Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    Meters' OV-1-B Connect headphones have VU dials and a $349 price tag

    Daniel Cooper The best laid schemes of mice, men and niche British audio brands can go awry when the world is gripped by a global pandemic. Meters Music announced its new flagship headphones back in January, with shipping due a few months later. It’s now December, and this is the first time we’ve seen the new OV-1-B Connect cans in the flesh.  Meters Music is a part of Ashdown Engineering, a British company that makes bass amplifiers for musicians. Its selling point is the inclusion of working analog VU (Volume Unit) meters in its pro hardware, which are also added to the headphones. Here, both ear cups have outward-facing VU monitors, making it look like you’re wearing a ‘70s HiFi unit on your head.  The headphones are sturdily built, with an emphasis on retro styling, a silver aluminum body and a faux-leather headband in tan, black or white. They’re not the lightest cans in the world, but the weight is at least well-balanced, and the thick faux-leather keeps them soft. I’ve worn them for two or three hours at a time and found them to be comfortable enough on my head when placed just so.  Daniel Cooper I’m not the first (or the hundredth) person to point out how much of an affectation the VU meters are. You can’t see them unless you’ve got a couple of mirrors and a bendy neck, so they’re not the most useful to see if your music is too loud. They’re calibrated to EU listening standards, and so only really start bouncing when the audio reaches semi-uncomfortable levels anyway. They’re sensitive enough, however, that with the audio off, they’ll jump pretty far when you have a small coughing fit. Meters says that the point of them, beyond the fashion, to help parents see if their kids are listening to their music too loudly. (Who knew that there was a market for parents who buy their kids luxury headphones big enough to sustain a whole company?) Really, they’re an easy way for you to tell the world that, ya know, you really care about the music, yeah? There’s an RGB LED hidden behind each VU meter, and you can change the color of the backlight from the default yellow, as well as the brightness. In terms of additional flourishes, it’s nice, but you’ll soon notice the other shades don’t really go with the set’s retro stylings. In fact, after scrolling through the colors, I realized that the default yellow was put there for a reason.  Daniel Cooper Meters made a big deal about the inclusion of Qualcomm's QCC5124 SoC, which offers low power Bluetooth 5.0 connections and 24-bit audio. The resulting sound is ruthlessly clean and clear, making it ideal for songs that aren’t too aggressive, with subtle treble and vocal tracks. Go for something a little meatier, with a lot of bass, and things remain fairly polite and clean.  I switched to a high-res audio player and played some studio masters in FLAC, Meters’ strengths and weaknesses are even more exposed. Throw classical, or delicate-like-spider-silk songs at the OV-1-B-Connect, and you’ll be treated to beautiful songs reproduced beautifully. It excels at playing delicate music, but this milquetoast reproduction is at odds with its rock-and-roll stylings. With closed back ear cups and ANC, you can drown out a heck of a lot of ambient noise with these things. Since we’re not able to fly right now, I instead sat and asked my two kids to scream, jump around and generally be awful in my general direction. And I was barely able to hear any of that while listening to something mellow, enjoying the most blissful moment of zen I’ve had in weeks.  Daniel Cooper It’s not all perfect, however. One of the biggest objections with the previous version of these headphones was the fixed ANC and EQ modes, controlled with a physical switch. To remedy that, the company has launched Meters Connect, an Android / iOS app that lets you dynamically adjust the EQ (and change the VU meter backlight). To say I’ve had issues with the app is something of an understatement, with regular connection brownouts slowing down the firmware updates. When I was able to play with the EQ, however, I found that you can either make the songs excessively, unpleasantly crunchy or hissy but still relatively flat. In fact, it’s one of those options that presumably makes sense somewhere, to someone, but seems less than pointless for general use. Perhaps the professional musicians and producers that Meters consults with (and uses in its promotional material) get more out of the technology than I do. Daniel Cooper While I’m nitpicking, I’d add that this is a brand new pair of $349 headphones which still ship with a micro-USB cable for charging. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does mean that, if you’re living in a USB-C world, you still can’t ditch the legacy cables in your carry case. Fundamentally, Meters’ had plenty of fundamentals in place, with a good-looking pair of well-made headphones and a unique statement feature. But I’m struggling to really connect with this device in the sound itself, which to my non-audiophile ears seems to be fussier than it needs to be. When you’re asking for this sort of money, you don’t just need to be good — which these can be — you need to be better than Sony’s class-leading WH-1000XM4. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet.  In this article: Meters Music, Meters, VU Meter, Headphones, Cans, ANC, Bluetooth, Ashdown Engineering, Music, feature, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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