After initial previews, Amazon Games’ New World was left on rocky ground and was subsequently pushed back with yet another delay. Endeavouring to make New World the game it promised to be, Amazon Game Studios have been hard at work, and we’ve been given hands-on to see just how much.
It was a bright lovely day in Aeternum as I joined for the latest New World event, one I wished I’d enjoyed while it lasted. Rather than admiring the rolling hills and surrounding forest, that some players quickly took to deforesting, I spent my time watching the time-honoured tradition, of the great press and influencer cat herding as they were wrangled into groups.
Before I could join the number of players in being told off for running away from the activity we were here for, I was whisked away by our group leader into the depths of the Amrine Excavation. This Expedition was the first of many to be added to the game, we were told beforehand, with six more to be added in the future across levels 25 to 60. We were starting off at the bottom and being given over-levelled characters no less, so surely it would be a breeze, right? Right?!
Once past the unassuming cave that marked the Expeditions entrance, that wonderful sunshine of the overworld was long gone. In its place was a dank dingy mineshaft, albeit one impressively lit by torches and lanterns via Amazon’s Lumberyard engine. As the Expedition’s dig site opened up, light cascaded in through holes in the ceiling and continued to look wonderfully atmospheric, but there was no time for gawping, as there was an enemy to kill.
Having chosen to be my group’s archer, with an ever-changing selection of melee weapons in my secondary slot in case things got up close, I was naturally leading the charge. This went about as well as you would expect and I was backpedalling away no sooner than I took the first shot. Unloading arrow after arrow as I ran away did, at least, give me a chance to appreciate the design of the enemy that was trying to rend my body.
Even just being a lowly ghost, hardly an uncommon dungeon creature, it was made to look incredible, with a spirit splitting in two and fighting its own corporeal vestige as in combat and its eventual death. Associate Art Director Sojin Hwang explained before we jumped into the action that they wanted each monster to “tell a story,” and they were off to a cracking start.
Unfortunately, as we pushed deeper into the Amrine Excavation Expedition, the other enemies didn’t live up to this high standard set by that first ghost. While the lost, ravagers, and abominations all told a story in their own right, their suitably drab and dank colour pallets faded into the background stonework and got lost amidst combat particle effects.
It didn’t help that my relentless backpedalling stopped me from getting a proper close look at the enemies the art team had put so much time into, but luckily New World made changing that a doddle. Leaving my team to fend with the ghoulish monsters, all it took was a spot of inventory shuffling before I was fully kitted to get up close and personal with a new addition to New World, the rapier.
Being one of the new weapons added to the game since the feedback from previous previews, this faster more responsive sword epitomised the changes that have been made. Similarly to what I experienced before in our PVP focused preview, the weapons all have their own character that you can personalise through the weapon mastery that feeds into New Worlds classless core design.
Despite all the tweaks made to the combat and all the detail poured into enemy designs, I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed. While the combat is interestingly faster and more fluid than a traditional MMO, it was difficult to natively engage with that fluidity without having hours of experience to fine-tune responses.
However, even after soaking up seriously damaging hits and beaking the gameplays flow to cower by our group’s healer, the combat still managed to maintain its enjoyable appeal. Since our first hands-on, New World has reduced the number of weapon slots from three to only two, so you’ve fewer abilities to use in the heat of combat. Thankfully, the short ability cooldowns don’t make you miss that third weapon slot, and the abilities still feel great to use while satisfyingly stringing them together.
As we continued pushing deeper into the around 45-minute Expedition our linear progress through the caverns brought us to Amrine Excavation’s first miniboss. The general mobbing had begun to wear on by this point but fighting Foreman Nakashima was a breath of fresh air from inside a musty cave.
New arena spanning attacks that were properly telegraphed, alongside a new look to a standard enemy, made this fight properly intense and thoroughly rewarding. The fluidity that was just slightly missing in basic enemy combat suddenly had that instinctive pull in this hard-fought battle as it proved the enjoyable highs the combat can reach.
Unfortunately, the Expedition didn’t end there. After that brilliant fight, it was just a quick jaunt before the final boss, archaeologist Simon Grey, whose notebooks we had been reading along the way. Unlike the miniboss who had just proceeded him, Simon was just a plain old big basic ravager enemy, needless to say, my disappointment was immeasurable and my day is ruined.
Even the enemies he spawned in couldn’t help to spice up the fight as his huge health pool made it a slog, and using the basic ravagers attacks, it was agonisingly dull. Worse yet it wasn’t even doable, Simon made mincemeat out of us as he chased us down one by one with his boring basic attacks.
Losing to the final boss obviously wasn’t the outcome we were after, especially with loot on the line. As I found out afterwards talking to New World’s game director Scot Lane, the Expeditions contain dedicated loot drops that’ll be some of the best in the game at the higher levels. Uniquely, New World does offer different paths to end game equipment, “our goal is to have multiple paths to best in slot,” Mike Willette, senior producer, told me, and be it through questing or crafting they’ll each have their unique quirks and features.
Ultimately, we didn’t get to see much more about how the world of Aeternum is progressing as we were limited to just this Expedition. From what I could see, there’s been some great progress made in the PvE side which was sorely lacking before, even if it’s not perfect. There might even be some plans for later game raid style content down the line, “we have some ideas about how we could take that to a larger scale” Lane later told me “but nothing that’s etched in stone.”
New World is set to launch on August 31st 2021 for PC via Steam.