I have been looking for a new game for a while.
I’m not someone who plays a lot of games or collects a large Steam library, but I enjoy a wide variety of titles. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games [MMORPGs] form a very limited representation of the games I play, and at present, EVE Online and No Man’s Sky are the forerunners. EVE leads by a staggering margin. That is likely to change.
Initial Impressions (The TL;DR)
Recently, I had the good fortune of being able to join Amazon’s New World closed beta. I was able to play for nearly 60 hours before the beta closed – this was not so extensive a playthrough as some streamers enjoyed, but I joined the beta late. Regardless, this was still a great opportunity to form a very good idea of how the game will present on launch. I tested most of the weapon styles, advanced through the main story line, and joined a company. Our company participated heavily in both PvE and PvP.
If you want the TL;DR, it goes like this: New World is a very good game. During the new player experience, early levels, advancement, specialization, encounters, and so on, I had the repeated and notable impression that New World doesn’t feel like a beta, it felt like a finished title. In fact, New World has much more polish and consideration in a beta state than many games post-launch. (Some don’t manage the same state after a year of post-release patching and DLC.)
Closed Beta Status
This is not to say that New World’s beta wasn’t showing. It is definitely a beta-state game. The beta continuously struggles with some challenges surrounding ‘wanting to show the game and get impressions without letting all the cats out of the bag’, and there are definite gaps within development which would benefit from user testing (UAT).
This is a difficult balancing act that a lot of game studios don’t handle well. Amazon Games developers and staff have navigated this darkling path with enthusiasm, curiosity, and gusto. Devs repeatedly make a show of appearing alongside and actively engaging streamers and players, even in little-known streams. They also habitually solicit feedback and make time for conversations to happen.
While the game has plenty of room to grow – a mount system, storyline development, bug fixes, and some quirks of the company system, just to name a few – the team who are building the game are making all the right moves to ensure it does.
A Quick Note: This section of the article is going to be image heavy. If you’re reading on a phone or mobile device, you may want to switch to landscape, or wait until you can get back to a PC.
Here I will go into my full impressions of New World: where I think the game succeeds, and specifically what they get right as a new offering. I will not be focusing on what I feel they got wrong, for two reasons:
- I don’t they they did get anything objectively wrong, and I was experiencing only a beta version of the finished product.
- There’s enough YouTubers out there complaining about the game for reasons that I think largely have to do with exploiting views and monetization. Positive reviews aren’t spicy.
Amazon Games is doing a lot of things right, and the fact that the closed beta broke 200,000 participants is saying a lot.
New World is Beautiful
The game is objectively beautiful. The lighting and shadows are so realistic, so well thought-out, and so perfectly applied. I struggle to think of other titles that look this good outside of perhaps Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human, both of which are Quantic Dream titles.
When it comes to MMORPGs, there are (or have been) certain economizations that are made for the sake of performance, stability, and simplicity. For some games, like World of Warcraft, the aesthetics represent either a commitment to artistic style, or the platform itself showing its age. Few are the developers like CCP who have invested the effort to repeatedly overhaul the graphics engine on an old game.
In New World, there is definitely a fantasy game feel to the art assets in the world, and rightly so. After all, it’s still a fantasy MMO. That said, they manage to feel authentic to the world, artistic, and behave in ways which allow for a deep sense of immersion and enjoyment.
Look and Feel
Set in a quasi-eighteenth-century world of privateers, mercenaries, and fortune hunters, the world manages to look and feel consistent throughout. From the weapons, armour, and clothing to the crafting stations used by players, everything fits within the world and looks good at all levels of scale.
The art team strategically placed lights and focus effects within the atmosphere; specifically, they draw the eye to actionable elements of the setting and user experience (UX) in such a way that you don’t even consciously acknowledge it unless you’re looking for it. The lighting engine is good enough that these different light sources play well together, and create a compound effect with the excellent audio engineering and ambient noise.
(I wasn’t kidding about the lighting. I wasn’t even running an RTX-series card while playing this game, and you could have fooled me.)
