Amazon’s first foray into the videogame industry with the MMO New World, went into it’s closed beta on July 20. After two delays due to development issues, tons of gamers rushed to play or watch it on Twitch right from the first minute of its availability. Despite hitting 700k viewers on Twitch the first day, the closed beta showed that the game has much to improve before competing for the genre’s top titles (WoW, ESO and FFXIV). Therefore I put up some pros and cons of the New World closed beta in this review so you can decide for yourself whether or not you should buy the game.
New World Closed Beta launch issues
New World Closed Beta began on July 20 at 9:30AM (PT), and its servers did not sustain the number of players joining the game. Soon, many people were spamming the game’s social media, reporting many server instabilities and long waiting queues. Europe and the USA were lucky and got new servers in a few hours, while other locations had to wait a day or two.
While some people say it is expected to face those issues in the first days of an MMORPG, I think it is certainly a concern to point out. That is because only people who pre-purchased the game had guaranteed access to the closed beta. So, if the devs (and Amazon ultimately) had access to how many potential players were out there, they should’ve had a backup plan to expedite fixing servers and queue issues.
Visuals and Setting
While most RPGs tend to use medieval Europe’s setting, New World opted for the 17th century “musket and plate armor” aesthetic mixed with that of the Age of Discovery – well, the game is indeed called New World, right?
The game got this aspect right. Its world comprises enormous maps filled with rich environments, all beautifully designed with a fresh taste. Characters and gear are well designed to fit the chosen aesthetics, and it all bolsters the game’s originality. Even the lack of minimap is narratively justified, as you have a compass on the top of the screen to help you out. All these add up, so you don’t get to think you are playing the same MMORPG over again – something that happens quite often when new titles in this genre come out.
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On the other hand, the game’s setting is lacking variation. Although the environments are beautiful and rich, they looked too similar to me whenever I changed areas. In addition, we have very few enemy variations, especially when venturing into the wilderness. And believe me, you will do that a lot due to the side-quests design – I’ll talk that later. So with little wildlife and enemies, and the feeling the areas are way too similar, there is a compelling sensation of repetitiveness.
Another thing about the visuals is that I felt the game is lacking optimization. The ambitious maps and graphics are undoubtedly lovely to look at. They do run on mid-to-low ranged computers, but not as good as the official minimum/recommended requirements suggest. I faced a lot of stutter and FPS drops whenever there were more than 8 characters on screen. So, if your machine is anywhere close to the recommended settings, I suggest you play on Medium (to Low) settings.
Character and Combat
The first significant difference in New World is its classless character creation system. The game offers you the chance to arrange the character’s skill points and the weapons’ leveling system with much freedom. Therefore you can use melee weapons, bows, armor sets, muskets, magic spells, and firearms. What will decide if your character is good at any of those is your ability points and how proficient you are with each weapon. And yes, there is a way to reset your ability points, freedom is the word here, and you can adapt with the game’s development.
Action-oriented combat was also a good development decision; it added another layer of freshness to the game. However, it hurts to admit that the combat in New World is shallow. The weapon’s skill trees have minimal distinction; most skills are % additions to attack or defense. The same applier to the character’s attributes system; it all plays too simplistic, and it forces the other options to the same low standard. That affects combat directly, as you won’t have much space for different approaches and strategies.
When facing enemies directly, there are also issues with the characters’ slow animations. Except for some specific gear, you most likely won’t hit first, mainly because stealth is still a mystery to me. Adding to that, I felt the combat UI is not consistent on what attacks can be blocked or not. Actually, blocking does not feel great at all, you lose stamina too quickly, and it is painful if your guard is broken – when stamina reaches 0. Ranged combat is, therefore, overpowering in the game’s current state, making it almost impossible to react if a ranged enemy hits you first; the best strategy is to run away.
Those are just some examples to illustrate that the overall combat system needs balancing.
A lot of balancing.
Crafting, survival, and quests
The crafting system is a simple but good one. The overall mechanic on this part is very similar to the successful formula you find in ESO. The only exception is that you level each crafting skill by performing each; instead of spending the same abilities you use on your character progression. So, be ready to spend a lot of time crafting random stuff just to level up each of your skills: Armoring, Arcana, Cooking, Engineering, Furnishing, Jewelcrafting, and Weaponsmithing.
