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, 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 games relating to Amazon and you’ll get a plethora of articles about mismanagement or 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. There was the much-anticipated and hyped successor to Lord of the Rings Online. Although the cancellation didn’t really have much to do with the development of the game but rather that the agreement between Amazon and Tencent went sour contractually, it still shows a history 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 they delayed its launch, it didn’t really instill a lot of faith that the game would be (a) Any good, (b) polished, and (c) open to feedback.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised when the way they handled feedback came to light during the game’s Alpha, when players were upset about the game’s in-game cash shop. Having a cash shop 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 was 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 game that’s aiming to be the standard for MMO games moving forward.
In what would be the turning point for the game, Amazon quickly addressed this issue and announced that those boosts, and what amounted to a pay-to-win model, was shelved and removed from the game’s 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 bucking the trend of developer greed.
Would it have been nicer to entirely remove the cash shop and make all these cosmetics available through playing the game? Yes. Absolutely. And it would have been a huge public relations boost for the game as well. When was the last time you played an MMO that didn’t have a cash shop in some form, cosmetic or not? It was an opportunity for a breath of fresh air, but alas, Amazon did the bare minimum and removed just the strictly pay-to-win elements. At least they’re listening, if not fully understanding.
You can understand that when MGN was invited to play New World’s closed beta, I had trepidations as to whether the game would be entertaining and polished enough to play and write an actual article about instead of something that amounted to a glorified bug report.
So let’s look at the features that Amazon is highlighting 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, or all of the above, you’re going to feel like your character is growing.
It’s pretty widely accepted 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 just clicking on the bad guys until they’re dead. 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 is a good start, if they can pull it off and balance the progression across the activities well.
The game plans to achieve this by 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. How do they do this? Well, the player’s progress is broken down into three different categories and methods.
The first will feel fairly familiar if you’ve played any MMO or RPG before. 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 type, you grab plenty of Dexterity. Mages get lots of Intelligence, and so on – 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 types of games and, at least, the progression through this method will feel very familiar.
The second progression method is also going to feel quite familiar if you’ve played other MMOs and it gives the player a lot of options. Of course, I’m talking about jobs, or as Amazon refers to them in-game, trades. As I said, they give the player options. Trades are either something that you can dedicate yourself to in New World, in order to role-play as a money-making machine in your chosen
profession trade. Or it can be something that you do in your downtime, to make items for yourself, in-between killing mobs. Or, you can master all the trades, develop systems for min/maxing them, and level up that way too. I’m glad to see that this particular mechanic is included in the game, but whether it actually involves decent role-playing that can keep pace with the dungeon-plundering murder method of leveling and progression, only time will tell.
The third method of progression is somewhat unique, at least to this genre. A common thing in shooters, but not so much with MMOs – Weapon Mastery. The name 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 on how skilled you become with that weapon type.
On the surface, you might think that this is pretty straightforward and isn’t going to add much to either your immersion or role-playing, but that isn’t what I’ve found. In 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. You can’t get every bonus and attribute available, so picking and choosing will make your character stand apart and helps maintain your enthusiasm to master a specific weapon type. I liked 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 inevitably be better than all the others, it’s just Amazon’s job to make sure that 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 entirely new or creative, but having an MMO without a ‘Them vs Us’ feature, well, a PvP system won’t really have a spine without creating that mindset with the player base. 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 faction’s 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 choice, bad guys or good guys. You 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 alive.
Obviously, it serves to divvy up players when it comes to PvP content, but it also gives some identity to their character. Depending on how successful your chosen faction is, you’ll get bonuses depending on which territories or settlements your faction controls. 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 or discussed on how they plan to keep the system balanced.
The three choices are:
The Marauders – Essentially the Slytherin of your choices; they care about who’s strong, and not necessarily how they got there.
The Syndicate – Your spymaster types. They’re sneaky and they steal your stuff. They want to know everything, own everything, you get it.
The Covenant – They believe in faith, righteousness, and general high-horse behaviour. The holy knight archetype. Driven by faith for better or for worse.
Action-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, waiting for their HP bar to reach zero, while throwing in some debuffs, or removing the odd status or two. They aim to make combat feel thrilling, exhilarating, and actually have the player’s skill determine the outcome, rather than just “who has the bigger number” – 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 of MMO. You have to genuinely play the game and you can’t be passive to achieve the 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 role 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 and is 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, it 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 within 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 a 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 a dirty word when it comes to the “Grind vs Fun” debate, but the combat system present in New World leans more towards the game being fun rather than endless grinding.
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 things to do that 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, I mean creating content for the player to simply enjoy regardless of the reward. New World aims to achieve this through a few different methods, and at a glance, you can tell that this concern is something that Amazon has thought through and taken steps 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. They really enjoy that competitive aspect of games instead of being better than another team at PvE content. And some people just honestly, genuinely, do enjoy the grind myself included. Hey, one person’s “boring” is another’s “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 each and we’re going to go through them quickly:
War – This is for those of you that love going toe to toe with other players; no holding back, no mercy. As the name suggests, these are large-scale battles between 50 players on each side of a faction, with territory and town 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, smallish groups running through an area, clearing mobs, taking down elites, and trying to stay alive. Whereas Invasions are what New World terms its raids as, and are on a 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 PvE content wherein you compete against another team, effectively making it PvPvE. This is often referred to as Gambits in other games, but Amazon is continuing to name things thematically with their universe – and I like that a lot. Familiar content, that fits with the game’s theme, helps you to 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 will really aid in both the accessibility and longevity of New World, at least that’s what I believe. 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 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 the beta stage. Obviously, we’re going to be playing the Beta pretty heavily, and we’ll be bringing you guides, how-tos, best practices, reviews of gameplay mods, and all those kinds of gaming goodness that you’ve come to expect. So, if you’re interested in Amazon’s New World, be sure to regularly check 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.