Nether First Impressions: The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. MMO You Always Wanted
[Disclosure: A preview code was provided for the contents of this article]
The Early Access game, Nether, is still trucking through the development process, but the team behind the game are looking for a little exposure and coverage for their online-multiplayer, open-world, modern-survival game. Quite naturally, I'm a bit inclined to spread a little lovin' to anything remotely similar to DayZ, so it didn't take much goading to get me to hop into the game.
Nether is a bit of a mixed bag as far as the description goes. It is and yet is not quite like the standard MMO... I would surmise it like DayZ: There are servers you join with up to 64 players, and you may or may not make friends with them, or may or may not make enemies out of them. It's a survival game... anything goes.
The biggest difference between Nether and close competitors like 7 Days To Die or Rust, is that you don't get any of the emergent terraforming or domestic crafting abilities. Nether is more about the back and forth struggle between the mutants and the survivors/rangers/mercenaries. Oh yeah, and it even though it has a one-time fee, it has microtransactions... but I didn't delve deep enough into them to see if it was anything beyond cosmetics, so I'll have to further look into it.
Nevertheless, much like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or DayZ, the game does permit for permadeath, or rather, it enforces permadeath. Whatever you build up, gather, acquire, equip or modify on your character is lost upon death. So it should go without saying that you don't want to die.
After immediately spawning into the game and walking a few feet, I died.
Nether is as unforgiving as the early days of the DayZ mod. It might be a sniper across the street that picks you off, or it might be a teleporting mutant that grabs you up and eats you for breakfast. There's no guarantee in the game once you click the start button.
Now you might think this sounds more like Dean “Rocket” Hall's or Garry's open-world survival games, but the atmosphere, the tone, the scavenging setup is almost similar to what you would find in previous S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. There is a day and night shift, there are also random events that occur throughout the zone, and much like its Ukrainian counterpart, there are safe zones for trading, crafting or making friends (or enemies).
And while a bunch of gamers are excited about the possibility of DayZ or Rust finding their way onto the new generation home consoles, realistically Nether is the game that could most easily make the jump. Why? The controls are extremely simple and everything can be easily mapped to the Xbox 360's controller. Move, activate, shoot, crawl, run and jump. That's about the basic gist of the controls. You have an inventory key and a map button. Easy peasy. The graphics aren't terribly demanding either, as the game sports decent enough visuals on the old DX9 renderer. In simple terms, this could very well run on the Xbox 360 with nary a hitch in performance.
As far as the gameplay goes, it's very interesting. While I didn't spend a lot of time in the game, I spent enough time gathering up just over $40, some food and shotgun and pistol parts.
I never made it to the safe zone to craft the items I gathered, because after fleeing from a pack of teleporting mutants by weaving through a torrent of broken-down cars, and utilizing footsie skills to out-maneuver a baddie by jumping on top of a dumpster and skedaddling through a fenced off parking lot, I ended up on the main street toward the safe zone only to find a heavily armored player with an assault rifle shooting at me from down the street. While I managed to take cover and assume the run and flee tactic, oh-so-common to the DayZ experience, after running through the debris-filled vehicles on the side of the road and peeping out from behind a decrepit bus stop bench, I found out that my assailant had flanked my side and properly put several rounds into my body as I turned to flee down the street, leaving my limp corpse in front of one of the many, and yet equally dead, cars littering the once bustling city streets.
Prey or pray.
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