New World, Amazon’s new MMO, was officially unveiled today during The Game Awards, and a first look at the upcoming project from the studio looks initially promising. Set in the twilight of the Age of Exploration during the 17th Century in an alternate history from our own, players will inhabit and explore the island of Aeternum, also known as the Eternal Isle, in search of treasure and more.
The upcoming game is being billed as an open-world MMO, complete with player-run settlements, Companies (which are New World’s guilds), skill-based combat, and classless character progression. It sounds ambitious, and it should be as the team behind the game boasts talent who previously worked on games such as World of Warcraft, Destiny and EverQuest.
“New World is an open-world MMO,” David Verfaillie, the Player Experience Lead on New World told me via a phone interview earlier this week. “And I think one of the things we have focused on in the development since the Alpha is really creating that MMO experience where players have a variety of options and things hey can do in the world, from missions to now quests, to slightly more directed content for the players to experience there.”
New World takes place on the supernatural island of Aeternum, a newly discovered island that is full of amazing wonders to explore, but also great horrors. At the center of it all is a unique substance called Azoth which applies power and those around it. So an evil character can use Azoth to become an evil overlord, while a good character with loftier goals can turn into strong heroes for Aeternum.
Aeternum itself, at first glance, looks incredibly beautiful and varied, with magical places, ruins and settlements all dotting its landscape. In the trailer we see ruins and temples, but David tells me that the landscape runs the gamut, and thinks players will really enjoy exploring what the Eternal Isle has to offer them.
“I think when I run around Aeternum, what really strikes me is the wonderful contrast between some of these beautiful, magical places and when you head up north some of the frozen, barren lands with corruption on them. I think it’s a world that people are really going to enjoy just sort of running around in, exploring and seeing all the different biomes and unique supernaturalness of the world.”
Aeternum is a wild place, as summed up by Christoph Hartmann, Vice President of Amazon Games in a press release that accompanied the announcement:
“We want our players to feel the depth - and the danger - of New World from the moment they step onto the shores of Aeternum in May 2020. Our team has been working tirelessly to create a deep, immersive world that delivers challenges and surprises at every turn, and we’re so excited to reveal a bit more of it today.”
Other players aren't the only force you have to combat as well, as the Dark Soul of Aeternum itself is looking to purge you from its shores. Deadly legions and corrupted enemies will be looking to force you out of your strongholds and chase you from Aeternum, and players will have to take on this threat in addition to the players themselves.
How players will overcome that danger to establish themselves in New World will depend on the player. As mentioned before, New World is classless - your weapon and armor choices will help determine your playstyle. New World is action-based, meaning hit volumes, physics, timing and location matter in combat.
For those players who enjoyed the alpha previously, you’ll notice a change in the combat as well, though, as New World uses a Weapon Mastery system versus the traditional skill system.
“[I]n the past we’ve had weapons that they’ve had a predefined set of moves and abilities you can do. With this new Weapon Mastery system, players can choose how they want to specialize within a weapon. So whether they want to focus on, for instance, the sword and shield, players can choose to focus on damage, and there’s a set of abilities and possibilities that players can choose to do that. Or they can focus more on working with their team to tank and support them. So it allows players to specialize with weapons, and I think that’s something that’s important. We want players to be able to play the way they want. What’s cool about this is you can combine a little bit from both trees and really create your own playstyle.”
Taking this a step further, New World wants its players to be fluid in their approaches to combat allowing you easily swap out weapons to change up what they bring to any given combat situation. David specifically mentions that one of the more fun aspects of his job is designing the AI of each enemy to force players to come up with cool and unique strategies to defeat them.
“Players are fluid in what they bring to a combat situation, and what’s needed as you begin to reach the higher level of content in the game, a big part of it is assessing the threats that you’re up against and choosing what you think the best strategy against that is. And some of my more fun moments when we’re doing design is trying to design the AI in enemies to really make the players come up with cool strategies to defeat them.”
