Amazon’s New World isn’t just the latest in a long line of massively multiplayer games to hit the market this year, it’s aiming to be the biggest of the genre to come crashing onto desktops in a long time. After launching back on 28 September and reaching a concurrent user number of 500,000 players, Gamespace finally made it through the queues to begin our review of New World.
As you’re likely aware, New World is an MMORPG that seems to have captured the PC gaming market in a big way. This potentially huge MMO drops the fantasy leanings of many genre classics, marooning eager adventurers on the island realm of Aeternum. Set somewhere around the 1600s, if I had to guess, early pioneers and pilgrims alike are trapped on a rock full of chaos and magic. It’s up to each player to take the future in their hands and find the immortality that awaits in Aeternum for their own, but how you do that is very much up to you. With a traditional mix of PvE challenges, a narrative story, tons of exploration, and a very focused PvP system New World needs to prove that it is more than a reskin of existing genre tropes.
For all New World’s hype and hyperbolae, this is primarily a PvP players game. if you liked Aion or Warhammer but have had your fill of fantasy MMOs then New World might be your game. Sure, there’s a wealth of PvE options to get you t endgame, but once the dungeons beneath Aeternum have been slain, the final act of this trial is to turn players against each other in a three-way faction war that tears across this title. Between now and then, I need to get levels, get geared, find some suitably intimidating armaments, and find out if New World is worth the queuing time that is required.
Getting started in New World over the last couple of weeks has been a trial of Amazon’s own making. Not content with having a wealth of servers, Amazon somehow has one of the most popular games on the internet right now. The result, as any old school MMO player will remember, queues. With a multitude of servers in Europe and the US, I still regularly had wait times of hundreds to thousands of players, making a quick trip into Aeternum a task. Thankfully Amazon has been handling this unexpected success by providing free server transfers, and while that eases the wait time I can’t help but think that overflow and dynamic server instances shouldn’t be beyond the behemoth that is Amazon.
Still, once I was actually in game, character creation was significantly quicker. Unfortunately, this is largely due to the extremely limited number of customization options on offer for early adventurers. While New World does a decent enough job of some level of inclusion, there aren’t options I’d consider missing or sidestepped. From a purely technical standpoint, the present facial and body type features are followed up with no sliders, stats, or configuration options. Where Black Desert Online managed details down to cheekbone sliders, New World feels closer to Bioware’s skeleton selection s during the early days of SWTOR. It’s a disappointingly sparse experience for a game that is, in many ways, graphically superior to the competition.
Where New World does obviously bound off from established MMOs is in those graphics. The monsters that patrol the darkest parts of Aeternum benefit from the CryEngine team’s early work and it shows. Rumors of GPU busting bugs aside, my RTX 3070 manages some impressive returns with a wonderfully visualized and realistic set of environments. The opening moments of New World mix chaotic magic, curses, and an abandoned shoreline with conviction. This is obviously enhanced by the way Lumberyard handles lighting and shadow effects, producing some epic sunsets and dank dungeons that can barely be navigated by the light of a staff. There’s a level of detail in the delivery of New World that almost blurs away the disappointment of the opening character creation screen. and makes this new title a delight to explore.
Taking the fight from shipwrecks all the way into the heart of the Amrine Expedition is, thankfully, much less hit and miss. Amazon has stripped back the traditional hotbar full of skills and moved towards the more action combat-focused systems that really took off with the launch of Guild Wars 2. Skills, like ArenaNet’s aforementioned MMO, are locked to weapons with a total of three active abilities available to slot at any one time and a selection of eleven weapons to wield. New World starts all players off with a basic sword and shield combo, giving a good run down of the stance-based block and bash mechanics that are at the core of melee encounters. While this becomes obviously more complex as character stats and additional weapon abilities are progressively unlocked, the simplicity of the attack, sprint, dodge, and skill bar systems has numerous benefits. Combat and controls are so easy to understand that anybody with even a passing knowledge of a third person RPG like the Witcher will be able to jump straight in and contribute to endgame sieges. The flexibility to change role based on weapon type entirely undermines the more toxic elements of the traditional trinity system and more easily gets people playing together, all while allowing the most skilled player to outshine any pre-saved skill rotation.
That said, I’m still conflicted about the dodge system in New World. While I fully understand Amazon’s decision to link movement to character inventory and gear weight, it seems to relegate all but the most lightly equipped raiders to the back lines in an effort to avoid damage. If you’re used to an action combat system with dodge rolls, iframes, and blink back systems then expect to have to stand your ground or hide out in the back here.
Early leveling in New World is a decidedly simple experience. Mechanically, combat and crafting don’t take much to pick up and the game’s narrative does a great job of pushing players in the right direction. Experience and skills can be picked up performing almost any action from combat to crafting, and as a largely light touch theme park design, New World almost immediately allows payers to choose how to level up. Whether it’s through collecting and crafting, re-running the early PvE encounters, or following on through the opening quest lines, you’ll get to level your way in New World.
For those that haven’t played many MMOs before, this is going to be a difficult period, but given a little foresight and a lot of collecting, it’s very easy to crunch through the early environment without much delay.
There’s even more breadth to New World’s progression with weapon and skill systems. With no definitive class system, new weapons unlock as soon as looted and it’s entirely up to players to chose how to build their stats and skills for optimal performance or group viability. While three active skills and a handful of character stats might seem like little trouble to many veteran players, this is still indicative of the light touch approach that may delight or confuse new players. In the end, it’s largely inconsequential as we’d suggest crafting through a bunch of levels and making use of the respec function in the character stat screen. Assuming you follow our advice and augment your early levels with crafting and collecting, there should be little combat to trouble you until the mid teens and when the faction system starts to unveil itself. Upon entering the first major town in my journey, I found the heavy hand of tutorial quests landed. Things do switch around to a bunch of fetch and carry, kill ten wolves, and other objectives. Crafting systems, clans, PvP, and factions are all introduced, and then players are quickly released to the wild to make their own way. Depending on the player type, New World either feels like a fantastic sandbox-style mix of exploration, open-world PvP, and the occasional faction quest or a directionless muddle with little to no direct narrative.
As one of the major PvE components of any MMO, dungeons like the Amrine Expepdtion are supposed to be a source of challenge and discovery. Like much of New World, Amrine and other early dungeons play light with the hand holding and allow players to pick at the content as they wish. We’re pretty experienced with this subterranean experience by now, having previewed it a length in several previews, and it hasn’t changed much. Dropping into a dark embrace, the lighting and general ambience hold a wealth of trouble for anybody trying to investigate the fate of a famed explorer.
Action in the Amrine, is noticeably more difficult than early open-world PvE, needing a group of any composition to get through the initial encounters. Bosses require a little coordination, but are well balanced as early group content and can be easily overcome with a rag tag set of healers and tanks. Like we noted previously during our Beta experience and preview of the Lazarus Instrumentality, while dungeons provide some challenge, I’m still hesitant to say they are the cornerstone of this MMO.
Instead, the upcoming territory wars instanced PvP, and open world skirmishes between the game’s factions seem to be the end goal, with the narrative, levelling, and exploration element pathing a way to PvP. Initially, New World looks fantastic, and focuses on player preference, to the point where it can be difficult to tell which path to take. That said, it’s a modern MMO with plenty to potentially like, we just have to see how it grows as our time progresses in Aeternum. New World is out now for PC, keep an eye on the official website and here at Gamespace for the continuation of our review as we dip into Amazon’s new MMO.