When I chose a giant hammer as my New World weapon during a preview session the other day, I was remembering all the fun I had bonking people in the head during Chivalry 2’s closed beta. I didn’t really expect New World to win in that comparison. Amazon’s MMO features action combat with hitboxes and dodging and blocking, but I spent a lot of my time chasing ghosts around because they kept floating away from my swings, which somehow harmed them. You know, MMO stuff.
It’s a different kind of fun, one that I think requires being invested in your character and group, and you don’t get that when you’re thrown into the middle of it for a demo. (I did enjoy spamming stupid emotes after each victory, though, so New World has that in common with Chiv 2.)
Amazon has pushed New World back a few times now (it’s set to release in August, and this time they mean it). At first, the big topic was territory control and 50v50 player battles. That stuff is still in the game, but the focus lately has been on giving players more midgame and endgame stuff to do outside of that framework. That’s why they had me team up with four others to explore an Expedition (a dungeon). The mini-adventure was fun, though mostly pretty easy with our level 30 characters. Until we reached the boss, who stomped us, I only died for stupid reasons, such as falling off the map.
Previews like this can be tricky, as I said, because one doesn’t normally start an MMO at level 30, standing outside a dungeon with a bunch of unspent skill points and an inventory full of stuff. I didn’t have a lot of time to contemplate my build, so I equipped that big hammer, spent all my character leveling juice on strength, constitution, and warhammer attacks and buffs, and led my crew into each fight as the self-designated tank.
It went pretty well, all things considered. With reliable healing from behind the front line, I didn’t worry much about blocking. Or, maybe more accurately, I found that I was bad at using block effectively so I just ate a lot of damage and made teammates keep my health topped off. The difficulty was in hitting enemies, who could be slippery. I found it hard to intuit when the swing animation and hitbox would meet, a big change to get used to after that weekend of Chiv 2. I also had to chase enemies down quite a bit, as sometimes they’d brush me off and run over to someone else in my squad. Sorry for not defending you better, GameSpot.
The environment wasn’t particularly memorable—a big stone dungeon full of ghouls—but the boss we encountered, Simon Grey, was a real prick. We didn’t manage to take him down, which isn’t surprising considering that three out of five of us didn’t know what we were doing. For most of our attempts, I wasn’t doing basic things like repairing my armor and eating food to give myself healing over time. Oops.
The boss is a big huge buff guy who, like all big huge buff guys in games, does slam and puke attacks and calls upon smaller minions to harass and distract. He’s fast, though, not lumbering. I did my best to chase him around, dodging his swipes and trying to get hits in. Often I just looked like a fool, winding up for a swing and then whiffing because he bolted away to attack one of my colleagues. Sorry again, GameSpot.
(If my frequent missing in the gif below makes you grimace, know that I am grimacing at myself, too.)
I remain curious to see how New World turns out. MMO designers and players (myself included, though I don’t play any regularly these days) are prone to hoping that every new game is going to be the next generator of EVE Online-esque intrigue, and yet what do we usually hear about? Endgame loot. Raid bosses. Nothing wrong with all that, but it certainly seems like interesting MMO economy and PvP dynamics are one of the hardest videogame things to design—maybe the hardest.
Will the big ideas that New World originally led with—territory control and PvP wars—end up being the focus, or will players gravitate toward the comforts of group dungeon crawls? Amazon also added fishing a while back—a vital MMO side activity—as well as voiceovers for the main quest givers, giving that singleplayer-friendly track a bit more love. There’s also now a 20-player Outpost Rush endgame mode that seems like a simpler way to participate in PvP. It’s clear that Amazon is hedging its bets here, providing activities that take less investment than governing regions of the map as part of a player organization.