Having been dealt a blow by the launch (and subsequent un-launch) of Crucible earlier this year, Amazon Game Studios are still looking for their first breakout success. With another of their projects, Breakaway, having been cancelled, New World is the last of those three games Amazon announced way back in 2016. It’s also by far the most promising.
This week we’ll be getting a much closer look at this magic-infused, alternate history MMO with a slew of reveals planned. However, ahead of this preview week, we were able to go hands on with New World and one of its landmark features – the 50 versus 50 War mode.
Before we dive into that, let’s backtrack just a little bit. For those who have absolutely no clue what New World is, it’s an online role playing game for PC with action-heavy combat set on the isle of Aeternum. This is the colonialist 17th century, but not as you know it as settlers find themselves washed up on the perilous shores of a realm steeped in darkness and corruption.
Players will battle against the ancient guardians protecting Aternum as well as those evil denizens drawn to it with a lust for arcane power. Caught in the middle, you and your allies will venture out into the world while also forming Companies, building settlements, and helping them develop in a persistently changing world. A New World.
There are plenty of elements at work here that will be instantly familiar to those with a fondness for MMOs. Amazon Games (formerly Double Helix) is composed of veterans who have worked on hits such as Destiny, Diablo, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft, with their influence being felt in the design of New World.
The minute to minute gameplay is action focused and has you combining melee and ranged attacks with powerful spells, depending on how you’ve specced your character. Combat is purely weapon-based and you’ll earn experience, skills, and abilities only by using what you have equipped.
The fighting is fun and active without the often overbearing clutter of most MMOs. You’ll only have to memorise a handful of different powers for each weapon, but there’s plenty of depth when it comes to selecting passive skills, then the crafting and upgrading of the weapons themselves.
From what we could gather, most of your time spent in New World will fluctuate between managing a settlement and venturing into the wider world of Aeternum. Players can band together, creating a Company, and then claim a territory they can build on. By interacting with NPCs and fulfilling town projects, these settlements will then grow to house bigger and better facilities such as advanced crafting and vendor stations.
Aeternum’s boundaries won’t remain static forever though. Rival Companies can besiege one another in a bid to expand their territory and this is where players can participate in Wars.
These epic siege battles pit 50 attackers against 50 defenders, the winner seizing or retaining a contested territory. These PvP conflicts will help shape Aerternum and shift some of the game’s focus away from the pure PvE questing we associate with most MMOs.
Wars don’t just happen, they’re arranged ahead of time with participating players signing up before the siege is triggered and then being transported to a massive battlefield. Once preparations have been made, the attackers are unleashed and have thirty minutes to capture an initial cluster of control points before having to breach the castle walls and try to drive out the opposing faction.
Competitive modes in most MMO are pretty hard to crack. Having dabbled in dozens of these online games, this is one area I usually ignore as it can require a completely different mindset and an advanced knowledge of how all the classes and their skills work in a PvP environment. New World immediately feels more straightforward thanks to its focus on action, much more akin to a massive online shooter.
On the attacking side, we outfitted our character with three weapons which could be switched at any time including a musket, bow, and warhammer. In the initial skirmish we adopted a sniper role, using the musket’s associated skills to fire supercharged shots, boost our firing accuracy, and even play dead when approached by ambushing defenders. As the battle raged on, we switched to the slower yet more versatile bow, before taking the warhammer in both hands to help our team mates smash down the castle walls.
As this was happening, players on both teams spent resources to deploy war machines and siege weapons such as repeating cannons, ballistae, and pitch cauldrons. Although the battle was manic, it wasn’t too hard to tell which side was winning and the strategies at work. That said, with this being our first taste of New World’s War mode, it was hard to get a sense of how these battles are meant to flow or how they’d look with a group of co-ordinated players on both sides as opposed to a gaggle of greenhorn press and influencers.
Amazon have a lot riding on New World and it’s clear they aren’t keen to rush this game out of the door any time soon. Originally planned for May 2020, then pushed back to August, it will now be launching early next year. From what we’ve played, there’s a mix of experimental design choices at play here backed by the kind of polish you’d expect from a AAA game. The persistent game world and player-run settlements are what fascinate us most though we’ve yet to really gel with how New World plays. It’s perhaps too limited in the combat options it gives you for individual weapons, relying on players to juggle every tool in their arsenal in order to keep battles (both PvP and PvE) feeling fresh and dynamic.