Amazon Studios has been very busy over the past couple of years developing New World, a Sandbox MMORPG set on a fictional continent discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the 17th century. We got first our hands on the title back at Gamescom 2018 and were invited again to come and see the progress at an event in London at the end of January.
New World is doing quite a few things different to conventional MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV and The Elder Scrolls: Online – the content presented is much less linear, the combat system is much closer to that of an action game and the large focus for end-game content is on Player vs Player action.
While some comparisons have been drawn between New World and more survival themed games such as Rust, Conan Exiles, Ark: Survival Evolved (and its recent early access reskin Atlas) – it does set itself apart from these games in some very major ways, although the influence of this genre upon New World’s design can’t be denied.
Graphics, user interface, animations and art
The first major difference between New World and the rest of the titles in this area of the market is raw production quality. The recent early-access craze has spawned a slew of games, particularly in the survival and MMO genres, which allowed you to pay retail price to gain ‘early access’ to them in a half-finished state. New World’s closed alpha is in a better playable state than almost every early access game I've played over the past few years.
The graphics are gorgeous and the performance is impressive - both player and monster animations are of a quality you’d expect in a single player game (the wraith monsters are animated particularly well). The UI looks good, feels intuitive to use and also feels like it’s actually had design and art effort put into it – it’s not just something that’s been thrown together as an after-thought to allow players a vehicle with which to access menus and features.
The art is fantastic. The world looks great from a design perspective, and we saw several different sets of armour that ranged from bear-skin berserker-ish styles to dashing fencer-like light armour featuring a hat with a fabulous feather attached, all the way through to intimidating plate armour and even some sinister-looking plague-doctor garb.
It is still in an Alpha state, so there are bugs to be found – but none of them is game breaking and after a couple of hours of playing I only came across one or two.
The best way to describe combat in New World is to think of Dark Souls without the ‘hard’ camera lock.
Melee combat involves you left-clicking to swing your weapon while right-clicking will allow you to block. Hitting Q allows you to perform an attack specific to your weapon type, and F will perform a guard-breaking attack.
The melee attacks feature an animation lock, so once you commit your character is going to swing – but the ability to tap the space-bar to roll around in any direction of your choice, along with holding down Shift to sprint, keeps the combat feeling nice and fluid regardless.
Your attacks are aimed with your mouse, which allows you to aim and ‘target’ your melee attacks at your opponent with a soft-lock – this felt so intuitive and natural that I didn’t even give too much thought to how it works until writing this. I never felt frustrated because my character did something I didn’t want him to, which tends to be the sign that everything is working well.
All of this is governed by your stamina bar which recovers fairly rapidly if you’re not attacking, rolling or sprinting – once again reminding me very heavily of Dark Souls combat.
A variety of melee weapons are on offer including a Sword, Spear and Greataxe (shields too) – you will also find ranged weapons in the game including Bows and Muskets. These operate by holding your right-mouse button to aim and left-clicking to fire - the aiming is quite precise and reminded me more of games such as Chivalry or War of the Roses, or perhaps even Mount and Blade. You’ll have to stand still and aim properly if you want to use a ranged weapon, but they certainly are powerful if not tricky to be consistent with – head hit-boxes are present here too, and currently seem to hit around 30%~ harder than body shots.
Healing magic is also present in the game, although I personally didn’t get to use it but that provides a great deal of scope for some very interesting group PVP encounters.
We fought in a large battle with 30+ people – the performance was flawless and I didn’t detect any lag issues either which could really break a combat system like this.
Land ownership, sieges and crafting
One of the major issues with land ownership in survival games and MMOs is what happens when you log off. Survival games suffer from ‘offline raiding’ but you’ll be glad to know that in New World, this won’t be an issue.
You’ll be given a method to protect your base via a node that you can construct if someone wants to destroy your stuff – they will have to call a siege which will happen at a specific time. I wasn’t able to mass all the details, unfortunately, but it does at the very least means you’ll have some forewarning and the chance to defend yourself should someone want to burn down your village.
It is also important to note that you can’t build just anywhere. The map is dotted with pre-defined ‘claim’ spots that you’ll need to capture. Each one of these has an area of influence which you can build in. Some are small and some very large, some on top of mountains and some deep in the woods. Each claim spot also comes with a name which is a nice immersive touch.
Crafting is a focal point of the game and you’ll need to create advanced crafting stations in player towns to craft the best gear. Resources and components are compiled into 5 tiers, with 1 being the most common and 5 being the hardest to obtain.
You’ll need to craft everything from weapons and armour, to ammunition and food – thankfully it appears that the amount of equipment you need to be ready to go have an adventure isn’t too much.
PvP and criminals
If you’re killed in PvP you won’t lose the gear that you currently have equipped but you will lose whatever you’re currently holding in your bag.
Declaring war on another company (guild) allows you to attack them without penalty, so you can defend your home or expand your territory without fear of becoming a criminal.
You can also become a criminal which allows you to attack other players whenever you like, however, if you die when you’re a criminal you will drop everything you have on you, including equipped items. While not yet implemented, I did spy a bounty-hunter related menu option at some point – which could certainly be an interesting addition if the criminal population
Amazon is certainly impressing us with New World.
Honestly, it's extremely refreshing to see a game of this genre be in such a stable state in an alpha test - while there are not many advanced mechanics or systems in place at this time the foundation of the game is extremely solid. The power of AWS is also on Amazon's side here so its server architecture should be extremely impressive when it comes to performance and stability.
We should see the game progress into beta in the next couple of months and progress towards launch from that point. We're very excited to see what comes.