New World hands-on preview: An ambitious journey

I had a chance to go hands-on with New World, the upcoming MMO from Amazon Game Studios

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Amazon’s foray into first-party game development and publishing includes New World. An MMO RPG with some ambitious goals. Set in a massive open world, New World looks to put freedom in the hands of players, allowing them to define their journey. Following a presentation, I got the chance to play a couple hours of New World and get a taste of what Amazon Game Studios is cooking up. 

The great adventurer

As with most games of its nature, New World opens up with a character creator. It features all of the expected areas (face, skin tone, hair) but nothing surrounding character traits or abilities, which we’ll get into later. While in the character creator, I was a bit underwhelmed with New World’s graphics quality. MMO’s aren’t known for their visuals, but it definitely felt a bit outdated. Luckily, I’m sure it’s something the developers are working on for full release.

Instead of choosing a specific class or creature race to set a baseline or progression path, players are able to define their own journey. As you level up and earn experience, you can assign them to different weapon types or abilities, allowing players to choose how they play. The game doesn’t lock you into any decisions, either. If you spend 30 hours as a knight with a sword and shield but decide you want to become a mage, the transition is as simple as equipping a magic staff. MMO’s are famous for being time-sinks, so it is a relief to know that you’re always free to progress in whatever direction.

A brave new world

New World features a sprawling map filled with diverse environments, towns, and creatures. For my demo, I was given access to a level 60 character that had been progressed partway through the game. Jumping in, I was free to do about whatever I wanted. Wandering into the woods, I quickly found myself being attacked by a pack of wolves. Using my spear, I was able to dispatch all but one of them, fleeing as I was holding onto my last bit of health. I was saved by two other players that showed up and defeated the wolf, one of the players was a mage that then restored my health. 

It’s these organic experiences that will make players fall in love with New World. Being able to just come across other players in the world and help one another out without needing to be in the same party, or queuing into the same quest is really neat. Unfortunately, this group of players weren’t present when I stumbled upon a fortress 15 minutes later and got annihilated by some undead wizards. 

Diverse encounters

Something I found really fascinating when playing New World was how Amazon Game Studios gives different locations, specifically towns, a sense of identity. When entering a town, a banner popped up on my screen showing the local tax-rate and property values. Though I didn’t have time to visit every location on the map, I really dig the idea of some towns being better for trading and bartering, while others will provide cost-efficient housing and shelter. Players can also visit a town’s inn and check in to make it their respawn point. 

After taking a quest, I ventured out into the wilderness to recover some lost journals. While out and about, I was attacked by some Dryads. I was only able to survive the encounter low on health but too far away from the closest town to run to an inn. In order to survive I had to chop down a couple of trees and gather resources in order to build a small camp, where I was able to rest and regenerate my points. Amazon Game Studios is really nailing the survival elements of New World, as so many of the game’s core elements feel natural and organic. 

Hunter gatherer

Knowing that I didn’t want to play as a mage, I figured I’d need to gather food and water as a means of keeping myself healed. New World’s HUD features a compass that players can use to identify nearby animals, which was really convenient as I spent time hunting buffalo and turkeys. This is where I got a good sense of the combat systems and mechanics in New World. Done in a real-time format, players will need to constantly move and attack to stay in control of a fight. While fighting was satisfying, I wish that the bow and arrow had a drawback mechanic, rather than just firing upon click.

There are three primary weapon slots in New World that players can switch between on the fly. Beginning with one, players will unlock the additional slots as they level up. During my time with the game, I found it most sensible to keep a close-range weapon, a long-range weapon, and then use the third slot as a wildcard. Of course, you’re free to move different weapons in and out of these slots as you please, but pausing to do so could result in a quick death during battle.

Different weapon classes also have abilities that players can acquire through experience points. When using a bow, I had an ability that allowed me to hop in the air and fire several arrows simultaneously at point-blank range. As mentioned before, the game never locks you into a decision, so you’re free to add, remove, and shift your abilities as you see fit. 

A land of discovery

In my couple of hours with New World, I was moderately impressed with what Amazon Game Studios has in store. The RPG elements are front and center, while the freedom of choice will surely provide for a convenient and player-friendly MMO experience. My only key concern is the game’s visuals, as a lot of the models and structures just feel a bit out of date. Despite being rough around the edges, Amazon Game Studios has the foundation for something quite unique with New World.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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