I’m going to be honest with you from the get-go, I didn’t have high hopes or much interest in Amazon’s new MMO project in New World. They just have never lit the world on fire with their games, or even with games that they had planned to make, that never saw the light of day. You can google game’s relating to Amazon, and you’ll get a plethora of articles about mismanagement, about a general goods company trying to put their finger into too many pies.
Their shooter crucible got shut down after only a few months, and the general consensus is that the game just kinda sucked, and Amazon sucked at making it not suck, based on feedback from people who played the game and thought it sucked, but wanted Amazon to make it suck less. Instead, the roadmap was scratched, and the game was shut down after a very short tenure.
That’s not the only example that gave me a sour taste in the mouth before even playing New World. There was the much anticipated and hyped successor to Lord of the Rings Online. Whilst the cancellation didn’t really have much to do with the development of the game, rather that the agreement between Amazon and the outside hire that they had decided to give the development of the game to Tencent, went sour contractually – it still shows a precedent of mismanagement from Amazon when it comes to getting a decent video game product out the door, and handling the player and fan base associated with it.
So, when New World was announced and then delayed back from it’s original launch day, it’d didn’t really incite a lot of faith, from at least myself, that the game would be: A) Any good, B) polished, and C) open to feedback.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised when point C in feedback came to light during the games Alpha, wherein players were well within their rights to be upset about the games in-game cash shop. Having a cash shop in general in an MMO that is not free-to-play, was always going to raise concerns. After all, you’re paying your hard earned money to play the game, should all the content that you downloaded not be available to you? What’s worse is that during alpha, this version of the cash shop included what Amazon described as ‘Quality of Life’ items, and ‘Boosts’.
Even before the game launched, it would appear that it was doomed to fail, if the outcry from those alpha players wasn’t addressed. A pay to win cash shop MMO sounds more like a cheap mobile game, than a genuine chance for a game to release and be the standard for MMO games moving forward.
It what would be the turning point for the game, Amazon quickly addressed this issue and announced that those boosts and what the community had deemed a pay-to-win model was shelved, and those items were removed from the games store for the next publicly available version of the game. The current version of the cash shop strictly features cosmetic items, which is a step in the right direction, if not entirely bucking the trend of developer greed.
Would it have been nice to entirely remove the cash shop, and make all these cosmetics available through playing the game and achieving in the New World? Yes. Absolutely it would have been. And it would have been a huge public relations boost for the game also. When is the last time that you played an MMO that didn’t have a cash shop, whether it be cosmetic or not? It was an opportunity for a breath of fresh air, but alas, Amazon did the bare minimum and removed the pay-to-win elements. At least they’re listening, if not fully understanding.
So you can understand that when MGN was invited to play New World’s closed beta, I was trepidations as to whether the game would be entertaining and polished enough to the point where playing it to bring our audience some impressions of the beta, would be a painful slog, or something that it is enjoyable to the point where I wanted to play the game in my own time also.
Let’s look at the features that Amazon is featuring and hoping will be a selling point, from the beta, through to the game’s full launch:
Progress Through Choice, Not Endless Mob Killing
Amazon boasts that regardless of your chosen activity, whether it be gathering plants and herbs for medicinal and potion purposes, tanning hides to make armor and clothing for characters, slaying enemies and turning in quests for all of the above, you’re going to feel like your character is growing.
It’s a pretty widespread acceptance across major MMO games that killing mobs is the fastest and best way to advance your character, and this is an issue because often the game boils down to clicking on the bad guys until they’re dead, and that’s the main way to progress. It really takes you out of the universe, and oversimplifies the RPG elements in MMORPG games. So, to have Amazon advertising that the game will feel like it progresses regardless of what role you decide to take on in their universe, well, it’s a good start, if they can pull it off, and balance the progression across the activities well.
The game plans to achieve this through having these options bordered away from one another, so the player can focus their time on a particular method of progression, without having the fear of missing out on another, for spending their time elsewhere. How is this achieved? Well, the players progress is broken down into three different categories and methods.
