This year's vacations are a really hot time for MMORPG players. We had some significant releases in June and July. This month, for example, the beta of New World, the new Amazon title, launches. The official release is scheduled for August 31. Is there anything to look forward to? Yes, although some of the company's moves don't encourage reaching for this game, as I found out during the recent press tests.
The closer the release, the more changes
New World has come a long way. This game was initially more like a network survival. Over time, however, these elements were abandoned. As it stands, it's more of a garden-variety MMORPG with faction splitting and open PvP. The PvE aspect has been expanded and everything has been arranged in such a way that the competition between players is not obligatory. It looks like Amazon wants to cater to every type of gamer.
In my personal opinion, this makes New World slowly lose its original character. Nor are the changes introduced since my last testing impressive. Jumping was revamped and you can't now use it while moving. Dodging was also curbed, promoting blocking. These are just a few examples, and while some of the things are acceptable, some of them are questionable at best. Especially since everything is still subject to change in the end.
The worst part is that the period between beta and release will not be long at all. I don't think Amazon's had the time to get everything right and refine the elements they were reshaping every now and then. The version I tested had a lot of technical problems – it often shut down, some people couldn't put gems into weapons, and there were other irregularities. The show for journalists was thus quite an unusual experience. We were presented with a game full of glitches. Maybe it's a marketing ploy, with Amazon just being honest and showing what the New World actually looks like, so that we're not ultimately disappointed – we simply don't play it?
Outpost Rush has a lot of potential
As part of the tests for journalists, we got to experience modes called Outpost Rush, and Dungeons – i.e. the endgame. Both of these activities were designed for characters at the maximum level. That's probably the authors' way of telling us that our adventure in Aeternum won't be just about exping. And indeed, people who enjoy PvP will have something to do in New World.
Outpost Rush is an alternative to faction wars and fighting for territory. In this case, we have an instantiated mode where two teams of twenty players each compete, build beachheads, and gather resources. This form of gameplay combines PvP with PvE in an interesting way. On the one hand, you have to take care of the defenses of your domain, and on the other, you have to provide materials for expansion, capture targets, and simply fight. The team that accumulates 1000 points first, wins.
The whole thing is reminiscent of the familiar World of Warcraft battlegrounds, but with some more variety. In the course of the game, we will be able to man the captured post with reinforcements or supply ammunition to defensive systems. Above that, additional objectives can trigger on the map, usually involving killing a stronger boss or making an offering. This will yield bonuses to make it easier to stay competitive.
This was designed in such a way that you can actively participate in Outpost Rush without engaging in PvP. The PvE aspects can yield enough profits for the team that a few pacifists won't spoil anyone's gameplay, but rather help the whole team. It works pretty well, though I got the feeling that the whole thing was a bit too chaotic, and without a team, it would be hard to pull off. Especially since New World will only allow you to sign up for this mode solo or in a five-player squad.
The new Dungeon is no revolution, but rather a hallmark for the genre
The second element of the show was the Dungeon dedicated to characters at the highest levels. This dungeon, despite its promise of challenge, did not prove to be as big a thrill as it might have seemed. However, I believe that in this case, it was because we were essentially using overpowered gear. Nevertheless, the mechanics were a lot of fun, and here we have to commend Amazon for really doing their homework and doing this correctly. But is it more than correct?
The dungeon as a whole was an enjoyable excursion, but it didn't prove to be groundbreaking. To people who have never dealt with MMORPGs, it may seem like something quite fresh. Nevertheless, the mechanics were typical for the genre. Environmental puzzles required cooperation – at one point, you had to kill groups of enemies within a certain amount of time with team members away from each other. As a result, the entire team had to form pairs to deal with the enemies as efficiently as possible.
The bosses, on the other hand, proved to be quite unique this time around. To be able to even reach the first one, you had to solve a simple puzzle. This enemy came with their own mechanics, as you had to pay attention to stacks and take them down in the right moment. It's just a pity that the specific marker, indicating the number of stacks, was not very visible, otherwise the game would have turned out to be more enjoyable. The same goes for the not-so-clear "telegraphy" of the boss's attacks, but maybe it was simply a matter of learning his ability by heart.
The combat system seems... worse?
Amazon keeps digging into the New World's combat system. Changes to stamina consumption, switching weapon types (we used to have three weapons, now we have two) or combination attacks. In doing so, I got the impression that the whole thing was actually going the wrong way. Skirmishes seemed stiffer now, definitely less dynamic, and on top of that, extremely repetitive – this in turn made the fight simply boring in the long run.
Reason? I think too many abilities. Each weapon has two specialization trees, within which we can unlock up to three skills and a handful of passive effects. The latter aren't very sexy, and the former are severely limited. Sometimes using them seemed less worthwhile than using a standard attack – the character's spells were sluggish and the animations were far too cumbersome.
I felt this the most when I decided to play as a healer. I had exceptionally poor fun with my healing staff. While shooting an enemy or ally with the staff to deal damage or replenish missing health was enjoyable, I was disappointed in the abilities. Activating the skill automatically glues our aimer to the nearest companion. Switching to a different target is unintuitive, and it literally takes effort – I had to jerk the mouse to make the cursor detach from one ally and cling to another.
The worst part, however, was using the area healing – in this case, I couldn't freely aim where I wanted. Rather, I had to use the skill under my ally's feet, often wasting the spell in the process. I'm also convinced that my companions enjoyed themselves far less than before, too. Something was definitely wrong with the changes to combat system. It's as if New World has taken a step back.
Maybe it will get better? Maybe
The beta is about to start, the release is coming soon, and New World? New World doesn't know where it wants to be. I get the impression that the debut of this MMORPG is the kind of candid early access that Amazon doesn't want to talk about out loud. This game continues to flaunt promises, but I have more and more doubts about it. Specifically as to the technical condition in which it will be released.
There is certainly no expectation right now that New World will be a WoW killer. Instead, I expect a decent production that will appeal to those who enjoy PvP above all else. Unusual combat system will not appeal to everyone, but on the other hand, the world of Aeternum is quite tempting. However, I can't shake the feeling that all the changes are stripping this title of its originality and potential, and that they will ultimately make it a merely correct production.
It would be a real shame, as there's really room on the market for a fresh MMORPG that would keep players interested for longer. We definitely suffer a shortage of novelties of this kind. Unfortunately, Amazon's past exploits in the game development arena makes one doubt the success of New World. I know it sounds extremely skeptical, but I still believe this game can be good. It's not like it's a complete fool's errand.
Patrick Manelski | Gamepressure.com