Gathering, it’s one of the simplest, most player driven, and seemingly least epic things in any MMORPG. Open to almost any level and gated by nought more than a single button press, this task is my abiding memory of Amazon’s New World after a weekend in the latest closed beta.
With the experience of the Amrine Expedition dungeon, the Lazarus Instrumentality, Outpost Rush and factional warfare during previous playtests, returning to Aeternum as a newcomer once again was something of an experience when New World’s closed beta launched last week. While my last beta expedition to this land came full of untapped potential, Amazon has spent the last months since the last major influx of players weaving their own magic and while some things have changed, others might not have.
Aeternum continues to look absolutely stunning. After several tours of New World, delving down mines and re-rolling starter zones, I’ve consistently lauded the visuals. Thanks to more polish time and Amazon’s Lumberyard engine, the corrupted zones, desolate forests, and abandoned mines around Amrine are all hauntingly beautiful whether bathed in the soft glow of a setting sun or barely viable beyond a dim torchlight. Players who haven’t yet managed to make their way ashore yet will be glad to hear that this inviting backdrop is as easy to access as any modern MMO. Controls are intuitive and paired back, feeling more like Guild Wars 2’s combat system mixed with a more stance based bit of Chivalry. Weapon choice defines the way you fight your way through this wilderness, and the wilds of Aeternum provide plenty of environmental interaction, collectables, and the odd predator to hunt down and skin. However, the easy access to collect, craft, and combat in New World seems to set the tone for a rather aimless levelling curve as we got into the grind of this upcoming adventure.
Players entering a new MMO generally know what is on the menu. Epic zero to hero quest lines await and a narrative that leads players against an unsurmountable foe generally await. Yet, New World doesn’t feel so much like a three-course meal as a bag of pick n mix. Rather than kick off with epic encounters, you’ll barely just scrape by and survive a shipwreck. While the world of Aternum you’re washed up in is loving crafted with flexible progression systems, engaging combat, and an almost completely classless system that allows you to play any way you feel, this wealth of choice is almost undermined by a weak experience that simply seems to leave your very own lost traveller stumbling around looking for a point to it all, heading off on their own to search, gather, and pick their way around town.
While New World has thus far produced a fantastically open experience, allowing players to almost choose their own adventure and explore the world around them, this self-propelled journey left me feeling like the journey into Aeternum left the levelling curve bereft of engaging content. A focused progression from shipwreck to your first town is something that seems to quickly dissipate after the first couple of hours in-game. Make it to the first major hub and check-in at the inn and a huge array of options are almost instantly available to players. You’ll be able to head off and fish your way to an AFK adventure, collect until your inventory is full, pick up community tasks, carve, craft, weave, tan, mine, kill ten rats, or even join a faction. Where this begins to break down, however, is in both the repetition and scale of many of the questing options on offer. Amazon’s idea, to create a series of local hubs where players can carry out quests, fight for control, and explore Aeternum isn’t bad and choice means that right now there is always something to do. The unfortunate feeling I had during levelling was that this something inevitably turned out to be a variation on kill ten rats, fetch ten teeth, search ten crates adventure.
More narrative interludes, asking players to fight bosses or delve into more danger become a less prominent part of this MMO as I progressed, and even the deep lore of Aeternum is left for players to fetch, in the form of abandoned letters, but that’s not to say that my beta time with New World hasn’t been fun. The systems that Amazon has built provide fantastic flexibility and anybody out to explore o their own schedule will love the freedom that New World offers. The stunning vistas and variety of locations are incredible. Equally, it is evident from the moment that I strolled into town that New World will live and die by its PvP content. Local factional bonuses, town tax rates, and rewards for helping out the locals around each village all point towards the end game factional warfare that will dominate the open world. That, and the huge fort battles that raged past me on Sunday evening. After a weekend in New World, more than ever, I feel like my initial trepidation about the amount of meaningful PvE content and the reason to engage with it feels well earned. However, I also get the impression that if you are going to pick up New World, you won’t give one hoot about how comfortable I felt in my first run through the Lazarus Instrumentality or how much time I spent scavenging for another set of ten for no discernable reason because you’ll be sat atop an outpost reigning destruction down upon another faction for years to come.
The New World closed beta continues through today, until 2 August. Find out more about Amazon’s new MMORPG on the New World Website now.