To say Amazon has struggled to make a name for itself in gaming is an understatement.
The company's only major releases have been a game based on The Grand Tour that has since been delisted from storefronts and Crucible, an ill-fated hero shooter that was essentially unreleased and put back into Closed Beta after a rocky launch in May.
Amazon's latest gambit is New World, a high fantasy MMO where player factions compete against each other to control territory while also contending with an invading magic force called "The Corrupted.” While Amazon obviously won’t go out of business if this game fails, New World is really the company’s final chance to impress if it wants to be taken seriously within the gaming space.
While New World was delayed from an August release to Spring 2021 recently, a preview beta for those that played the alpha or pre-ordered went live August 25. Inverse went hands-on with the game’s ambitious War Mode, where players siege or defend a large fort, and also spoke to developers about New World. This MMO’s demo is promising, and comments from Amazon devs make it clear that New World is taking a very different approach from Crucible.
“As we were getting closer and closer to August 25 [the original release date], we were working our bugs down and … we loved where we were getting it from polish level,” Game Director Scot Lane explained. “We were getting close, but we felt like we needed more content in the game with mid-game and especially in the end-game.”
Instead of having a release now, fix later mentality like Crucible had, New World’s developers are making sure players have a polished experience at launch, even in terms of mid- to late-game activities like War Mode.
“There are 11 territories and 9 of them are controllable in the game right now,” Head of Player Experience David Verfaillie explained. “Wars are super-critical to determine who gets to own those territories. The stakes are high.” Wars play out similarly to Operations Mode in Battlefield but obviously shift the focus from intense gunfights to fantasy fort sieges.
In order to take over a fort, an attacking team must take three control points outside the fort, break open its gates, and storm the fort itself in under 30 minutes. It runs surprisingly stable for a 50v50 match and really highlights the strengths of this game’s combat, which is closer to something like God of War than the weightless fights of MMOs like World of Warcraft.
I played as a mage and helped to turn the tide in one siege using fire magic to summon down flaming meteors with a super damaging area of effect.. While I didn’t take down a gate myself, I still contributed to our war effort as I whittled down our opponent’s health at key moments. It’s the same amazing feeling I get during a good Operations match in Battlefield, and it is a great fit for a territory-based MMO.
What I played felt polished too, a lot more so than Crucible did during my demo of the game earlier this year. New World felt like it could be ready for launch, but the developers agreed with alpha players that there was just not enough content there and wanted to flesh it out before an official release.
“We had this hard decision to make: Do we launch and continue to grow the game immediately when live, or do we take the time not being live to get more content in … and then come out and continue to grow the game further,” Lane said. “We wanted to make sure we had that long- tail of experience in the game day one.”
In retrospect, it’s clear that Crucible chose that first option when it launched in May. The New World team isn’t making the same mistake.
When Inverse asked the developers about Crucible’s failure, Lane brought the discussion back to making sure the game is fun and polished before launch. “None of us worked on Crucible, and when you're finishing a game, it takes all of your focus,” he said. “On some level we kind of noticed it, but we are thinking: let's just do a great job of building quality for the players.”
Still, the messaging throughout the rest of the interview made it clear that Amazon does not want New World to come out half-baked. This is a very different approach compared to Crucible pre-launch; its developers repeatedly said they were launching first and then looking for player feedback, a tactic that ultimately backfired as it was clear that Crucible came out feeling unfinished.
Still, this August preview is critical for the team in shaping New World ahead of its launch. “We're going to learn a ton,” Lane said. “There are going to be a lot of players in these worlds, and it's going to allow us to validate some of our designs and to learn and see what we got wrong. And we'll have time to go make some adjustments.”
Taking community feedback in what’s technically a beta is the smartest approach for an MMO like New World that relies on attracting a high player count. While it remains to be seen just how many players will be willing to try an MMO that isn’t World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2021, this showing of New World is very promising and it doesn’t look like the team will repeat Crucible’s mistakes.
New World will be released for PC in Spring 2021.