As I roamed the opening area of Amazon Games Studios’ new open world MMORPG, New World, I was truly impressed. The game looked beautiful. This alpha build was running pretty well, and I was loving the beautiful landscapes and scenery. My immediate first impression was, “Ok this game is going to be incredible.” And I still believe that. But now it comes with a caveat.
See, I had only been playing for about a half hour when some of the textures just stopped loading. I was instead getting blue-ish blocks of color scattered throughout the area. At first I thought it was intentional (because I’m dumb), but I eventually realized that parts of the world just weren’t loading in correctly for me.
Let me stop right here and say, yes, I know this was an alpha build. But this was in February, and the game launches in May. That’s not a large window.
I wholeheartedly believe the actual game was (and is) in better shape than what I played, but it was concerning, to say the least. With launch less than three months away, I would have hoped we’d play a more solid build of the game. And while Amazon is promising a beta in April (no specific dates noted), that doesn’t leave much time for them to learn and implement changes before the May launch date (again, no specific date noted on their website).
Let me start off with a few things that have me excited about this game.
I’ve never been much of a PVP player in MMOs, but the experience I had playing the 50v50 battle against the developers was an absolute blast. It was exciting watching the enemies charging towards us from across the field as we gathered supplies and took our positions. I played as an archer, so I hung back on the keep wall while a bunch of our hand-to-hand combatants ran out to greet them. There’s an opportunity here for some great strategy and tactics if enough people on one side are communicating with each other.
It was frenetic and chaotic, but the goals were clear: Defend the marked zones to prevent the enemies from being able to enter and overtake our stronghold. There are opportunities for the attackers to cause problems for the defending team, thanks to rear entrances that may be left relatively unguarded, or by forgetting to close one of the keep doors when rushing out to attack. There is a lot going on, so communication and coordination will be imperative.
There is always something to do or see, seemingly at every turn. The map is 40 square kilometers, which is impressive enough on its own, but what the team is most proud of is the density of said map. It’s hard to walk more than a minute in any given direction without running into an enemy, a beautiful alcove, or chest full of goodies.
A large map is nothing without stuff to do, and from what I saw, New World is really making this a priority. I quickly fell behind my fellow journalists who were there for the demo, as I kept getting sidetracked. I found a beach way off the beaten path and explored the heck out of it. I found groups of enemies that dropped new armor and weapons that some of the other journalists did not find. It’s this kind of meaningful exploration that makes MMOs truly feel alive.
Skill Is Paramount
I’m terrible at video games. Except Overwatch, where I am the leading DVa player in our group. But for the most part, I’m pretty bad at games. So the idea of skill being important in New World should scare me. But I’m actually encouraged by it.
When I say I’m bad at games, that often means I put together weird or poor builds that aren’t very effective - but for whatever reason, I find fun. So I’m encouraged to know that I can put together a build that doesn’t make much sense and still be able to compete if I just get good enough. Of course, that also means that I could actually get good at this game, and still be destroyed by a lower level players because they’re even better. But I suppose that adds to the challenge.
But getting back to my concerns with the quickly approaching launch date, I worry what the state of the game will be at launch. It’s 2020, and online games still struggle at launch. I can count on one hand the number of major online games that have launched relatively smoothly in the last few years (The Division 2 being one of the most notable examples).
But what makes New World unique is the fact that Amazon is behind it. “The power of the cloud” was a buzz phrase when the current generation of gaming consoles launched back in 2013, but it didn’t really pan out to meaning much. But when the largest provider of cloud services builds an online world, expectations rise.
Fair or not, with the name Amazon on the box, people will be expecting this game to have a smooth launch. And when customers hand over their money for a product, they have a right to expect that it work on day one. Too many times gamers have been burned by a game that won’t even allow them to log in on day one.
But none of them were built by Amazon.
I’m expecting great things from New World over the long-term, I just hope Amazon has enough time to finish the game and roll out a complete, stable game come May.