The Menu System
Amazon gets top marks for the menu system. So much so that the majority of the images for this article will be concentrated here. I’m presenting them in the form of an annotated gallery; I’ll address their points in order so as to give the full effect.
New World consolidates the most important active buffs to your character in the simple bio screen, as well as giving you details of your Company (like corporations in EVE), your Faction (chosen as part of advancement), ranks, Faction Tokens (analogous to LP in EVE), and a selection menu for choosing to display any titles you’ve earned.
Switching to Attributes, you’re able to see both a numerical and linear progression of your character’s attributes. The linear chart displays how many of your attribute points come from committed points (gained at each level), how many come from equipment, and how many come from item buffs.
Learn from my failure: dump all of your points into your most relevant two attributes for your play style, and let your equipment choices fuel the rest. With the exception of Constitution, which governs hit points, you’re not decisively disadvantaged by leaving any of your attributes low, and each attribute is accompanied by an icon depiction of the weapon styles it impacts. This page also summarizes your level advancement.
Weapon Mastery covers exactly what it says it does, with advancement and any active, bookmarked abilities displayed with their applicable weapons. Progress to the next mastery point is displayed as a linear bar alongside each weapon, and these advance as you use that weapon in combat. Weapon Mastery styles can be remapped for free until level 20, to let you find the weapon styles that resonate most closely with how you want to play.
Trade Skills show your advancement through the world’s rich crafting and resource system. At time of beta, there were seventeen trade skills, but that number is expected to grow. You’ll discover early on that leatherworking, logging, mining, and harvesting become the first trade skills you learn, and that they touch nearly every other trade system. More on this later.
The Achievements section of the Character pages does a better job than most games I’ve played when it comes to summarizing current progress, active achievements, benefits, and next steps. The only thing it lacks is a progress-tied suggestion system to prompt new players
(or the unimaginative) forward towards specialization or other content. To be fair, most games struggle with this.
The settings menu is clear, easy to read, and offers very clear indications of where to find the relevant settings. Unlike the menu system for EVE (or a lot of games) you don’t have to hunt for key bindings – they’re the first setting you’re presented with. Thank you, Amazon Games! Common sense prevails!
The settings for visuals, preferences, gameplay, and audio are really the standard fare, but one niche area where Amazon distinguishes themselves is in the Accessibility options.
Visibility / Accessibility Options
They very clearly made this game with everyone in mind, and the first option is a colour blindness filter that presents the player with the option to choose from:
- Protanopia – blindness to red
- Protanomaly – weak to red
- Deuteranopia – green blind
- Deuteranomaly – weak green
- Tritanopia – blue blind
- Tritanomaly – blue weak
- Archromatopsia – see no colour at all (greyscale)
- Achromatomaly – all colours appear muted
Given that it took CCP fourteen years (2003-2017) to introduce even basic support for colour blindness, this is good to see off the bat. There are also excellent options for the visually limited, including the ability to strongly alter text size and text-to-speech options (or vice-versa, with speech-to-text).
The Crafting System
The crafting system in New World feels rich, deep, diverse, and complex in a way not often seen outside of EVE Online. To the industrialists of EVE, I will tell you that you can play New World, pick up the crafting system, and never once have to engage in PVP if you don’t want to. In fact, you could happily lose yourself in the crafting system alone. The danger here is that you may not want to return to EVE Online.
Everything is valuable to crafters in New World. There is very little you can’t use to some degree in this game, and like Skyrim, you may find yourself hoarding materials and running out of space sooner than you expect. The bright silver lining is that nearly everything in New World is salvageable into component parts, which can then be reused for future builds, with magical items dropping unique or rare components.
Clicking on any of the trade skills from the character menu takes you into the list of recipes you know or have unlocked, and mousing over each recipe gives you a summary of the finished product and its benefits, alongside details of effect duration, weight, and product category tier. Tiers in New World function much like tiers or meta in EVE; higher is better.
The crafting stations are found in every settlement. They are all easy to match to their intended function, and easy to locate. Each recipe will tell you which crafting station to use, and you will end up visiting several different locations for advanced recipes.
