26 August 2020 14:30

Massively multiplayer online game Amazon Game Studios Amazon.com

Amazon’s New World boasts a massive, 100-player ‘War’ with magic and muskets

With another of their projects, Breakaway, having been cancelled, New World is the last of those three games Amazon announced way back in 2016. For those who have absolutely no clue what New World is, it's an online role playing game for PC with action-heavy combat set on the isle of Aeternum. There are plenty of elements at work here that will be instantly familiar to those with a fondness for MMOs. Amazon Games (formerly Double Helix) is composed of veterans who have worked on hits such as Destiny, Diablo, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft, with their influence being felt in the design of New World. The fighting is fun and active without the often overbearing clutter of most MMOs. You'll only have to memorise a handful of different powers for each weapon, but there's plenty of depth when it comes to selecting passive skills, then the crafting and upgrading of the weapons themselves. Wars don't just happen, they're arranged ahead of time with participating players signing up before the siege is triggered and then being transported to a massive battlefield.

Once preparations have been made, the attackers are unleashed and have thirty minutes to capture an initial cluster of control points before having to breach the castle walls and try to drive out the opposing faction. As this was happening, players on both teams spent resources to deploy war machines and siege weapons such as repeating cannons, ballistae, and pitch cauldrons. That said, with this being our first taste of New World's War mode, it was hard to get a sense of how these battles are meant to flow or how they'd look with a group of co-ordinated players on both sides as opposed to a gaggle of greenhorn press and influencers. Amazon have a lot riding on New World and it's clear they aren't keen to rush this game out of the door any time soon. The persistent game world and player-run settlements are what fascinate us most though we've yet to really gel with how New World plays.

It's perhaps too limited in the combat options it gives you for individual weapons, relying on players to juggle every tool in their arsenal in order to keep battles (both PvP and PvE) feeling fresh and dynamic. There were no staggering overloads, even as the combatants unloaded heavy melee strikes with long animations, aimed down sights with a musket, or even actively blocked an incoming attack, which seems like a first even for an action-MMO. The siege, a showpiece that comes sometime after the midpoint on the way to New World's level cap of 60, is sort of the capstone to the game's larger story of territory control among rival guilds, called companies. For example, the colonizing of the New World, during the time period when this game is set. Tactically, bearing in mind this was a demonstration involving a couple dozen writers who had likely never seen the game before, there seemed to be little more to it than try to kill everyone, or hold position under one of several buff domes maintained by a teammate.

Because of the active defense players may employ (as well as the health and armor buffs they can consume — one of which looked like a guy inhaling snuff off the back of his wrist) — I saw lengthy time-to-kill in the PvP combat, even with a player going to town with a musket. In an intro video preceding the War (as the mode is called) Amazon developers said players would need to play traditional MMO roles — tanks, DPS, healers, etc. In July, the developers said they wanted to respond to player feedback from the game's alpha tests, and develop more mid- and end-game content, which the War represents. I was encouraged after playing Amazon's New World MMO yesterday. Players sign up to a War in a town, putting their name on either the attacking or defending team, and arranging themselves into Armies and within them, Groups.

Again, other games have done this, but what helps New World feel fresh is how it works. You can do all this because New World uses a classless character-build system based around weapon ability trees. There's a whole one-to-60 levelling experience in New World I haven't seen, although I did briefly have a fight with a large alligator outside town, and a huge lion-like cat, which attacked with the same kind of physicality players did, and I really rather liked it. Amazon postponed the launch of its New World massively multiplayer online role-playing game from July until 2021. With New World, Amazon is making a multi-year bet on MMO gaming, and it wants to get it right through deliberate playtesting and revision.

And today, New World's beta debuts as a limited-time test, but for many players, it will give them a flavor for the game. In war mode, players must capture three points inside a fort with big walls. New World will have a wide variety of things for you to do as solo players or in groups. There will be some player-vs.-environment play, as you can fight zombie-like creatures in the world. New World isn't the first game to feature real-time combat with projectiles and PvP mechanics, nor is it the first MMO to feature massive battles with dozens of players on-screen at once. In a game like Dark Souls, which Amazon cites as major inspiration for New World's core combat mechanics, every weapon swing, magical spell cast, or arrow fired travels through the air with actual velocity and momentum. Luckily, the significant server resources via the AWS (Amazon Web Services) branch of the company makes it possible.I've played enormous PvP battles in games like Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online – they're absolutely fun and epic in their own right. Yesterday, that was flipped and I got to see things from the Attacker side.In New World, a War session lasts a maximum of 30 minutes and is essentially split into three phases: outer control points, breaching the gates, and taking the fort. Both times I've played it was mostly just chaos since everyone was new and still learning how to play, but I can imagine if all 100 people on the battlefield knew what they were doing and had rapport with one another it could be an impressive spectacle of combat tactics on both ends.The first phase tasks the Attackers with capturing three control points. If the Defenders hold them off long enough and the time runs out, the Defenders win and retain control.As great as the War mode is in and of itself, I still have some concerns about New World's longevity and depth. I'm not convinced New World has a good solution for this problem, because every time the developers were pressed on the topic during the post-game roundtable Q&A it seemed like they either wanted to dodge end-game PvE questions or simply explain that players would be able to gather materials and fight world bosses for fun and resources. Hopefully that's enough time to flesh things out more.At the end of the day though, if you're more of a PvE player that likes questing and digging into a rich narrative, I'm not sure this is the game for you.