I am a massive fan of MMORPGs. Since I was a teenager I’ve been playing them, starting with World Of Warcraft, and eventually trying out other titles before, eventually, inevitably, jumping aboard the Final Fantasy XIV train. Hell, I even played The Lord of the Rings Online at one point, so I’m familiar enough with the genre.
As of writing, I’ve played over 25 hours of Amazon Game Studio’s New World Open Beta and the first thing I’m going to say is it’s certainly impressive. I went into the Beta with vague knowledge of the game’s mechanics, gameplay, and story, mainly aware that it’s expected to be a competitor against other MMO giants on the market.
If you’re also a fan of MMOs, you’ll probably agree that what makes the experience memorable is the elements that come with it. Story, gameplay and community are perhaps some of the most important aspects of a successful MMO and without those ingredients, the product can feel soulless. But what does New World offer that is so different to other major titles?
After making my New World character, albeit with a rather disappointing character creator, I was drawn in by its stylish opening cinematic which then immediately dropped me in the middle of a tutorial that teaches the player the basic combat mechanics. Eventually, you’ll be teleported to a shipwrecked beach, and this is where the gorgeous world of Aeternum finally opens up. Before running off to explore though, you’re given another tutorial in the form of a series of quests, teaching you the game’s basic mechanics as well as a minor introduction into the game’s narrative.
Initially, I made it my main focus to follow the story, which was being drip-fed to me along the way. Learning about the lore of Aeternum and the Corruption definitely piqued my interest, however, as I progressed through the quests, many of which require the player to run from one side of the map to the other, I lost that interest quite quickly. Many early story quests either take too long to complete or are just really repetitive, and after the first 10 hours, I realised I wasn’t as drawn into the narrative as I hoped I’d be. There are no characters I can point out as memorable and I’ve forgotten the reason why the game continues to send me to the Hermit living by the river in the middle of nowhere.
If you’re going into New World expecting a story-heavy adventure straight away, you’ll want to put those thoughts aside (at least for the time being, I’m hoping it improves later down the road). The game definitely isn’t as story-focused as the likes of Final Fantasy XIV but, instead, has a main focus on PvE, PvP and exploration. This isn’t a bad thing but it is a striking difference from other MMOs.
Despite my feelings about the game’s narrative, the game does excel in presenting a community-led experience. As soon as you’re dropped into Aeternum you’ll be face to face with a teeming mass of players, cities are lively and are filled with strangers and you’ll likely find yourself running into other players out in the wild. This is an awesome feeling. With the world being as populated as it is, there won’t be a time where you’ll feel alone even if the map is huge. As you enter popular areas you’ll see a sea of camp fires, each lit beacon another players personal respawn point.
This is where New World’s Faction system and territorial control comes into play. Factions are by far the most interesting thing about New World which makes it stand out amongst other MMOs. Sure, in FFXIV you can join a ‘Grand Company’ and take part in PvP duties but in New World, your Faction represents a whole lot more. By joining one out of three Factions, in my case I chose the Covenant, you’re able to take part in large-scale quests to take control of neutral standing territories in the world and make them your own, as well as earn tokens to trade to your Faction leader to raise your rank and earn items; controlling these territories even allows players to unlock unique benefits, including EXP and gathering buffs. Factions feel like a breath of fresh air and manages to bring the community together in a much bigger way than I was expecting.
Crafting and gathering is another staple of the MMO genre. For games like WoW and FFXIV, these mechanics are optional and it’s up to you to decide whether or not to take up the hammer and sickle or the axe and hoe. If crafting usually puts you off in other cases, this game’s crafting is really simplified and is easy for new players to get the hang of. Compared to FFXIV, which requires skill checks and a specific rotation to complete certain items, New World doesn’t mess about with such things. As long as you have the right materials and are high enough level, you’re good to go.
I think I may have spent way too much time engaged with these mechanics than anything else, that I even managed to bring almost every Trade Skill to level 30-40 in the time that I played, and the best thing is, it never felt boring. In New World, these mechanics feel necessary and are as important as raising your character’s attributes – you’ll get XP for crafting that increases your character’s main level, even – and weapon levels.
Speaking of which, New World’s combat isn’t the traditional MMO tab-targeting style but instead takes up a much more action-oriented system with unlockable abilities for your multiple classes. It can feel a bit awkward at times and there are definitely latency issues when it comes to combat, so timing dodges and avoiding enemy attacks aren’t 100 per cent reliable – which can be frustrating – but it’s nice to see that change. When it comes to enemies and mobs, they are responsive but all of their attacks are scripted which can make the fighting feel clunky and slow although enemies do, and will, deliver a challenge if you aren’t scaled to the right level.
However, New World’s weapon upgrade system is brilliant. Not only can players choose which primary and secondary weapon to wield, but there’s also an extensive skill tree and dedicated levelling system for each weapon as well. For an MMO to have an upgrade system you’d usually find in a single-player action-adventure game is quite the positive change and by adding this, New World has opened the gates to not only MMO lovers, but to casual players too.
With the good also comes the bad. If there’s one mechanic I’m not a fan of, it’s the fast travel system. In order to teleport to a city or an ‘Achernar Gate’ (teleportation rocks) you’ll need something called Azoth. Azoth is a consumable resource that is only obtainable through completing quests and closing ‘Corruption Breaches’ and requires a certain number depending on where you wish to go. Questing early on can make this difficult, especially if you run out of Azoth, and, additionally, your character can also only recall to your chosen Inn once every hour, which isn’t convenient and for a game with such a massive scale, I found this incredibly tedious. When games today, not just MMOs, have evolved to the point where having easy to access fast travelling is the norm, it’s unusual to see why New World would be the exception, especially when you realize the scale of its map.
Further, there are no mounts or sprint action. Your character constantly runs at a regular pace which means there is no way to speed up. It can take a long time to get from point A to point B and it’s not only exhausting but slows down the journey and experience by a lot. Right now, your character can’t even swim and instead, they will literally walk under the water until they drown. I found this out the hard way.
New World definitely has the potential to be something amazing, but has some flaws. The game is currently being dragged down by its clunky mechanics and the lack of an engaging story but it does succeed in presenting fresh ideas for the genre that I hope continue to develop past the official launch. It’s hard to determine at this point in time whether New World has the capability to survive in the genre, especially against games that just have a better grasp on what they want to achieve. I don’t think it’s fair to judge this early as the game definitely has the foundations to craft a top-notch MMO, but while it has a lot of ingredients, I’m not sure if it has the right ones.
New World releases later this month, on August 31.