Hands on with New World: Amazon Games’ first great hope in gaming

The New World feels quite a lot like the old world, all things considered. The MMO, which has ended up being Amazon Games’ first and so far only great hope in gaming (at least the first one that should reach a proper, full release), currently ticks a solid number of boxes on the MMO checklist. Open world stuffed with random undead enemies and turkeys to slaughter? Check. Customisable characters with a varied selection of 1600s-era-appropriate hats that you’ll spend way too long comparing slightly different stats on? Check. Spamming attack and your specials keys to tank your way through encounters against damage-sponge enemies? Check. If you’re playing as a tank.

New World also feels utterly banal, at least from my brief time playing one of the game’s expeditions – instanced missions akin to many other multiplayer games. Think Strikes from Destiny mixed with a hefty Dark Souls dose. After waddling about the local area looking for trees to chop down and turkeys to bother, we began our mission to hunt down a missing settler – entering a dank cave, skimming through a page of a dropped diary, and getting sidetracked mining some ore when one of the first fights broke out. Solid team play from Wireframe, there.

See, the bat-like enemy has arms, thus making it a bold statement about… wings… being arms? Something like that

What the expedition ended up being was a four-player jaunt through the aforementioned cave – a dungeon delve complete with hordes of zombified enemies to hit a lot, chests to root through for newer/shinier loot, and additional hordes of zombies to hit a bit more. ‘Basic’ about covers it. ‘Competent’, too. It’s fair to say our team was levelled to the point that strategy wasn’t necessary for the encounter – as long as one person healed the others periodically, we would all survive most encounters pretty much unscathed. The potential for strategy to come into encounters, then, cannot be written off – perhaps when things get a bit trickier it’s an absolute necessity, and that’s where New World might come into its own.

This big burly boy has a hint of minotaur about him and, would you believe it, charges at you head-first

But I played what I played, and it didn’t particularly show off the game in a very exciting light. My right index finger cramped from all the clicking to attack, and I learned very little about the techniques required to tackle enemies, or why they were there to begin with, or what/who the giant stompy bad guy boss was at the end of the run. He was called Simon, or something similar, which didn’t quite give this five-metre tall ogre-like creature the gravitas you might expect of such a girthy enemy. We actually failed against him first time, but second time around – making sure someone was healing the other three – we took him out without much trouble. It was… fine. It’s genuinely difficult to get excited here, unfortunately, because you’d hope with the clout of Amazon behind it and this being the studio’s first game to (potentially) be released as a finished, full game, there’d be something more noteworthy to shout about. There is not.

Combat is hopefully more tactical than what was shown off, rather than just spamming clicks/attack shortcuts

Plus, there’s still the whiff of yikes about New World in its setting and general uncritical presentation of, well, colonialism. The island of Aeternum is as fictional as they get, riddled with some kind of magical curse and littered with glowing zombies that feast on empowering bile, as vomited up by bigger enemies. True story. But it doesn’t step very far from its true historical influences – the look is realistic, the clothing authentic, the settlements what you would expect for that time in human history. And the tale of settlers going to claim new lands – even tales of settlers being ‘corrupted’ by new lands – is as traditional as it comes in the everlasting, uncritical portrayal of the history of colonialism. The dev team at Amazon Games isn’t doing this on purpose, I’m sure, but that lack of awareness – naivety – is galling at the very least, and will likely leave a nagging thought twirling around in the back of at least a few players’ heads.

But from a pure game-focused perspective… well, that’s not exactly great either, at least not from the hands-on session with New World. It’s fine. It looks to be a competent MMO – again, one that ticks all the right boxes, but in a way that feels mechanical and as though it was done to… well, tick boxes. Gathering materials and crafting. A (very) light Dark Souls feel to expeditions. Team-based adventures. Fine. Yep. Check. But, again, it’s a particularly old-world feel for a game calling itself New World and right now it’s hard to be particularly excited by what’s been shown off. There’s still time in development, and it being an MMO means there’ll be plenty of time post-launch to bring everything up to spec, of course, so this is very much one that’ll depend on how the chips fall.

Genre: MMO | Format: PC | Developer: Amazon Games | Publisher: Amazon Games | Release: 31 August | Social: @playnewworld

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