The first will feel fairly familiar if you’ve played any MMO or any RPG in the history of the universe. Stats. All the familiar stats from every RPG are here: strength, dexterity, intelligence, constitution, you get the idea. If you’re playing a tank, you grab some strength and constitution. If you’re playing a rogue or assassin archetype, you grab plenty of dexterity. Mages get lots of intelligence, again, you get the idea – it’s all very familiar. You start off with five points in each stat, then when you level up, you can pick where your new stat points will be allocated. That method of progression is a mainstay in these type of games, and at least the progression through this method will feel very familair.
The second progression method is also going to feel very familiar if you’ve played other MMO’s, and they give the player a lot of options. Of course I’m talking about trades, sometimes referred to as jobs in other games, but Amazon is calling them trades, so here we are. Like I said, they give the player options. Trades are either something you can dedicate yourself to in New World, in order to role play as a money making machine in your chosen
profession trade. That, or it can be something you do in your down time, to make items for yourself, in between your endless mob killing. That’s another option. Or, master all the trades, develop systems for min/maxing your trade, and level up that way too. I’m glad to see there’s an inclusion of this game mechanic, but where it actually involves decent role playing that can keep pace with the dungeon plundering murder method of levelling and progression, well, more time than the beta allows will see how this turns out.
The third method of pression is somewhat unique, at least to this genre. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept, it’s something we see from time to time in RPG games, and shooters plenty, but not too often in the MMO sphere. It’s Weapon Mastery. The title is pretty self explanatory. You use a specific weapon type a lot, you become proficient in that weapon type, and then you get bonuses depending of your depth of dedication to that weapon type.
At base level you might think that this is pretty straightforward, and isn’t going to add much to either your immersion, and role playing. But that isn’t what I’ve found, it’s actually quite deep, and in the weapon mastery lies the difference between your characters and others. Each weapon mastery has multiple trees, and you’ll have to choose between them, with each providing different and unique bonuses to your character and weapon, whilst wielding that weapon type. You can get every tree finished, and every bonus and attribute available, so picking and choosing will make your character unique, and helps maintain the excitement for dedicating your time to mastery a specific weapon type. I like this system more than I thought I would, and it adds a lot of potential for longevity. Obviously there will always be a meta, and one option will be specifically better than all others, it’s just Amazon’s job to make sure the differences are as minimal as possible in terms of performance, but not playstyle and fun.
Again, it’ll take time to see how this meta is managed.
Faction Based Identity, That Seems Diverse
The second standout for New World is the faction system. It’s not entirety new or creative, but having an MMO without and ‘Them vs Us’ feature, well, the PvP system doesn’t really have a spine without creating that mindset with the playerbase. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I do understand the necessity.
Each player will choose from one of three different factions, and the choice is based on how that factions particular mindset, goals, and NPC characters, align with the goals and mindset of your character. This is a good move. There isn’t a black and white – choose bad guys or good guys. Choose the blue team or the red team, based on no other information than what the colours are, there is a genuine choice here, and it helps the game feel genuinely alive.
Obviously it serves to divvy up players when it comes to PvP content, but it also helps them give some identity to their character also. Depending on how successful your chosen faction is, you’ll get bonuses depending on which ‘territories’ or ‘settlements’. Again the danger here is that one particular faction will bloat on a server, and there will always be a clear ‘best’ choice. It’s something that Amazon hasn’t really addressed how they’re going to manage.
The three choices are between:
The Marauders – Essentially the Slytherin of your choices, they care about who is strong, and how they get their isn’t super relevant.
The Syndicate – Your spymaster types. The are sneaky, they steal your stuff. They want to know everything, own everything, you get it.
The Covenant – They believe in faith, righteous, and general high-horse behaviour. The holy knight archetype. Driven by faith for better or for worse.
Actioned Based Combat, Not Just Number Ticking, or Keyboard Face-Rolling
The third selling point that Amazon uses to get you over the line, is a dramatic shift from conventional MMO combat. You’re not just clicking an enemy, and waiting for their HP bar to reach zero, with throwing in some debuffs, or removing the odd status or two. The aim to make combat feel thrilling, exhilarating, and actually have the players skill determining the outcome of interactions, rather than just ‘who has the bigger number’ wins the bout – whether that be PvE or PvP.
