If you have ever played an MMORPG then you know that war is a constant in these worlds. Gamespace got a fresh new perspective on the siege mentality when Amazon conscripted us for a preview tour of New World’s War game mode. Check out our thoughts on both attacking and defending.
Teased back in June 2020, war games in Amazon’s upcoming MMORPG are something akin to an instanced fort siege. Similar in nature to games such as Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online, as well as upcoming online experiences such as Crowfall and Ashes of Creation, New World gets its very own battle for supremacy. One secluded map, 100 players, a solitary fort, and a surge of particle effects later and I definitely have a story to tell from these front lines. When New World goes live for real, 50 players aside will be able to enter War, which kicks off proper somewhere around level 50, and provides players with a chance to go head to head in more than just a battle for glory. Of course, with so many other games asking players to capture the flag, it’s a wonder why New World has even decided to add a 50 vs 50 endgame mode.
“It plays very heavily into our metagame. The battle in New World is a battle for territory, for control and war is how you take over territory. We really like having a pinnacle moment and having it being gameplay focused decision in determining who gets to own these territories,” noted David Verfaillie, Creative Director at Amazon Game Studios.
“Once you are in game you’ll find there’s a really fun precursor to the War, an influence race. There are three factions in the game and the two factions that don’t own the territory need to win this influence race by performing PvP missions to get a chance to declare war. I think that combination of the lead into it and the actual war plays well with the idea of the territory metagame. Secondly, we think that the War is fun.”
With the prospect of some extra hard fun and a swathe of enemies to cut down it seemed only appropriate that rather than ask any more questions, I should log in and get my knives out in anticipation.
Like any shiny new MMO experience, New World is nothing, if not a glorious sight. The slither of Aeternum that I was about to take on was decorated by more than respectable graphics, tilting towards a style of realism that befits an adventure which draws on some obvious historical elements. While there is an obvious fantasy flavour to New World, polished shields, gilded armour decoration, and glistening war hammers melded with warriors that could be plucked out of history. Let’s be clear, despite a taste of the fantastical, the grounded elements of New World didn’t exactly shake off the inevitable lingering questions about its setting, during the Age of Exploration. That said, we were here to blow some things up.
Before getting out into the action and smashing down some gates, players taking on New World’s War mode need to know exactly what they are doing. We are still busy putting that together here at Gamespace, but until we get you a guide there are a few things that distinguish New World’s combat system from several other competitors. Across Aeternum, and similarly, during War, players can expect to dispense with a constrictive class system and tie their playstyle to the steel between their palms. Instead of the traditional clas systems, you’ll find that players can swap out their combat style based on the weapons they wield. Warriors heading into battle can choose from three weapons to carry with them, varying in combat capability. Swords, shields, hammers, axes, magical staff, and bows are just some of the weapons that make an appearance, each of which holds their own specialised weapon mastery line and provide specific perks when they unsheath their sidearm. Of course, this equipment based progress system seeps far beyond your sword and shield with armour, and accessories all making a difference to a character’s loadout and stats.
Despite this, there are some very obvious class roles still in evidence, with heavies wielding two-handed hammers and ranged magic dwellers throwing out protection and heals. This half-in approach to class systems is probably intended to provide some clear guidance for players when they choose a weapon and the opportunity to switch based on the situation but feels like it has not committed to a singular idea in the end.
This almost there approach feels true of combat too. Before even kicking open the gates and pushing out into War, New World’s combat system definitely distinguishes itself as unique, but not exactly in the way I would have liked. Movement and targeting are solid, with the free form style of combat that Tera or Black Desert fans might be familiar with. Triggering attacks and deflecting impact are much closer in comparison to the stance based systems in Conqueror’s Blade, or maybe you might have more experience with this from hours in Ghost of Tsushima. This seemingly inovative mash up makes animation locking something of a surprise when it eventually strikes. A design choice that I haven’t seen for an age, this ensure that when you trigger one of your three weapon skills, located along the bottom right of the screen, you are fully committed. Come rain or hellfire you’ll be stuck in that animation until complete. Mixed together this all makes combat feel very rough around the edges and provides very mixed messages about how to play. Whatever game usually stretches your swordplay to its limits, don’t expect New World to be quite like anything else and don’t expect it to feel as refined as you might want. Now, while things might get more nuanced in close quarters combat, this is a siege and we were about to become pixelated fodder.
Given a whole ten minutes of preparation, unlocking and understanding New World’s combat and progression system wasn’t a stretch, and my attacking horde of 50 players took the field for a full thirty minutes of carnage. Like any good siege system, we were up against 50 opposing players, all set on defending a fort of their very own. Overcoming a fort in these wargames involves a capture system, where invading players must cap three precursor points, all while within range of several lethal defences. Thankfully, any attacking team aren’t going to have to use themselves as nothing but cannon fodder. Incoming armies can avail themselves of siege weapons, supplies, and explosive ammunition, all by using a predetermined stash of vendor currency.
