With Amazon’s previous game, Crucible, laying face down in a puddle blowing bubbles alongside The Grand Tour Video Game, Bezos’ dreams of a video game empire are rather falling short. Yet, up Bezos’ money-lined sleeves remains one ace left yet to slam down triumphantly onto the gaming table: New World.
New World, for those not in the know, is Amazon Game Studios’ soiree into the realm of Massively Multiplayer Gaming. With a history of weak releases from Amazon, not to mention the graveyard of past MMO’s in the genre, all eyes are on New World to see if can live up to and alongside the longstanding titan that is World Of Warcraft.
If we’d been asked to predict just that a few months ago, the answer would’ve likely been a hard “no”. While I wasn’t lucky enough to play the game myself at that time, we had repeated reassurance throughout our preview that the game’s recent delay was to bring in more content, a crucial focus point for any MMO squaring up against Blizzard’s 20-year behemoth.
“We kept seeing the same feedback”, the game’s development leads told us. “All the players loved the game. The feedback was coming in so positive in the alpha. They wanted more.” Now we’ve had some time hands on, New World is shaping up to be a more complete experience.
Alongside more quests and grand complex boss battles on the docket to be included in the full release, was the impressive 50vs50 War mode that I was invited to take part in for this preview. These grand late-game battles are waged by the game’s Companies, aka factions, for territory control. You’ll fight to claim settlements that can be developed and taxed to bring in revenue.
Beyond the unending joys of taxation, the game’s settlements are a vital element in crafting powerful equipment. New Worlds crafting systems are exceedingly in depth; resources don’t only need to be gathered, but also refined in settlements to be crafted optimally. If being a productive crafter and developing the settlement is not your thing however, you’re also able to buy player owned housing in towns, so there’s plenty to war over!
War isn’t just all about the main event: “There’s also a really fun precursor to the war called the influence race” revealed Head of Player Experience, David Verfaillie. In this lead up to war, the other two factions in the game compete through PVP missions for the chance to declare war. “I think that combination of the race into it, and then the actual war, really plays well into this whole idea of the territory, metagame and the control.”
With myself and 99 other assorted press and influencers bundled into a settlement, we were given a brief window to explore while everyone signed up to do battle at the town’s War Board. With so many players waiting around, it didn’t take long for the gaggle of invitees to descend into utter MMO lobby chaos. Players were dueling left and right, while others held synchronized dance parties, all while huge plumes of smoke billowed around from others testing out their abilities.
Amidst the chaos of everyone trying to figure out the controls and/or kill each other, there was thankfully time to marvel at the sights and sounds of everyone’s abilities going off. The cacophony of magical abilities spewing around was sublime. From arcane meteors crashing into the earth, to the dome shields that distort and muffle deflected attacks, the attention to detail throughout the MMO’s effects pipeline is nothing short of remarkable.
Set in the Age of Exploration, New World has a wonderful style that blends the magical and cavalier together. “Aeternum, it’s this island that is kind of is lost in time… [This is] one thing you’re going to see as we add more content to the game,” Verfaillie explained. With ancient Roman influences already having been teased, alongside it’s fantastically corrupted world, New World has a lot to show for itself.
It may only be a matter of time before New World brings in enough to venture towards peak MMO with rainbow mounts and flaming skulls, but till then we’re already looking at a remarkably polished experience. Both in visuals and core gameplay, New World feels finished already, giving us great hope for the final release, especially with the additional sweep of polish given during the delay.
As time drew on and players started to realise they’d run out of ammo, something rather useful when it comes to a war, we were eventually whisked off to The Fort, a staging area to discuss tactics. The rabble of press and influencers was far from tactically unified, with most spinning in circles waiting for the war to properly kick off.
“The bigger companies, which are our guilds, had discord channels and they actually created plans where they assigned which team would go to which door. So you definitely see a lot more strategy evolve over time,” Verfaillie said. Unlike the disorganized mess of the uninitiated tackling late-game activities, New World veterans will be able to benefit from properly thought-out strategies. However, that didn’t apply to us.
Unfortunately, while the developers had tried to keep us with some tactics in mind, all that went out the window the moment the barrier dropped and we charged into battle. In an instant the fort descended into chaos, Siege weaponry was being hastily constructed, while players sniped, fireballed and stabbed each other all around.
Thankfully despite our eagerness for the fight, we weren’t doing everything wrong descending into a glorious chaotic brawl. “There is always a little bit of element of chaos in it,” Verfaillie, said, thankfully justifying our bloodlust. “And I think, in some ways we want to embrace that part of war also because we have different ways that you can PVP where it isn’t quite as chaotic. So, there will be a little bit, but it gets better as you get more advanced.”
The overwhelming visuals of the pre-war lobby had returned in full force as team lines blurred. Dramatic explosions and abilities fired off adding to the visual confusion to create an incredibly intense ballet of death around the nodes prior to assaulting the fort proper.
After our attacking forces captured the camps and pushed towards the fort, some semblance of tactics thankfully returned. Smaller fights broke out at the gates, leading to great moments of focused sword and gunplay that highlighted the abilities strengths across different loadouts. The combat felt impressively precise, with swords and shots needing to connect properly, making every kill feel earned.
Before we could muster the troops with a rousing speech and go over tactics one last time, it was all too late. The defending team had held their ground, and our suicidal lemmings approach had yielded very few results after clattering through the forts initial defences. Amidst the failure and chaos however, the war had been a great deal of fun.
With territorial war being in the latter stages of New World’s content, we’ll have to see if the grind is worth it to get there. Once you are there, you can expect an undeniably enjoyable time, even with the most uncoordinated team ever conceived.
New World is currently set for release in Early 2021, you can preorder it now on Steam.