Amazon studios have been very busy over the past few years and at Gamescom 2018 we got to take a look at New World, its sandbox MMORPG that has been the subject of extensive rumours for the past few years, and is one of the biggest games on the horizon for the MMO genre. We got our hands on an early build to put it through its paces.
New World is a sandbox MMORPG set around the 17th century in an alternate historical timeline in which an another continent was found by the settlers traveling from Europe across the Atlantic ocean. This particular continent is one of magic, danger, mystery and riches and will feel broadly familiar as an MMO setting.
New World is focusing on a couple of key aspects that will set it apart from the current mainstream MMORPG stock. First of all, there are no classes. The game supports a wide array of skills and specialisations that you are free to persue and work towards as you wish. If you'd like to tank, heal, support, do damage as a sneaky rogue or a powerful mage all these options are available to you.
The gear system is also equally varied, and so between this and the open ended progression system, you will be offered a large amount of customisation for your character. The style of armour and weapons is psudo-faithful to the time period so you will find muskets and explosives can be found along with your standard array of melee and magic.
This focus on specialisations combined with a deep crafting system and a dangerous world means you will want to make some friends. The game puts a very heavy focus on social features and everything that comes along with player interaction. Forming guilds to take on greater challenges and build your empire (more on that in a moment) will be a good idea if you want to survive.
We were spawned in a small outpost as a mere level one character with nothing but a sword and our wits about us. There were vendors around is where we could craft gear and refine materials, and rocks and trees from which we could gather. Each tree can be individually chopped down, complete with a physical falling annimation which was impressive to see in an MMO world. The crafting that was open to us along with the moment to moment gameplay and movement made the game feel like a survival game in the vein of Rust, Conan Exiles or Ark.
Speaking of the movement, the game is action combat based and so does not rely on tab targeting (although you can press tab and lock to a specific target in a Dark Souls type of way). You have a stamina bar and can attack, sprint, roll, block your way through combat which makes the game feel very fluid and responsive even at this early stage. The pacing of combat felt good, not too fast or slow, and the animation locking made the attacks feel like they had weight behind them without going over the top and making it feel too cumbersome or heavy.
I picked up a musket at a later point of the demo, and was aiming it manually when we engaged in an organised pvp skirmish. Once again I was impressed by the hit registration and animations for such an early build of the game, as someone who enjoys FPS games the shooting felt good. I didn't obviously miss a target and still find myself somehow hitting, nor did I find myself aiming perfectly only to not connect. Amazon certainly deserve a bravo for that, as there are some released games that don't have this level of consistancy (looking at you, PUBG).
PvP seems to be at the very focal heart of the game and currently when you die you drop all of your gear which can then be looted by other players. This does mean that the gear your acquire is not very difficult to get, but there will be more powerful gear that offers a greater risk for a potentially larger reward. You might be more powerful and effective in combat, but if you die you will lose that powerful set of equipment.
This brings us onto territory control whcih will be a large part of the 'end game'. You can capture land and build upon it, creating outposts and bases for your guild to operate from which can house more advanced crafting stations giving you access to better gear. Your territory can expand over time and in the current version of the game there was a faint line indicating the boundry of a guild's territory. You will be able to tax players that wish to operate or build within your territory, which allows their structures to be under your protection for a price.
While killing other players is possible, it will be discouraged by a criminal justice system that we sadly weren't given details of yet, but we do know there will be bounties that can be placed on a player's head. These sort of features allow the introduction of emergent gameplay where the players create the content for themselves. With criminals with bounties on their heads comes bounty hunters, harking back to the old PK (player killer) vs Anti-PK days of Ultima Online.
The world is massive. Really massive. We played in a very small part of it and it still took some time to move around. The environment was also incredibly dense with the undergrowth being very thick and lush. The game looked great too and the game also ran surprisingly well considering it's state of development and the sheer amount of stuff in the environment.
The wild life are no joke either, wolves hunt in packs and take a few people to bring down safely and you have as much chance of taking down a bear on your own as you do in real life, so keep your distance. This helps to emphasize how dangerous the world around you is, which helps create an environment of suspense and consequence.
We got around to some PvP in the demo which reminded me of something like Mount and Blade or Chivalry, lots of positioning and posturing followed manic flailing of weapons. The combat will no doubt evolve with the addition of skills, spells and more weapons and armour, but what I saw was fun to play on its own. We started the pvp off by blowing up a wall with explosives to gain access to the enemy keep, while being told firmly not to shoot said explosives while they were being set up by some brave volunteer because they really do have a large kill radius. I certainly thought about it by the way, but I managed to behave myself.
The world aims to feature up to 1000 players at this moment in time, although the tentative goal was tens of thousands at some point. It seems like they're just going to push thier technology as far as it can go when it comes to player count, this may come with drawbacks in other areas as time progresses so it remains to be seen. This is going to be closer to a persistent MMO experience than it is to a survival based game like Rust or Ark.
Amazon are striking a very brave path into a sub-genre of MMO that has seen some real disasters but also some legendary triumphs. Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Shadowbane and Eve Online are all games set in stone as the real foundation for the MMO sandbox genre.
There haven't been many attempted by larger companies in the past few years because the risk is too great for the potential reward, but with Amazon Studios stepping into the ring with some extremely impressive first footage we could well see a AAA sandbox MMO in the next few years. No word on a release date yet but considering the impressive state of the pre-alpha build, it's not a million miles away but it's certainly not round the corner either.
I was very impressed by what I saw and I'm very excited to see which direction the game takes next. All aboard the hype train.