While this might sound like an easy win, cannons and arrow carts all need to be built, they seem to require supplies to fire, and each player that has to start shuffling supplies back and forth is another individual away from the final push. This isn’t all a case of just sitting back with a magical infinite cannon. There are tactical considerations to be made. Clearly, this doesn’t mean that we couldn’t borrow a trick or two from more mystical titles. I could almost feel myself falling back into WvW as we stacked the gate of our intended target. With all three capture points taken, another 5 potential gates stand in front of invaders. Atop the battlements, a shower of particles seemed to rain down upon us as some of us simply hammered the gate and others ferried in explosives for the main event. There isn’t much unique or inventive about this situation. If you’ve played any siege war before, then New World’s War isn’t going to overwhelm you with choices. Pushing through the gates, bashing down defenders, and taking a final capture point might as well have been played out in Stonemist castle for all it was worth.
Where War really starts to become fun is in the tactical complexities that happen at the group level. Decisions taken by commanders and coordination by group leaders impacts how the game plays out long term. Over the last twenty minutes or so things only get tougher for attacking teams. As an advancing neck starts to snake back towards an entry spawn and players are picked off, each individual death takes longer to recover from. Respawns take longer, supplies are harder to come by, and chaos can ultimately erupt. Smash and grabs are dangerous and using your people as a human shield can find an underwhelming force cut off inside a fort with nothing much left to fight with. Pushing through an enemy encampment and getting one up on the opposing team never gets old and War does feel fun, but I couldn’t help but feel like this wasn’t quite for me.
War is a decidedly limited skirmish experience. Taken on its own it is a great tactical encounter, and as part of the wider metagame it provides the opportunity to claim more testimony and resources, yet it simply made me yearn for something bigger. Amazon was relatively tight-lipped when we asked them about the technical limitations of 50 vs 50, with David Verfaillie stating that
“When there is a war, you’ll notice that there is a curtain preventing you from leaving the starting fort. We actually put a curtain around the whole War. Anybody who is not a part of the War is not allowed to enter That limits the area to 100 people and we feel comfortable that we can get great performance at that level”
I’ve ridden the crest of 400 players zergs, I’ve taken on entire server raids, I’ve toppled Stonemist minutes after Guild Wars 2 went live, and I’ve seen flocks of Asmodians burned from the sky, and War lacks that epic scale that I long for in sieges. With 100 players in total, just one fort, and a skils system that Amazon will need to balance between PvP and PvE, War is certainly accessible but I wouldn’t expect this to be a serious competitor for epic castle sieges. Instead, take a peek at New World’s War game mode if you want something a little more intimate that will have a lasting effect on the rest of your game, and where the competition will come out knowing who beat them.
I had the chance to try War play from the side of the defending team and much of my initial experience matches quite well with what has already been said. As a completely new player to New World, this game mode has potential, but there are currently issues that make it feel lackluster.
The graphics in New World are wonderful, everything looks polished and colorful. The character models look great, but I am hoping that they will offer more character creation options at release. Right now, choices are limited and you are most likely going to see quite a few carbon copies of different characters running around. While the combat system in the game is classless, I found it pretty intuitive to set your character up in fulfilling one of the trinity roles. A majority of the game systems feel intuitive for new players to pick up and play quickly. For this match, I decided to go healer/support and found it a rather unenjoyable experience. I was disappointed that I could only slot 3 spells/abilities, but it did make picking up how to play the character easy.
While running around and dodging seems responsive, using my main spells/abilities was a mess. Once an ability was activated and I had the ground targeted, it typically took multiple clicks for the ability to activate. Other times abilities would not initialize at all, even with full mana, and I would watch team members go down right in front of me. The developers state that the hit detection takes place on the server-side, reducing the lag that players experience, I didn’t see/feel this personally.
The basics of combat and the siege experience reminded me of ESO and fort sieges in Cyrodiil. Using the fixed position siege weapons as a defender is more involved compared to other games with boiling oil over each gate, cannons, ballistae, repeaters, and war horns all putting in an appearance. They just didn’t feel fun to use or have much of a visual effect. I notice most of my fellow defenders were just as happy to go charging over the walls or fire from the wall with their weapons/abilities.
In the Q&A session I attended, the developers did confirm that the fort layout is always the same in each match. It will have different features/enhancements depending on how much your settlement has focused on completing tasks/quests based around building up the fort. The description of settlement tasks/quests reminded me of how you built up your dojo as a clan in Warframe.
Hearing about all the other game systems during the lead up to the War Play mode match, I can see how this mode fits into the metagame and I expect it will slot in nicely to the overall New World experience.
I would have loved to see an unexpected element/event occur during the 30-minute match to challenge either side, making it a more dynamic experience. The developers did mention in the Q&A that more war modes will be on the way in the future. I think next time though I will try playing a melee or ranged DPS and see if that experience is more enjoyable.
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