’ll need to avoid taking those actions for a few seconds for it to recuperate. Your hunger slowly decreases over time until it’s at 0, at which point you rapidly start to lose life. Food can be found in buildings if you’re lucky, or bought from traders if you’ve got the cash. Interestingly, if you’re dying of starvation you can’t disconnect from a server, as any damage taken during the five-second disconnect period cancels it.
Should you be excited about Nether, then? I think so. If you’re willing to sink a lot of time into it to learn the best ways to advance and to reach the higher levels of play, you’ll find the game fairly rewarding. At first, however, it’s pretty difficult, so I wouldn’t blame you for being put off by the slow process of improvement.