Weapons are the only thing you’ll be able to use in New World, as Azoth imbues and amplifies the power around it, giving the Eternal Isle the opportunity for magic to exist. Players will be able to join different schools of magic and discover the supernatural surrounding Aeternum. Even crafters can get into the Azoth rush, imbuing weapons with power to create wonderful and magical artifacts.
New World is very much an MMO, meaning you’ll need the help of players to further your goals in Aeternum. This is mostly felt in the fact that player-run settlements are a huge part of Aeternum. Companies, New World’s guilds, can be formed and can claim land and settlements for their own - all the territories in New World are player controlled - and those players can control things such as the tax rate, crafting fees, upgrades to the settlements and so on. And while many games have a full free-form creation tool to allow Companies to fully build their fortresses, New World has gone away from that, opting for pre-built settlements with predefined layouts.
Governors can choose also whether the settlement wants to focus on its economy, crafting or way and they can upgrade the settlement based on that focus. The social aspect of New World is something that is meant to bring people together towards a common goal - one that supports the settlement you’re apart of - both in times of boon and times of war.
“It’s really a chance for other people in the territories to help contribute, so when a governor wants to, for instance, upgrade their crafting they create a town project to upgrade their crafting stations. That creates opportunities for everyone around or who lives in the settlement to help on that project, get the necessary resources to upgrade the crafting station. It creates this cool scenario where there is a sort of governing body, but players can help contribute to the upgrades of that settlement.”
How do players conquer the settlements? Well, according to David, New World is a game about “territory and conquest.” You and your company will set out to conquer territory and hold it against other players. You’ll do this through a PvP war which can pit players in a 50v50 battle to determine who controls a fort.
“And these forts are just amazing places with siege defenses [with] high walls. And when players get to experience these battles with the chaos of siege warfare, with people trying to break down the doors, people trying to push them away - I think it’s a really neat way to determine who controls which territory.”
While the number of people in a company isn’t completely locked down - right now the max is 50 - in terms of the amount of territories one company can control simply comes down to “as many as you can hold.”
“Holding territories is going to be difficult, [and] they’re going to be highly desired. I think trying to hold more than one will require a very dedicated group that will be very difficult to do.”
One of the more interesting aspects of the social structure of New World comes down to the fact that not everyone living in a territory will belong to the same company. You might build your house in a territory governed by another company - yet because you contribute to that settlement you’re going to be invested in its well being. You pay taxes, contribute to the town projects to improve the settlement - you might not belong to the same factions but you belong to the same social system. To me, I’m definitely interested to see what kind of emergent gameplay can come out of just that aspect of New World.
But New World isn’t all about the emergent gameplay. New World is heavily pushing to be a full featured MMO with a lot of systems to keep players busy and advancing in Aeternum.
“I think, in an MMO, Players want to have a lot of options - between crafting, exploring, fighting different enemies, group content. We built out a lot of that to really match the expectations of the MMO player base.”
The story of discovering what happened to Aeternum and learning more about Azoth are just two parts to what players have to look forward to when exploring and completing quests and missions in New World. In Aeternum, nothing really dies. It’s called the “Eternal Isle” for a reason. And while this is a way to explain why your character comes back when defeated, it goes further and influences everything around you.
“I think, in the fiction what we learn is, as other stories have told is that immortality is a blessing and a curse. And I think one of the things we’ve been adding a lot to the game is more lore and learning about different people who have come to the island before you, other explorers in search of Azoth and learning some of the trials and tribulations that eternal life brings.”
It’ll be interesting to see how New World develops from here. An MMO set in a unique time period - the Age of Exploration - was immediately interesting to me. And what I’ve learned so far talking with David has me intrigued to learn more as the months come. Given everything we know, the new MMO certainly sounds ambitious.Currently New World is slated to release sometime in May 2020, with a closed alpha currently scheduled for the month before in April. You can check out their website here for additional info.