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New World Amrine Excavation hands-on: Spelunking squad

Amazon offered some hands-on time with a new PvE encounter from its upcoming MMO.

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Amazon made big headlines back in 2016 when it introduced its plans to be a serious competitor in the video game space. It announced three titles during that year’s TwitchCon event: Breakaway, Crucible, and New World. In the time since, both Breakaway and Crucible have been placed on indefinite hiatus, leaving New World as the flag-bearer for Amazon’s AAA video game ambitions. 

New World has been in the oven for several years now, being built on Amazon’s own Lumberyard Engine, itself a fork of Crytek’s CryEngine. It has been demoed a handful of times over the last two years with our own staff getting the opportunity to go hands-on with the Age of Exploration-era MMO in both 2019 and 2020. A large-scale preview session was also held in the fall of 2020, allowing the development team to gather feedback directly from the community. With that feedback in mind, the team has prepared its next bit of content to show off in the form of the PvE-focused Armine Excavation Expedition and yours truly got the opportunity to see it firsthand.

Spooky time

Expeditions are special five-player dungeon encounters that task players with toppling some tough combinations of foes. These Expeditions will also be loaded with items and texts that work to tell the story of Aeternum, the Atlantic island on which New World is set. The Armine Excavation was the backdrop for my first-ever encounter with New World.

After assembling on a special test server for press and influencers, participants were collected into groups that would enter the Expedition. Each group also came with a special chaperone to guide the party through the encounter and assist with questions and, as I quickly discovered, kill the enemies that seemed hell-bent on abusing me. 

The test accounts provided to our group were leveled to the max as best I could tell, with all options pertaining to skills and passive attributes to be left to my own discretion. I pumped up the stats that looked cool and entered my player inventory where I was greeted with a pre-arranged assortment of various weapon types that I understood to represent the majority of what players can expect to find over the course of leveling and playing with their own character. I opted for the hatchet as it seemed to offer reasonable base damage without the encumbrance of the other brutish, two-handed options.

Our chaperones led us into the dark chambers of a cave on the island. As our party moved forward, it was clear that the cave system had multiple inhabitants that did a pretty nice job of carving and chiseling out some rather lavish accommodations. It was also apparent that the parties responsible for building this place were long dead and nearly every open area was full of undead creatures.

The enemies ranged from zombie-ish humanoids to floating specters who were missing just about everything from the waist down. Our group dove right into the action — poking, stabbing, and slashing anything that moved. My hatchet did inflict measurable damage, but it was clear that the haphazard approach I took to distributing points and skills left my character in a poor position to be the Patrick Bateman-esque mauler I aspired to be. Our chaperones did an admirable job casting circles that kept our party’s life bars topped up while us noobs took swings at the enemies like piñatas.

The session culminated in a boss encounter against archaeologist Simon Grey. Grey was cool enough to leave his journals strewn about the cave system in a way that allowed players to learn his story and motivations prior to the big encounter. Grey inhabited the largest and most lavish dwelling seen so far in the Expedition and was built like a tank. He turned me into marmalade with his fist almost instantly. I respawned and waited at a stone door, as the fight could not be rejoined until all party members died out. 

As luck would have it, dying happened a good bit here, so I got to see lots of the blue-ish stone wall blocking re-entry. It did give me a chance to switch over to a musket that proved to be a more effective way to attack and avoid Grey than my embarrassing hatchet, though the results remained the same. Eventually, our benevolent chaperones managed to topple old Simon, thus concluding the guided tour of the Armine Excavation.

The development team said that multiple Expeditions are planned for the final release which should give players some nice diversions from flower picking, PvP, and the other activities you can get into in the main game world. Each of these Expeditions will offer self-contained stories and the chance to drop gear that is exclusive to these instances. Some of the Expeditions will be aimed at participants of various levels so players can look forward to the unique encounters at levels 30, 35, and so forth.

Prepping for the big dance

Amazon is aiming to have New World ready for the public very soon. The current goal is for a launch on August 31 later this year. If the team can manage the delicate balance between PvP excitement, PvE Expeditions, and open-world exploration, New World has a chance to be the game Amazon envisioned when it announced the MMO in 2016. If it can click with players later this summer, New World won’t need to worry about meeting the same fate as the inhabitants of Aeternum.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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