The New World beta preview came to an end a few short nights ago. Like some of the other members of the MOP crew, I spent the majority of my game time this past week running through Aeternum. And while I enjoyed just about every minute I spent in game, I’m not completely sure this boat is seaworthy yet.
The game plays really smoothly, and it’s gorgeous. Some of the views are simply breathtaking. But I think the main reason I was having such a good time was that it was new. You could even say it was because it was a new… world. Seriously, though, the game has some real potential, but there are some major gaps in the gameplay loop as it stands right now.
If you haven’t yet read MOP’s Tyler’s excellent first impressions piece, then I recommend doing so because I agree with just about everything he’s laid out. But I have a few thoughts to add about the combat, and while I won’t tread exactly the same ground he did, you’ll probably be able to see his tracks from here.
Combat plays more like a battle royale than an MMO
As Tyler said, the combat in New World is fluid and quite frankly fantastic. Every swing that lands and every shot that hits feels right. When you’re firing a bow from a great distance, the arrow will even fall according to physics, so you need to adjust your shot for that. I honestly haven’t played an MMO with combat that felt this good in a while.
But it isn’t without its shortcomings. The very first thing that came to mind when I entered my first encounter was how similar it felt to Crowfall’s combat. It has that same active camera type of combat where your mouse is always in control of your character’s direction. But it is a bit more tuned and precise. As Tyler said, headshots actually do additional damage, which is cool.
However, I have to say, I have a real problem with the battle royale/FPS bastardization of MMO combat skills. I won’t advocate for five hotbars with 50 different skills, but these super-limited skill sets, only three active at a time in New World, really don’t sit well with me. I do like that skill activation is important and that choosing when to activate skill is a real and conscious choice, but three skills just feels too limiting.
Let me lay it all out here: At any point during a fight, you have only about seven things to do – that is, a soft or strong attack, dodge, block, and your three abilities. You can make an argument that the potions you can slot are possibilities too, so I’ll give you one more for a heal potion. We’ll call it an even eight options during any fight. And sure, you can swap weapons too, but since they all share a cool down, I don’t count them.
Now, I gathered with a handful of other players for some duels during the test phase, and I confidently can say it was really boring. In many other MMOs, your skill management is important not just because you’re deciding when to open up and lay waste to the opponent but also because you’re deciding when to save and use your stunbreaks and other utility type skills. While Crowfall shares the active camera with New World, it favors a more traditional MMO skill set: one where you get a full hotbar of skills. It doesn’t just stop there either, as many of those skills can perform combos adding even further depth.
It’s almost like Crowfall and New World went to a cafeteria together, both got a large helping of active camera mode, and then Crowfall added on some MMO skills for its protein but New World shrugged that off and went straight for the battle royale dessert skills. In fact, New World’s combat also reminded me of the Ashes of Creation Apocalypse battle royale (may it rest in peace).
So while I overall did have fun with the combat, it is very shallow currently. Each weapon type should have more skills to choose from with more active skills available, and the weapons shouldn’t share a cooldown.
The PvE vs. PvP balance
I think most players who have played the game recently have said the same thing: The PvE needs a lot more work. I think that’s fine. Even when the shift toward a more PvE-centric New World was originally announced, I thought it was a good direction for the game to take – and I still do! My problem isn’t that it takes away from PvP or that the flagging system is weak. It’s that the PvP that is here just doesn’t cut it.
I would say the same thing if New World didn’t have a flagging system or PvE quests too. Griefing players while they’re just gathering and farming sucks. It always has sucked and it doesn’t make for good PvP for anyone – not for PvE players and not for those of us who actually like genuine PvP. I know the sneaky rogue keyboard warriors out there think it’s hilariously fun, but no. With the flagging system, if someone wants to fight, she’ll flag up and should be ready for an encounter.
The issue during the beta was that even when I flagged myself for PvP, there was almost no one to fight… because there was no reason to fight. As soon as I could, I flagged up, yet I never engaged in a single fight in my journey. There are plenty of PvE quests, but Amazon, it’s time to bring in some PvP quests. Instead of asking them fighting zombies for a chest, why not direct players’ first faction task to point them to a field to kill ten players?
Or heck – set it up like an arena. Faction quest can be something you queue up for to fight. Let players level through these quests as fast as they would with the PvE ones. There can be arenas in the starter zones and further on too. Ensure gear doesn’t break down when you die in the arena. Give players a place and a reason to PvP. It shouldn’t just be for endgame players.
War! What is it good for? I… I don’t know – I didn’t have a chance to try it!
Tying into the lack of PvP throughout my game time, the war system seems extremely flawed. I didn’t play the game in alpha prior to this beta, so I have no idea what it was like before, but without quests I literally would have had nothing to do in this beta. It appeared that sieges were only once a day, and even if there were eight or however many forts to fight over, that’s way too limited. Then there’s the fact that only 50 players can queue up on a side to fight. What the hell are the rest of us supposed to do?
Maybe if the wars were just instances you could queue up for from a lobby, it would make sense. But for an MMO where the endgame goal is to participate in a fort siege, 50 players per side is nothing. Fortunately, Eliot was able to preview the war system as part of the press event ahead of the beta. It sounds like the mechanics themselves are pretty fun, and we do have an idea now how that will play out in practice.
But Amazon is going to have to do something about expanding the system so players can actually experience it. My understanding is that the controlling guild gets to pick 10 players to compete and the remaining 40 are chosen at random. I couldn’t tell whether that means random individuals or a team of two or more players can queue up together, but it sounded like randoms.
That just doesn’t work for anyone. Large guilds will want to play with their entire team but are limited to the 10 “best.” Small guilds won’t have any agency at all. Imagine signing up for a war with your one or two other guildmates. “I sure hope we both get to play this one together.” That’s obviously terrible design for an MMORPG.
So while I did have a good time playing the game, there is a lot of room for improvement from not just the PvE side of things but also the PvP side. What do you lot think of it? Did you get into the beta? Did you have a chance to try out any of the war mechanics or were you sent home carrying your ball crying like me? How about the combat? Shallow – or just not finished?