Having played the beta I can say that the game does genuinely live up to this boast. The game doesn’t feel like a point and click type MMO. You have to genuinely play the game, and you can’t be passive to achieve best results, or results in general. If you don’t evade, you get punished, if you don’t block, you get punished, if you aren’t using your weapon’s skill tree, you get punished. The game rewards taking an active roll, and that’s something that isn’t always present in MMO games, and if it is, it isn’t done early with skills and mechanics that are actually interesting usually reserved for end game content, to push the player base to continue to pay their subscription fees. Amazon’s New World doesn’t have a subscription fee, so you get quality, excitement and interesting combat mechanics from the get-go. It’s a good difference to have between New World and the mainstays in the genre.
This style of combat works well to really show off the weapon mastery system. The combat encourages the player to experiment, and come up with strategies that fall outside a typical MMO rotation. Just because your character has invested highly in intelligence and ice gauntlets, doesn’t mean they won’t find utility in going through the ‘Trap’ skill tree with muskets. Root an enemy with a weapon type that would typically fall outside the ‘Mage’ archetype, then follow up with your damaging main mastery – whatever that might be. This is just one example of how the active combat system rewards experimentation and non-passive playstyle.
Why is this important? It prevents the game from being boring. It opens up New World to more than just MMO veterans, because you get great elements from action RPG games, and souls-like experiences as well. MMO might be dirty word when it comes to the ‘Grind vs Fun’ dialect, but the combat system present in New World leans more towards the point of the game being fun, than endless grinding to watch your numbers go up.
Things To Do In Game That are Varied, and Promote Fun Over Grinding
Continuing on the emphasis of enjoyment, and keeping gameplay varied, New World has a lot of options for content to do to aid in the game’s longevity, even at launch. It’s something that isn’t done well in other popular MMO games right now, and that is actually making the factions mean something to the gameplay, and by that means creating content for the player to simply enjoy regardless of the reward. New World aims to achieve this through a few different methods, and even at a glance you can tell that this concern is something that Amazon has thought through, and taken an active step to make content that is not-level gated that will appeal to everyone regardless of their preference.
Some people really enjoy a balanced PvP experience in an arena, in their MMO games. Some people really enjoy that competitive aspect of games, but would rather apply that in being better than another team at PvE content. And some people honestly genuinely do just enjoy the grind, myself included – hey, to some boring is relaxing and comforting, so grinding can absolutely be a good thing, and doesn’t need to be absent to make a good MMO.
It’s a pretty diverse audience, even under one genre. So, in order to do this, Amazon has developed a few different systems to cater to the audiences of each, and we’re going to go through them quickly now:
War – This is for those of you that love going toe to toe with other players, with no holding back, or mercy. As the name suggests, there are large scale battles between 50 players on each side of a faction, with territory and towns bonuses in full effect. Control a settlement, kill other players that aren’t on your side, and reap the rewards.
Expeditions / Invasions – This is the strictly PvE content, for progression. If you’re familiar with basically any MMO in the history of the universe, you know what dungeons and raids are. Expeditions are what New World terms dungeons as, smaller group running through a dungeon, clearing mobs, taking down elites, and trying to stay alive. Whereas Invasions are what New World terms it’s raids as, they’re much larger scale as raids usually are, and require the player to team up with other max level players to face waves of much tougher enemies.
Outpost Rush – This is the PvE content, wherein you compete against other team, effectively making it PvPvE. This is often referred to as Gambits in other likewise games, but Amazon are continuing to name things thematically with their universe – and I like that a lot. Familiar content, that fits with the games theme, it helps you stay immersed. As far as gameplay, two teams race to gather more resources and push through more PvE content – with PvP giving bonuses along the way.
It’s these systems of content that, I believe anyway, will really aid in both the accessibility and longevity of New World. There’s a game mode for just about every type of player, and they’re varied enough to give the player plenty of hours once they reach that level cap – and obviously each mode is extremely wide open to additional content in the future.
That just about wraps things up for my impressions of the game thus far in beta stage, and what Amazon has in store for us when the game officially launches. Obviously we’re going to be playing the Beta pretty heavily, and we’ll be bringing you out guides, how-to, best practices, reviews of gameplay mods, all those kind of great things that you’ve come to expect. So, if you’re interesting in Amazon’s New World, be sure to be regularly checking the MGN.gg blog, and our YouTube channel of course – where we’ve already begun posting great guides and how-to tips on the game thus far.