You can also craft a good deal of basic consumables and ammunition at a camp. Camps are a temporary save point and crafting station you can create – if you have five wood and a flint – at any place where camping is allowable on the map. So if you find yourself out of arrows, you can just drop a camp, establish your save point, and begin crafting.
Combat, Companies, Factions, and PVP
On each server, there are a limited number of regions, and each region has a settlement and a fort. These two bastions – one economic and the other military – represent the core of the PvP system. Functionally, they play like a game of control, or capture the hill. For this style of game, it feels much more appropriate than the forced Cinderella shoe of EVE’s Aegis sov.
PvP is integral to New World, and to the Faction system. The combat system relies on a combination of light and heavy attacks, special combat abilities which have cooldowns, dodging, and buffs from equipment. The speed at which you dodge is a ratio based on the weight of your armor. Light armor grants you a faster dodge speed, but you take more damage when you are hit; medium and heavy armor offer more defense. Heavier armor slows attacks and dodge speed.
Every weapon, piece of armour or clothing, and trade tool have their own resepctive buffs and attributes. Crafted weapons and armor have a range of potential stats, based on the build materials and the crafter’s skill, with a small chance of having exceptional traits or bonuses. Found items (drops) have a similar range, but are typically less powerful than equivalent weapons created by a skilled crafter.
Similar to games like Albion Online, your overall attributes and resistances at higher levels are very much a matter of “you are what you wear”. The more effective you are at adapting your weapon mastery to your choices of gear and your particular play style, the more effective you are apt to be. What works for one player may not jive with another; I personally enjoy medium armor and a combination of Musket and Spear for range management and heavy damage because that’s what I enjoy.
Flagging active for PvP requires you to be at a settlement or in a camp. If you leave the settlement flagged for PvP, you cannot disable it until you have re-entered a settlement. Thankfully, turning PvP on or off is a single keybind – the default key is ‘U’.
PvP is integral to the Faction system, and also to a global game of capture the flag (or king of the hill, if you prefer). Standings, benefits, and command of crafting station upgrades are dictated by control of the territory, settlement, and fortress. The faction and company which controls the territory can, in a not-insignificant way, choose how the territory develops.
There are three factions: Marauders, Syndicate, and Covenant. EVE analogues for these groups are Caldari (Marauders), Society of Conscious Thought (Syndicate), and Amarr (Covenant); this is a lore comparison, with each group ranging from militaristic, to esoteric and secretive, to religious zealotry. Jay Oddity gives a good review of the factions on YouTube.
Once you join a company, you have the ability to do PvP and Faction missions. These can benefit your faction and enhance the control of your territory, or you can hinder the efforts of other companies and factions by running missions in their regions. There is some degree of balance coming to the production game, but in Beta there were two or three companies on our server who really held control.
I cannot understate how much playing EVE Online, and being active in Sov NullSec in particular, prepares EVE players to completely dominate in this field. Our ability to comprehend the systemic nature of achievements, control objectives, necessary crafting and grinding to improve our control and territory management, and establish hegemony early on is thematically very similar to managing Sov, iHub upgrades, and structures. In fact, the company which I joined was nearly 65% current and former EVE Online players, with a very active Discord server.
When New World opens in earnest, there will be a massive land grab to take the early territories on each server as everyone goes to grab territory before company and faction wars break out for control. Imagine if all of SovNull reset to virgin territory – exactly that will happen at the New World launch.
I had a lot more images and sections planned for this article, but to be fair, I’d only be belaboring the point. New World is a great game. It’s so good that I find myself torn about whether to keep investing in EVE; a topic I’ll cover in a separate piece.
On its own merits, New World is a tour de force when it comes to new games. As I said at the beginning, there are few games that feel as replete with attention to detail, polish, and eagerness in development as I experienced in playing New World. Amazon Games has a gem on their hands, and it’s not so much a question of whether or not this IP has value; just how valuable it will become can only be decided by the final polish and the details implemented in every facet.
If you want to play New World, you can still pre-order, and at $50 USD it’s an exceptional deal in my book.