Could Amazon Game Studios have its first hit on its hands?
Despite being one of the most influential companies in the world, Amazon has really struggled to make an impact on the gaming industry. Several of its projects such as its multiplayer brawler Breakaway was axed in development and its latest release Crucible was famously dragged back into beta stage before being canned completely. To really leave a mark, Amazon desperately needs a hit on its hands, and fortunately, its latest project New World looks to be its most ambitious to date. The MMO features large-scale 50v50 PvP battles and a classless combat system that shares similarities with Dark Souls. Recently, I was given the chance to play through the game's first hour during an exclusive preview event to see whether it is a worthy contender to other well-established MMOs.
After shaping the look of my hero through a rather limited character creator things soon descended into disaster. The ship that I was boarding was hit by a mysterious creature surfacing from the waves and I found myself stranded just off the shore of an unfamiliar island known as Aeternum. From here I made my way through the battered wreckage, slaying down reanimated crew members until I reached its golden sands and encountered a friendly-looking face known as Tahir Fayed.
My newfound buddy then had me doing a number of chores across the island that enabled me to get to grips with the game's cooking and crafting systems. Sadly, the few quests that I was able to check out here were nothing more than tutorials, and I found myself growing pretty tired of just following a simple checklist of instructions. Chopping trees, hunting animals, and using crafting benches just wasn't that exciting when I have done it thousands of times in similar games. To make things worse, these quests were handed out by some of the most wooden NPCs I have ever encountered and it was strange that they only voiced part of the dialogue on screen. As mentioned though, this is a pre-release build and is subject to change.
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Whilst its quests failed to wow me, I did see great promise in its combat. Just like Dark Souls, the action is stamina-based and you need to precisely time dodge rolls and blocks and read your opponent's attack patterns. The action feels fast-paced and fluid and there are also a wealth of different weapons for you to try from melee weapons like swords and hatchets to long-ranging weapons like staffs and crossbows. New World also offers flexibility, as it's class-less, and you are free to improve your character's attributes such as Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence using the points you earn from levelling up.
What is great is that New World enables you to respec your allocated skills until level 25, so there's room to experiment with different builds. These aforementioned skills improve your core attributes such as your maximum health and your proficiency with magic, ranged, and melee weapons. In addition to these skill points, you'll also receive weapon mastery points for frequent use with different weapons and these can be used to unlock specific passive and active abilities through two separate skill trees. One passive ability for the sword and shield, for example, enables you to move 33% faster whilst blocking and one active ability enables you to perform a leaping strike, dealing out 125% damage.
Sadly, my preview session was just limited to the early PvE content, but I was able to hear about a few other exciting gameplay elements. I learned that factions play a huge role in New World and there are three different ones you can join with their own motivations (The Syndicate, The Marauders, and The Covenant). Each of these different groups are in a constant war with each other over territory, and there's good reason for it, as occupying land will grant you perks such as more valuable loot and being able to craft better materials.
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The developers also mentioned that you can rank up within your respective faction and this will enable you to secure better gear in your faction. There isn't, however, the option to change your faction at a later time, so you need to think carefully before you can commit. You can also purchase a fully customisable home for yourself within areas that you occupy and these can be used for storing items and keeping trophies that give you certain buffs.
Several of the game's multiplayer modes were additionally detailed and these sound pretty tantalising with many of them taking place on a large scale. Invasion sees a group of 50 players band together to slay attacking waves of monsters, and War sees two teams of 50 clash head-to-head in a battle for territory. Along with these PvP modes, there are also PvE Expeditions where players can squad up in teams of five, and these function just like Group Dungeons within Elder Scrolls Online. Through Expedition players can earn some exclusive loot by exploring dungeons that contain puzzles to solve and boss encounters.
Whilst sounding exciting, its modes like War and Invasion that I worry about the most. These online modes require many different active players to be accessible and if the game doesn't take off like Amazon intends, then they will effectively be redundant. Sure, there may possibly be the option to pad lobbies out with bots just as we saw Fallout 76 do with its Nuclear Winter battle royale mode, but the feeling is never the same as taking on real-world players.
Whilst I do see some promise in its combat system and multiplayer modes, I still have some serious concerns regarding New World. The game appears to lack polish in areas such as its voice acting, and the early PvE content that I played through did nothing to help it stand out from the rest of the crowd. This is concerning as established MMOs such as The Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft have been on the block for a long time now and Amazon really has to knock it out of the park if they hope to be a worthy competitor. Be sure to check back for our full thoughts when New World releases exclusively on PC on August 31.