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Amazon is looking to have an MMORPG hit with New World, which comes out for PC on August 31. For years, the usual names have dominated that MMO world, such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any real disruption in the genre.
Earlier this week, I was able to watch developers at Amazon Games run through one of New World’s excavations, which is the game’s take on the standard MMO dungeon. It gave me a chance to see how New World will be different (and not so different) from other MMOs.
I watched as the devs fought their way through the Amrine excavation, a mine crawling with zombie-like monsters. The area shows off New World’s aesthetics, looking to capture a grittier fantasy world than what you’d see in the colorful World of Warcraft. With its dark corridors, Amrine reminds me more of the dungeons I explored in games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Dark Souls.
The devs fought in a party of five. While most MMOs will lock you into a class when you create your character, New World lets you customize your character based on your equipment. If you want to lead your party as the damage-absorbing tank, you just need to have the items — including a beefy shield — that’ll help you fill that role. Other MMOs have offered this kind of flexibility, like Final Fantasy XIV, but it is a feature that’s rare.
New World’s combat will stand out to any MMO fans that are just used to auto-target games like World of Warcraft. While that game focuses more on mastering a rotation of spells and abilities without worrying about your aim, New World takes a more traditional action-RPG approach. Your positioning and aim matters. Again, this isn’t unheard of in the MMO space, as anyone who played Tera can tell you. But it is still unusual for the genre.
The bosses also look interesting. One places a purple ring of fire around the tank. If any players touch the ring, players become stunned. So when the ring appears, all players need to limit their movement and be careful not cross it. The final boss, a giant humanoid monster named Simon Grey, summons zombies. You need to kill those smaller enemies before Grey has a chance to devour them and boost his power.
New World looks fun, but I’m not sure it’s going to reinvent the MMO genre. And, hey, that’s fine. I like MMOs. World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV are among my most played games ever. There’s room for a new MMO to succeed just because it’s new and competent.
And although other games like Tera have already tried to inject some action-RPG flavor, I still think it’s a smart gameplay decision for New World. The game is trying to evoke those Skyrim/Dark Souls vibes, so it makes sense for the game to play a bit like those titles and bit less like World of Warcraft.
I am concerned that it may all still be too familiar. What I saw showed off a lot of the typical fantasy fair — swords and shield, bows and arrows — with little pizzazz. There is an Age of Exploration inspiration, including the addition of muskets as weapons, but New World’s vibe still lacks creativity.
But maybe it doesn’t need all that much creativity. Again, competence can be the key to New World’s success. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a new hit MMO. If the market is ready for one, and New World can offer a fun and rewarding experience, it’ll have a chance to win fans.
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