Impressions of Amazon's New World
On Tuesday, February 5th, the good people at Amazon and Fortyseven invited a group of game enthusiasts to attend an Alpha event to get a glimpse at the progress being made on their New World project. Not only were we given time to experience the game in its present form, but we were also taken on a tour of the dynamic Company vs. Company warfare that awaits players in this large scale PvP title. Of course, they also had much to talk about regarding their plans and ideas for the game going forward, and in talking with them, their obvious excitement and enthusiasm quickly became infectious. What follows are my initial impressions of what New World currently is, and what the hopes are for down the road.
First things first, for a game still in its alpha stages, the game is quite stunningly beautiful. Vegetation is rich and surprising varied throughout the world, resplendent with harvestable items that meld in seamlessly with the environment. The varying terrains and environments are beautifully implemented and also exhibit seamlessness in the transitions between them. This, of course, includes the varieties of wildlife. While some of the wildlife will maintain a pretty common presence throughout the world (your Thanksgiving dinner will see no lack in turkey, in this world), others like buffalo and huge bears will be more frequent in specific areas of the terrain. This includes various types of flora, as well. Certain harvestable plants will only be found in climes and areas in the terrain that would normally accommodate that type of plant, such as hemp, which can usually only be found in a more plains-like area. But even beyond that, the forestation is diverse in that different types of trees inhabit different climes, as well. And yes, I got lost in the woods. Some of these forested areas are not sparse in the slightest. Don't worry, though. We still have our map with our individual player-placed markers that will show up on our HUD compass. But in a world this beautiful, getting lost isn't such a bad thing.
To tackle your new life in this New World, they have a very rounded variety of trade skills available to be advanced as you progress in your adventures. All fifteen trade skills are available to any player at any level. Of course, you will need to spend trade skill points in a specific area to increase the quality and diversity of your industry, but there is nothing to limit you from deciding one day that you want to be an engineer and spending a few of your trade skill points on that. The trade skill list consists of three sub-lists: Crafting (Blacksmithing, Engineering, Outfitting, Provisioning, and Alchemy), Gathering & Refining (Logging & Carpentry, Mining, Masonry and Smelting, Harvesting & Weaving, Tracking, Skinning and Tanning), and Personal Skills (Building, Fishing, Wilderness Survival, Bounty Hunting, Treasure Hunting, and Reparing). Obviously, there is no lack of professions to explore.
Unfortunately, trade skill points are not that plentiful and are only available every other level or so. Levels in between will give you attribute points to distribute as you please to compliment who you want your character to be. While the kind of freedom offered in this system is nice, to reach superiority in a trade skill requires dedication of points to that area, bypassing others. This is one of many areas in which it becomes convenient to be a part of a larger company. Having different members of a company focus on different trade skills can help ensure and enable quality equipment and supplies for every member.
There are no inhibitions on what direction you want to take your character development within the game itself. Every new character begins as a survivor of a shipwreck, alone on the beach. Well, maybe not alone, depending on how many other people are starting a character at just that moment. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other starting points, as well. If you and a friend decide to make characters at the same time, you may find yourselves on completely different beaches. All of you will, however, start as a blank slate. Or rather, a standard slate. There are no "classes", per se, except in how you guide the growth of your avatar. All weapon types are useable by every character, with only level and stat requirements limiting items as they advance in quality. This enables a great deal of freedom in choosing the type of character you will play, from stealth to flat out brutality, and while I didn't get to create a character, the ones we were given displayed a good sampling of variety in appearance.
Your early levels will seem very much like a survival game, but I assure you it is not. Rather, this is only a small part of the game. You will not starve without food, dehydrate without water, or freeze to death without clothes. Yes, you will most likely see a lot of people running around in loincloths. So, not so much a survival game, but merely a character building section of the game. Yeah. I said it. It builds "character". Food and drink, however, do serve a purpose. A well-fed character will find that they heal at a quicker pace than when they are hungry. Likewise, being well hydrated ensures that your stamina returns at a much higher rate. I cannot stress the importance of those aspects enough. Obviously, your avatar's life depends on their health level. No complications in that. Stamina, though, is also extremely important as it fuels your attacks and certain important activities. For example, going through a battle with an empty stamina bar visibly affects how well your character wields their weapons and drastically affects the damage they deal; and stamina can go quick, which increases the need for a high rate of replenishment. Of course, you can increase the attribute governing stamina (Endurance), and that is great and helpful. But you will never be without a need to have a high rate of stamina replenishment.
Each player also has the ability to set a small camp, terrain allowing, where they can craft some basic survival items and gear. The camp can also act as a respawning point, which can be very convenient if you set down camp right around where you’re going to be hunting or killing. You can pick up your camp from anywhere in the world, regardless of where you set it. This is convenient if you find you have strayed too far from your camp to quickly get back to it. Just hold the Y button until it tells you that you’ve broken camp and it will be immediately ready to set again. Each player may only have one active camp at a time. Using your camp as a respawn point, however, triggers a cooldown timer that will not allow you to use your camp again for respawning until your timer is up. Increasing your survivalist trade skill will diminish the cooldown time.