Amazon's New World beta preview: An MMORPG with something to prove

New World Preview Hero
New World Preview Hero (Image credit: Amazon Games)

In my last preview of New World's expeditions back in May, I wrote that Amazon Games' ambitious and long-gestating MMORPG, had promise, but I had only spent time with one portion of a much larger game. As luck may have, I've once again washed up on the shores of Aeternum, this time given the freedom to explore what the opening hours have in store for players.

And what can you expect exactly? Surprisingly, a lot, and almost immediately, too. New World doesn't waste time explaining things, and as I washed up on the black shores of Aeternum, I was quickly given a sword, a tutorial, and the metaphorical keys to the kingdom, following a few starter quests. New World has packed a lot of content into its dark fantasy world and it wants you to get involved as quickly as possible.

The calm before the storm

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of the standout features in New World is its combat. Combat is physical, skill-based, and action-oriented, and has more in common with a third-person action game than your typical auto-attacking MMORPG-fare. It's less like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy, and more like Black Desert, if I were to draw a comparison to other MMO games. In New World, combat boils down to carefully-timed dodges and melee attacks, rather than dealing with hotkey rotations. The game's classless character system allows players to mix and match weapon combinations on the fly, and as you level up, you'll be able to sink points into weapon skills, unlocking new moves.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

You'll find plenty of opportunities to use the special moves. Dark magic has seeped into many of the locales in Aeternum, spawning enemies called The Corrupted. At first, they may seem like sword fodder, but in New World, players are in a constant struggle with The Corrupted, their presence growing as a result of the settlements grow in strength, reaching a crescendo once a territory is overtaken, leading to a PVE mode called Invasion.

But if invasions and slaughtering hordes of undead magical beings isn't your thing, there are lots of other things to see in Aethernum. Graphically speaking, New World is among the best-looking MMORPGs on the market. But its sunny vistas and dark, dimly caverns were were just set dressing to the real star of the show – the fishing. And oh boy, I can report that the fishing is good.

The simple pleasures of picking plants

Source: Amazon Games (Image credit: Source: Amazon Games)

While New World's main attractions may lie in PVP and PVE modes, any good MMORPG has to make players feel like their part of the world around them as well. As I approached the first settlement, Windsward City, a quaint early game town, I was introduced to the game's intricate crafting systems. Crafting weapons, for example, is not as cut and dry as it is in other MMORPGs. For example, you can follow a recipe to craft a basic sword, but New World allows the player to swap out the ingredients for different, stronger ones that will increase the quality of the item. It will also increase the requirements to equip each weapon, but this freedom allows the players to dial in on the desired effects of their weapon.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Finding the required ingredients is also as simple as venturing out into the wild, mining rocks, and cutting down trees. The early quest equips you with everything you need to get to mindlessly deforesting the surrounding environments. That includes, but is not limited to, pickaxes for breaking boulders, scythes for hacking weeds, and carving knives for skinning animals.

Deeper still, you must take your standing in each territory into consideration as you sell, hunt, and shop. At level 10, you'll have an option to join one of three factions, the Marauders, the Syndicate, and your factions will vie for control of different sections of Aeternum. As your Faction takes control of more territory, it'll affect the quality of your resources, craft equipment, combat against the Corrupted will be more effective, and you'll even have higher luck when looting.

Some bones to pick

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While my time playing New World was brief, it was still long enough to notice some interesting omissions from the game. There was no mini-map, for example, though there was a compass at the top that points you in the direction of key objectives. I often found myself opening the map, which took up my whole screen, to figure out the right way to go. I also asked about the inclusion of mounts, and much to my surprise, there won't be any at launch. As a fan of the simple pleasures of collection mounts and minions in Final Fantasy XIV, I was dismayed by the thought of walking to my destination instead of riding in style. There will be warp points, however, that will teleport you to major hubs as well as certain areas for hunting, gathering, and fighting.

In addition to fishing, another joy I get from MMORPGs is the customization. While I didn't waste too much time building my character, there weren't many customization options, just lots of presets, and when pressed about New World's customization, I was told weapon and character skins will be available, using in-game currency or real-world money.

This isn't out of the ordinary for MMORPGs, but a few months ago, it came to light that Amazon was internally testing a premium currency that could be used to purchase the quality of life items or progression boosters. Amazon Games addressed the leaks, stating that the storefront was just for testing during the alpha. In-store items will now be purely cosmetic and not impact gameplay at all, but we'll have to see if they're true to their word once the game launches.

A potential hit

New World Fishing

Source: Amazon Games (Image credit: Source: Amazon Games)

New World might be coming from an untested developer like Amazon Games, but the team seems determined to get things right. Extensive player feedback has shaped New World immensely, adding tons of mid-game and end game content, in the form of both PVP and PVE modes. The combat is actually pretty involved, as well as the game's crafting system, and even adding VO to the quest givers all make New World feel distinct. But what I like most is just how dynamic the environment feels. While my time in the Alpha was limited, I already got a feel of how the world can change, in both small and large ways, and without a subscription, It certainly has the potential to be one of the best multiplayer games on PC.

How all of this comes together when the masses come ashore is another question that remains unanswered. An ever-changing map could be a frustration or a delight, depending on who you ask, and I wasn't able to follow the plot closely enough for any endearing revelations. Still, it's no cause for alarm, not yet anyway.

How all of this comes together when the masses come ashore is another question that remains unanswered.

Players won't have to wait long before checking out New World. A closed beta will be available to those who preorder the game starting on July 20 and will continue through August 2. Players will have an opportunity to explore the world themselves and get a taste of what's in store before the official launch on August 31.

Similar to my last preview, I have high hopes for New World, but its constant delays and "everything and the kitchen sink" give me the feeling that even New World still doesn't know exactly what it wants to be. But the PVP-focused MMORPG could be a surprise hit and may even be able to slow the growing popularity of the MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV, if they can stick the landing.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. I like playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.