New World: Hands-On With 1 of the Expeditions
One of the best parts of any great MMORPG is its dungeons, and it sounds like Amazon Game Studios’ New World is bringing those in droves when it releases this August, launching with six whole dungeons – called expeditions – that range from mid-level to endgame content. The very first one you’ll get to visit is Amrine Excavation, which is immediately easy to pick up and fight through with a team, minus a highly challenging boss sequence towards the end that can sneak up on you if you’re not prepared for it.
But it’s pretty unremarkable if you aren’t already engaged with New World’s overarching storyline, which, if you’re not all caught up, takes place in the high fantasy world of Aeternum. This world is host to an ongoing war between players and The Corruption, a malevolent force that seeks to, well, corrupt everything in its path. The Corruption is especially dangerous when in contact with the mystical substance called Azoth, a substance that is simultaneously vital to the world’s inhabitants, highly vulnerable to The Corruption’s influence, and so prevalent throughout Aeturnum that it is central to the conflict that drives the story as well as the PvP battles.
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Absolutely none of that is necessary to know if you only want to delve into a dungeon and kill some monsters for loot, which is exactly what I did. This first expedition unlocks when you’re level 25. And because of that low level gate, things are kept pretty simple as you work your way through a linear corridor with your party, fighting monsters and collecting loot as you go, then eventually spreading out and fighting tougher monsters for even better loot.
The dungeon itself looks pretty run-of-the-mill, featuring mostly standard grays and browns without much else to flavor it. And, without much extra context, the monsters you fight inside of Amrine Excavation just seem like regular zombies. That said, the lighting is brilliant due to tricks made possible with Amazon’s Lumberyard engine, and it’s especially noticeable if you’re coming in from older MMOs like Final Fantasy 14 and Elder Scrolls Online. Both games have received updates to their lighting engines, but neither one comes close to the fidelity that I witnessed in the current New World alpha, which boasts visual fidelity that’s closer to a single-player blockbuster than it is to your average MMO.
The New World team has been hard at work rebalancing combat since previous demo builds, and for this preview, I was given a level-30 character with a ton of different weapon types to try out. I didn’t get time to try anything close to the full gamut of what was offered, but I did give a good crack at a heavy armor set paired with a massive warhammer, a rapier, and a longsword-plus-shield combo. As opposed to what I was told, I was also only allowed to quick-swap between two weapons instead of three, and it sounds like that will be the norm going forward.
The speed of combat was immediately noticeable here, especially given that the enemies moved quickly and the flow of battle was determined by how apt each teammate was at blocking and dodging the oncoming attacks. In other MMOs, enemies tend to stand in one place and don’t move around much unless they’re following you or telegraphing a larger attack. In New World, things are way more fluid.
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Your weapons all behave much differently from one another, and each have their own “personality” in battle. Handling the warhammer was completely different than handling the rapier, which was completely different than handling the sword and shield. Weapons each have appropriate heft and weight, and your character’s movements are also much different depending on what type of weapon you’re wielding. For example, I found it much harder to hit targets with the warhammer than I did with the sword, whereas actually hitting a target with the warhammer did way more damage. Likewise, I found it easier to dip in and out of harm’s way with the rapier. It’s clear to me that mastering these weapons through your own skill will be a big part of New World’s draw.
This is certainly the most action-focused MMO that I’ve seen for some time, if not ever, that’s decidedly a “true” MMORPG and not a live service game or looter shooter like Destiny 2. But alas, with only three slots to put abilities in and only four slots to put items in, and no “class” abilities or spells, the lean simplicity of New World may turn off some MMORPG purists who’d prefer the usual amount of tactical freedom.
At the end of our test run, I ran into a hard stop when the boss Foreman Nakashima wiped the party several times in a row. Fighting him was similar to fighting a bullet hell boss, as he summoned swarms of his ghost buddies across the battlefield in rows, leaving just enough space to dodge the attack if I’d timed it perfectly, which unfortunately I didn’t. My team couldn’t pick it up before our time was done, so I never got to that great big box of loot that was promised to me at the end of Amrine Excavation.
How the rest of New World is shaping up at this stage, I’m not quite sure – I wasn’t allowed to peek at anything outside of the dungeon this time. But if IGN’s past impressions and the developers’ comments are accurate, New World will launch with plenty of quality hours across its large world, massive 20 vs. 20 PvPvE battles, territory control, endgame dungeon crawls, rare material hunts, and much more.
Gabriel Moss is always up for an RPG adventure. Talk MMO’s with him on Twitter at @gabrielmosspdx.