To grind the crafting system, you will also need to level up your survival skills because you need materials from nature to perform each of the above craftings. So, sometimes you will be required to go into an adventure just with the goal to collect as much material as possible from a variety of natural sources. You need tools to do that, and you get better tools to gather materials faster and avoid spending much time on this.
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Many players complained about grinding on both these aspects of the game. However, since they both are almost symbiotic, at least you have a purpose for leveling all those skills. As your skill at gathering increases, you also gain the ability to detect valuable materials around you. As your crafting skill increases, you get access to new recipes and add extra stuff to your crafted items. I enjoyed both systems; being able to skill up in everything to your liking is fantastic. Luckily, many quests require you to gather materials as well, and you can grind them along with your character progression.
Although, as much as it may seem a good thing, the quest system is one of the most repetitive aspects of New World. Almost all side-quests are:
- Simple gathering missions.
- Eliminate enemy X dozens of times.
- Kill a specific boss in a particular place.
To make it worse, the game does not have any kind of vehicle yet, so get ready to walk minutes and minutes to reach each destination.
Economy, zones, and maps
You can teleport to some areas you visited before, and that is a time saver. But to do so, you need to spend one of the in-game currencies, which leads us to a very controversial aspect of New World: it’s economy. Keep in mind that we are talking about a game produced by Amazon, so the game economy is basically capitalism at its best (or should I say worst?)
Essentially, everything you do, you have to spend gold on.
Did you craft an item? Pay.
Did you use the auction house? Pay.
Did you melt some ores? Pay.
Do you want to teleport to another area? Pay a specific currency that is even harder to acquire than the game’s gold pieces.
There are taxes everywhere!
There are some ways to mitigate that financial barrier. You can level up your standing in each region. It is a particular system within New World, where you get to earn some bonuses in each area by completing some achievements. One of the possible bonuses is to decrease the zone’s taxes; others are increased XP gained, decreased gathering speed, etc. Another way to combat the abusive taxes is by helping your Faction to gain control of the territory.
And here is where New World really shines, its zone control and faction system. The game is based in territories disputed by three factions, the Syndicate, the Marauders, and the Covenant. Each with a specific reason and background to join the battle, none with only good purposes or mean ones, in mind; the choice is hard if you consider the narrative only. However, the option is easier if you want to play in an “easy mode.” The Syndicate seems like the baddies, so most players join them, making that Faction bigger and easier to play than the other two.
So, each Faction controls a settlement in a territory and decides almost every aspect of its economy. For example, taxes applied to use the auction house and craft items on the town’s crafting stations. Basically, how much you need to pay to live. The Faction in charge also decides which town projects are worked on. Those projects control what tier crafting stations the city gets, which town defenses, etc.
A Faction can declare war and dispute the control of another Faction over a territory. And this is icing on the New World’s cake. The battle consists of a 50v50, and it is won by either successfully capturing or defending the Territory Fort. The attacking Faction must breach the fort’s gates and conquer it, while the defending Faction needs to prevent that. Several things influence here, such as siege weapons, platforms, and generators, all to be used to level up the defending Faction resistance. It is pure chaos and very, VERY, fun to play.
Not much can change from Closed Beta to full release. At this stage, the devs will likely work only on balancing and bug fixes; the core game design is ready as-is. It does not mean that New World won’t change throughout its life-cycle; quite the opposite. It is usual to see MMORPGs updating their main mechanics to a much more polished version over the years. And I’m not saying New World is bad; I just sometimes got the feeling the game is like a mixture of ideas implemented to satisfy a senior executive’s checklist instead of adding up to create a cohesive game design.
New World has changed its overall mechanics many times throughout development, and that may be the root of some of the problems I pointed out in this article. However, there is a lot of potential here, especially for those (like me) who seek something different than just looting around some medieval world. While I loved the freedom and the possibility to level up almost everything, I also felt its charm fading rapidly as the activities became repetitive. Luckily, the PvP faction/zone control system gives us the much appreciated extra sauce to the whole experience.