The game's backstory features a near-future world, about a decade after a major mutation event called "the Cull" in the game's lore. Thanks to the Cull, the majority of the population transformed into
Why? Well, while the not-zombie zombies are semi-blind, they do have exceptional hearing and the ability to teleport to the source of any sound within their hearing range. Even single creatures are exceptionally tough for a solo player to kill, meaning that multiplayer cooperation is essentially a requirement for survival. And since loud sounds will attract hostiles, stealth and silence are necessary elements as well.
Although there was just one type of enemy creature shown in my demo, there will be three categories of hostiles in the launch version of the game: Hunters, Hulks, and Shriekers. The demo offered only the example of a Hunter, but Phosphor explained that the Shrieker is a scout that will call in additional hostiles from a wide radius. The Hulk, on the other hand, is a slower-moving but heavy-hitting creature. Apparently a small number of the post-Cull population also devolved into shambling, non-aggressive, optionally attackable and lootable creatures; Phosphor plans to consider how to develop these neutrals based on community feedback. Finally, an even smaller portion of the population remains unaffected by the mutation and is struggling to survive in this otherwise hostile environment: That'd be you, the players of Nether, and you might not get along with your fellow survivors.
About that weapon: Ranged weapon use seemed very realistic with a mixture of basic aiming-sights and a notable amount of recoil following each shot. The weapons currently available are limited to mostly simple melee items, but eventually pistols, shotguns, and automatic rifles round out the player arsenal. These weapons, along with ammo, gear, and medpacks, are acquired from loot caches and monster loot drops but can be traded in-game to other players.
The game doesn't offer strict classes, but player stats can be improved via leveling, and the progression of certain traits will tend to dictate weapons and a preferred style of play. For example, a quick, stealthy, rifle-proficient, hunger-tolerant individual would make a great sniper, whereas a beefy, powerful, fast individual with a penchant for handheld weapons would be more useful as survivable bait whom his sniper buddy can cover. To satisfy PvE players, Phosphor's ensured there are loot caches, mission objectives, major loot zones (marked by smoke), and in-game story elements. Explicit separation of PvP and PvE may be adjusted depending on community feedback.
And since the game does feature PvP, you know command, control, and situational awareness will be of primary importance. Use of the in-game voice chat I mentioned earlier will make or break players' survival, and you'd better choose your PvP battles wisely, as making a noise -- even shooting at another player -- may attract hostile NPCs if you do not keep moving. Death in the game can be significant; when you die, all your carried gear and loot drops with your body, so having trusted buddies around to protect and retrieve your equipment is critical. If you're wondering just how brutal this PvP will be, let me describe a tactic suggested to me by members of the dev team itself: Just follow an enemy player around and wait until he's beset by hostiles, then cheaply take him down and snag his gear. I suppose it's lucrative for the victor! Players who just want a break from all that carnage can retreat to the designated "safe zone," which provides a place for safe trading or stashing loot and equipment.
I was told the system requirements are considered relatively light and that the game should run on any recent dual-core PC or laptop platform, though as you might expect, the better the machine, the better the results. Still, my demo was running on what was described as a medium resolution, and it was quite impressive all the same.
Following the beta and early access release later this year, the game will hit Steam, accompanied by the usual gamification trophy salad of achievements. How much will you be paying to kill not-zombies and not-friends in Nether? There's no official price yet, but my suggestion in the $20-to-$40 range got a nod of agreement from the devs.
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