The most recent and final closed beta for New World, Amazon’s upcoming MMORPG, was more entertaining than I thought it would be.
After getting burnt out of retail World of Warcraft, and only lasting five weeks before quitting its Shadowlands expansion, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on another MMO to play.
Having never played any of the previous New World betas, I came in with a fresh set of eyes and got a glimpse of the game in what is close to its final form. The final closed beta, available to those who pre-ordered until August 2, allowed me to spend enough time to get to learn the game’s systems while keeping in mind not to burn out trying to reach max level before everything gets reset before the September 1 release (in Singapore time).
Here are some of my thoughts on how the game feels so far.
Having spent a ton of time this year playing survival games like Valheim and Conan Exiles, I immediately felt at home with New World’s survival game elements. There’s a lot of crafting, resource gathering, and exploration involved.
While you get given a general idea of the areas that you should be visiting for quests, there’s a lot less hand-holding involved in finding actual quest objectives, whether they’re special quest items or NPCs that need to be killed.
How you then explore these areas and find your objectives is up to you, which also includes figuring out the safest way to get there without finding yourself in areas that are have enemies that are a little too high for you.
Like other survival games, and earlier iterations of World of Warcraft, you’ve got to use your skills to improve them. Want to get new perks for your weapon? Kill more people with it. Want to improve your crafting? Then continue gathering materials and craft items at one of the settlements peppered around the world’s regions.
It’s fun to actually watch weapon skills improve through use, and something that gave me a little bit of nostalgia about old-school World of Warcraft. There also does feel like a decent amount of weapon diversity, from melee weapons like hatchets and great axes, ranged weapons like bows and muskets, along with magical items that let you either heal your allies or wreak havoc on your enemies.
New World’s map also seems big enough that it will take a significant amount of time to get to the endgame areas. I certainly didn’t get anywhere near them, which suggests that the journey to the endgame will take a fair amount of time.
There is also player housing, which tends to be a stickler for a lot of MMO fans these days. I didn’t have the time to really get into it yet, but you’re able to buy homes in certain areas once you’ve unlocked enough area reputation by completing town quests that help upgrade the area. These quests involve gathering materials, hunting for relics, or crafting items to donate to a specific town.
Overall, the levelling speed seemed to be all right, and power levelling is probably possible but wouldn’t be such a huge thing for players like me who have become more casual over the years.
Some of the design decisions made for the game are a little frustrating. Some things, like having to stop running to open your inventory because of the game’s UI design, feels like something that fits a true survival game instead of a modern MMO.
There are some archaic mission design problems that abound in New World, too. For example, an important quest to get one of the game’s more important tools requires you to kill a unique creature three times. The problem is, these things take a pretty long time to spawn, but die instantly and are almost impossible to tag with damage when there’s a Zerg of other players spamming the area with AOE damage.
This can lead to frustration when you can’t find a group to join, or even when you find one, it can still take more than 30 minutes to get lucky enough to tag the monster. That’s frankly unforgivable design, considering that the developers have over two decades’ worth of MMORPGs to look at and study for bad choices.
The other frustration that I had with the game was the randomised starting areas, which places you in one of four zones when you create your character. While each of these zones have nearly-identical starter areas in terms of the Iow level creatures available, it can be tough to get to where your friends are if you want to start the game together. It takes quite a while to finish the starter quests to catch up to a point where everyone needs to speak to the same NPC. That means you could be stuck for hours on another area of the map, and getting to your friends is hard because higher-level creatures are all over the map and can cause a quick death if you try to run your way to your friends while still only level 1 or 2.
Because there is PVP involved in taking control of zones, it kind of makes sense that they don’t want the big clans to all start in the same place and dominate right away, but it’s not exclusively hardcore players that will make this game successful. I’m hoping that we’ll get the option to choose one of the four starting zones when we make our character.
While weapon diversity is nice, it also feels like, at least up to the early and mid-game, that magical weapons don’t have the same fun factor or power as the melee and ranged weapons. Again, maybe they’ll balance that in the final weeks leading to release.
There are still a few systems that I haven’t tried, including the game’s first dungeon, because you need to craft specific items if you want to re-enter a dungeon. That can be a frustrating experience if you go into a dungeon unprepared, so my friends and I figured we’d just wait until release to do so.
The game also involves a couple of mass-PVP and PVE concepts that involve battling for forts and outposts. I don’t typically like to try these things until endgame, so that will have to wait for release too.
One other thing that I’m not sure about is how well-balanced factions will be on retail release. With players having a choice to join one of three factions, and changes being limited to once every 120 days, I’m not sure how they’ll be able to avoid having players organise into creating a giant Zerg faction on every server that just overpowers with numbers in world PVP.
While there are some things that annoy me about New World, I believe that there will be enough content for me to play for at least a couple of months. With no subscriptions involved, and currently apparently no pay-to-win items involved in the micro transaction store in the beginning, I think it will be worth picking New World up.
New World’s potential longevity is another question, but we’ll get to that when we do a proper review after the release in September.