In the corners of the internet that I’ve been lurking in, it’s been a while since I’ve seen people hyped for a new MMO. So when Amazon Games’ New World announced an open beta event for this past weekend, I saw a good number of people excited about it.
I, on the other hand, was a bit more skeptical.
I will admit that a lot of my own skepticism about the game is tied to the company itself. When I think of Amazon, I think of a vast online marketplace of books and whatever else you might actually need, and, you know, how they tend to treat their workers. I absolutely do not think of a video game studio, much less one that’s capable of producing an MMO.
They clearly saw things differently because, well, here we are with New World‘s launch date on the horizon.
I hadn’t really heard much about the game since the first trailer initially premiered other than the release kept getting pushed back due to needing a whole lot of work, so I genuinely didn’t know if any of that would even be addressed. However, I knew the best way for me to find out was to try it myself, so I actually participated in the open beta weekend.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. There were things that I absolutely didn’t like, others I did, and some still that were a bit concerning to me.
Now, to be fair, the majority of what I didn’t like was the result of the game still being in beta. Knowing that New World was still in the beta phase made some of these issues a bit more bearable, but given that launch is (as of this writing, at least) set for September 28, 2021, this game does feel as though it’s close to its final form.
And I will say that that final form looks to be visually stunning.
Players are brought to the fictional island of Aeternum, positioned somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean between the “old world” (Europe) and the “new” one (the Americas) and surrounded by a storm of Corruption poised to sink any ships that venture too close to the island itself. While you do have dark pockets of Corruption here and there on the island itself, the island is probably the most striking thing about the game, and I personally found it to be incredibly beautiful.
Well, as long as you’re outside the settlement and city walls of the starting zones, that is.
Inside the walls, the arrangement of buildings is configured differently depending on the setting. Monarch’s Bluffs, for example, has a lot of stairs involved simply due to the titular bluffs. But despite that, they all look fairly similar visually. It’s easy to just assume that the developers copied and pasted these buildings in each settlement and just changed the orientation and arrangement of them slightly to fit the walls of the settlement itself.
Fortunately, though, there’s enough of a variety of NPCs of various nationalities and skin tones in each settlement to almost make up for it. People of color are everywhere in Aeternum. In the time I spent playing, I maybe only interacted with two or three white NPCs as points of contact for my character. The rest of them, including the local leader of the faction I chose to ally my beta character with and the leader of the entire settlement I was in at the time, were people of color. It made me smile, honestly.
That said, I found that I was only ever really in town to touch base now and again or craft and I spent most of my time outside adventuring, so the similar building structures didn’t bother me too much, especially not when the world beyond that is stunning. I had to set my in-game graphics to a slightly lower setting to prevent my computer from complaining while streaming, and it still looked absolutely beautiful.
The best part about it, at least to me, was that the game was open world. I could travel freely between zones on foot with nary a loading screen in sight. In fact, the only times I really encountered a loading screen was upon loading into the game or if I was fast-traveling between locations. So if you’re like me and you’ve been hungering for a large open world to explore with ruins to poke around in? You are going to be a very happy player.
However, if you’re into games like this for combat, then you may be in for an interesting time.
Anyone who knows me will know I don’t tend to talk about a game’s combat system. For me, combat is usually more of a secondary thing. But this time? This time, I really need to talk about it.
While I enjoyed the fact that this is a classless game and you can combine various weapon skills to make your own “class” of sorts, utilizing any of the relevant weapon skills in combat felt a bit ridiculous.
I would strike an enemy, and the animation would clearly show me hitting said enemy, but the attack might not even register. An enemy would randomly teleport ahead of me or to one side in mid-swing.
There were times when I found myself hitting the keybind to dodge, but my character wouldn’t dodge.
There were times when I was swarmed by mobs who proceeded to stunlock me repeatedly, or mobs would swarm me when I was fairly certain I hadn’t entered their aggro radius, or mobs would respawn too damn quickly and immediately overwhelm me.
In that regard, I didn’t find combat to be particularly smooth. The combination of desyncing issues mixed with some personal lag resulted in an incredibly awkward combat experience overall. Amazon Games may be able to correct the desyncing issues before launch, but given that this is an issue that’s apparently happened since a beta test that took place last year, I have my doubts about that.
And you might be asking if this was just a PvE thing, but I’m sad to report it was not. I legitimately witnessed it happening to a few people engaged in PvP on my way to and from quest locations.
All right. So the combat needs work and the game’s beautiful, but what about the story?
Well, I found it a bit confusing, honestly.
As the story begins, we get a cutscene that shows the captain of the ship we set sail on receiving a box that goes missing when the ship is wrecked en route to Aeternum due to the aforementioned storm of Corruption that seems to bar entrance to the island itself. Player characters survive the shipwreck and the rest of the crew of the ship have turned into the Lost (beings not unlike zombies). Your captain, on the other hand, suffers a different fate and becomes one of the Corrupted that’s attempting to subjugate Aeternum.
Except we don’t get a whole lot of an explanation about why this happens. We see the fate of our captain, and the explanations players are given about the fate of their fellow sailors just feel a bit vague. I honestly learned more about the Corrupted and the Lost through videos posted on the New World YouTube channel than I did from any in-game explanation.
By the time the beta wrapped, I had many questions and not nearly enough answers.
We’re not really told why the captain of our ship become one of the Corrupted or how we were spared that fate. We’re not told what was in that mysterious box the captain had with him in the initial cutscene and was presumably lost in the crash. He was focused on it for a reason, but what that reason is, we just don’t know.
We may eventually gain the answers to those questions later on, of course. I was only capable of leveling characters to about level 20 or so during the beta itself, so there’s likely more plot in later levels. However, we weren’t really given answers to much of anything in those early levels and I found that a bit concerning.
Overall, I found playing the New World open beta to be an interesting experience, and I was a bit surprised to find that I had a good time despite some of the issues I found. I don’t know that I’d call what I experienced of New World to be a particularly ground-breaking MMO, but I can imagine this game being a wonderful one to quest and roleplay in.
Would I play this game again? I think so. I do still think the combat needs to be improved and would love to have a more solid understanding of the world we were playing in, but overall, I enjoyed what I played of New World and will probably be back, especially since the game itself seems to be buy-to-play with no subscription fee.