We rushed the wooden fort, cannon and trebuchet boulders crashing to the earth around each of my teammates. We were determined to break through the wooden gates that guarded the fort that sat on the hill ahead of us, but first we needed to capture a rally point to proceed. The ground lit up as rocks rent the earth around us, leaving huge scars – and sometimes bodies – on the ground around us. I took my sword and shield and jumped into the fray, attacking at a staff-wielding defender. He parried by blow and swapped to a Warhammer, sending a massive strike to the ground that shook the earth below my feet. I caught my balance and whirled around, slicing the air – and my opponent – around me and pressed the attack.
At that moment two more defenders came up behind me and began pelting my medium-armored body with sword and hammer blows, leaving me crumbling to the ground below. My first taste of New World’s PvP War combat turned out to be an adrenaline rush that found itself ending angrily in frustration at being teamed up on – but such is life in war in Aeternum.
I've personally been looking forward to eventually going hands on with New World since it was announced a while back, so the chance to finally play it yesterday was very welcome. New World, which enters an NDA-less preview later today, was slated to release originally...erm...today. However, citing player feedback and the desire to ensure the content for the mid-to-end game was up to the quality their fans expected and wanted, the team at Amazon Game Studios pushed the MMO back until Spring 2021. However, as explained on a conference call after the press preview yesterday, the team at AGS still wanted to make sure players who were looking forward to playing on August 25th - especially pre-order players - would still be able to jump into the world of New World in some fashion.
And after spending an hour with New World yesterday, most of the time spent in the MMO's War content, I can say I was left wanting more - though not everything was great in the end, especially the performance of the MMO during the most heated moments.
Wars in New World pit players against each other to vie for control over a certain settlements. It operates as a capture and hold style game - defenders will try to repel the attackers and hold capture points, keeping the attackers from securing the fort. Attackers will, well...attack. Along the way they'll need to capture points and batter down walls and gates, all the while taking fire from defenders arrows, musket and cannon fire.
The distinct setting of New World - the twilight of the Age of Exploration - allows for some varied weapon styles, which in New World are the main way you really progress. There are no classes, instead you'll find yourself getting mastery your weapons as well as sinking points into attributes such as strength, intelligence and more. Each weapon has distinct trees, as well as unique fighting styles, such as the outrageously powerful - but slow - warhammers to the berserk, but close range, hatchets. The team planson adding more weapons to New World before its 2021 launch, drawing on the world and weaponry of the 17th century.
Combat in New World is active - though you do have a three skill limited skill bar tied to your weapon, such as an evasive shot with the bow or a shield bash when you have a sword and shield equipped. These skills honestly felt secondary in New World and operate on cooldowns instead of just using a pool of resources to draw from like the active skills in ESO might. You'll attack with your left click, block/defend with right click, and nimbly dodge attacks using the spacebar. Frustratingly missing was a jump button - good God my kingdom for a jump mechanic during uphill fights, or when you get stuck inbetween a crevice and a stall as I found myself before our War started. I found myself fighting enemies during the heat of battle that were on small ledges, neither of us able to hit each other, and instead of just being able to hop up the small step needed to face them head on, the lack of a jump forced me to run around, breaking up the fluidity - and immersion - in the combat.
Combat itself is skill based, which I honestly find nice personally. I hate when combat, especially active combat like New World is determined solely on gear and your skill rotation. Sure, it takes skill to master the timing of your rotation - but it also takes skill to nimbly dodge and backstab an opponent with your sword; or evade a large Warhammer strike and take advantage of your enemy with a well aimed hatchet toss.
However, one area where combat just doesn't feel well is the actual feedback you recieve. I never felt as though my blows were landing, physically. I could see that they were - damage numbers were popping up and my enemy's health was going down. But none of my blows ever felt as though they truly connected. This might just be a polish issue, something that will get better as Spring 2021 approaches, but in the clamor of 50 on 50 combat, combat that doesn't provide satisfying feedback with each strike or loosed arrow isn't going to be enjoyable for too long after a while.
Another area that really sucked me out of the immersion during our push was performance. New World is still in development, so it's not going to be fully optimized at this stage, so expecting perfect performance isn't realistic. However, I did expect better performance than I was met with, especially during the heat of battle.
I don't have a slouch of a PC and can run most games at high framerates at my native 2160p. My i5-9600K and Gigabyte Waterforce RTX 2080 GPU PC is well within a higher range PC, yet I found myself even on medium settings only seeing about the high thirties, low forties in the framerate department. New World looks fantastic, especially at very high settings - and even at medium it was an attractive looking game. However, the low framerates made each movement feel sluggish and unresponsive - something I hope will get cleared up as the team goes back and polishes the experience with each test leading up to its launch.
Getting past the issues and the problems I had with the combat, however, the War was actually pretty fun. One of my more memorable moments was when we broke down the main gate and the defenders responded with placing a gatling gun platform facing the entrance, mowing down anyone who dared enter the fort. I responded in kind, plopping our own gatling gun off center, just far away that it was hard for the enemy to hit me - though I could rain down a hail of bullets on them. This allowed my teammates to finally rush in on foot and take out the defenders at the gun placement, securing our entrance into the fort.
We stormed the inside of the fort, the heavy armor, warhammer wielding defenders taking position around the final capture flag, but at that moment it was too late - we had them cornered. We rushed in from multiple sides, securing our victory about five minutes or so after we broke down the walls. It was a mixture of thrilling and frustrating looking back on it - frustrating as the performance issues caused quite a few of my deaths as the combat just didn’t feel as responsive as it likely could, yet every time we made progress I felt myself compelled to push forward to help my team.
PvP battles like this will be major points in the overall content New World players can expect as factions vie for control over Aeternum’s different regions. But with the preview set to start in a few hours, one major question looms for me: What exactly is the PvE experience going to be like? What reason would be there be to just PvE your way through the Eternal Isle, or will New World feel like a mad dash towards these War scenarios in the late game?
Hopefully New World answers some of those questions during this preview event, which will give players who have been in the Alpha or other tests, as well as those who preordered expecting to play the MMO on August 25h, access till September 5th. We’ll be sure to share our thoughts on the preview as we move through the content more and more in the coming days.