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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    editors choice

    Editors’ Choice: Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout takes the crown

    60 players. 24 levels. 5 rounds. 1 crown.  Without a doubt, our entire global team has been enraptured by the zany and frenetic energy of battle royale platformer Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Whether we’re bouncing through the colorfully inventive levels or facing the absurdity of being defeated by someone in a hot dog costume, we’ve all been jumping in round after round to grasp at glory, no matter how many tails we have to steal to get it. Even more impressive is how despite our varying tastes, different members of our team have their own reasons for gifting Fall Guys the Editors’ Choice crown. Here’s a taste of why we can’t stop playing:  Shuhei Yoshida Favorite Level: Slime Climb Slime Climb has been known as “The most difficult level in Fall Guys,” I, for one, fell to the goo pit repeatedly when the game came out. However, once you get the hang of each leg of the climb, this becomes a joy to play. The chances are many players will drop off, leading you to the final round glory faster. Just be aware you may eventually meet a devious Guy that may stand on the yellow pipe to block your path or try to push you down at the end of the level. It’s awful, but it is a legit play.  Hardest Level: Hex-A-Gone I cannot jump one hex at a time. I cannot jump one hex at a time. I cannot jump one hex at a time! However many times I tried, I just cannot. I’m too old for the concentration needed to execute rhythmic, beautiful jumps that many good players show me off. So my strategy is to RUN, RUN, RUN the hexes near the “one hex at a time jumpers” so they will lose hexes to jump on! Amazingly, this seemingly desperate strategy has worked many times, even making some observers say “the jumpers are timid players of this level.” As a result I’ve got the name “The Hope of Runners.” Very proud of it.  Kristen Zitani Favorite Level: Door Dash There’s something immensely satisfying about waddling your way to the front of the pack, choosing a door at random, and feeling it miraculously break down to let you pass. Weirdly even more amusing is when I am decidedly not at the front of the pack and jam myself through one of the discovered openings like a fish frantically swimming upstream. Some of this level is just left up to timing and chance but it never fails to make me laugh. Hardest Level: Tail Tag If one more person steals my tail, I’m going to scream! One day I will master the art of bobbing and weaving through the masses and keeping my furry appendage intact. Until then, I will continue to ride on my teammates’ coattails to victory in the Team version of this level.  Tim Turi Favorite Level: Hex-A-Gone Turns out king of the hill-style gameplay is way more tense when the hill is constantly disappearing. I’m no pro at Hex-A-Gone, but I love the tension of carefully navigating precarious platforms while keeping my head on a swivel for rivals. Similar to Shu, my early approach was sprinting around and hoping for the best. I definitely haven’t won as many matches as him, but I’ve enjoyed developing an intentional, almost meditative hop approach to Hex-A-Gone. The extra time to plan your next move (or controlled fall) is worth it. Find the zen among chaos. Hardest Level: Egg Scramble The team games of Fall Guys are the most frantic, and I struggle to find my role. The nonstop feeding frenzy of Egg Scramble epitomizes this, with throngs of players stumbling over each other to collect those precious orbs. I derive much joy ripping eggs from the grasp of other players like a ruthless parent at a Black Friday retail dash, but the match results are usually a crapshoot. Egg Scramble is pretty hard boiled for me. Andy Yen Favorite Level: Hex-A-Gone I love Hex-A-Gone because it encapsulates the Fall Guys experience into one sweaty-palms inducing level, balancing skillful play with randomness. Like Shu, I refuse to jump one hex at a time, but my reasoning is because jumping on one hex at a time is just. Too. Boring. I love running quick, aggressive routes that cut my fellow Fall Guys off from paths, especially those gingerly hopping onto each block (Sorry, Tim!). Nothing gives me more of a rush than taking the inside hex lane in a foot race, making some daring sharp turn jump dives to reach safety while my opponents sadly tumble into the goo. Hardest Level: Royal Fumble Even though two of my crowns (not to brag) have come from some major POG highlights in the last seconds of Royal Fumble, I still find this level infuriatingly difficult. For the life of me, I still haven’t figured out how to consistently grab a tail in any game mode, while every one of my opponents is invariably a skilled tail thief. Add that to the uncommonly small number of contestants in this final showdown where I can’t coast on teammates’ coattails, and you’ve got my personal nemesis of a Fall Guys level. Masayuki Sanada Favorite Level:Hex-A-Gone Hex-a-gone is a straightforward stage where the floor gradually disappears beneath you, so it’s really important for players to get their play tactics as well as movement technique on point. Your adrenaline is sure to be pumping as it is the final round of the show. I noticed my hands gripped the controller tightly as tiles disappeared beneath my steps at an overwhelming pace. In the end, it’s all worth it — there’s no better feeling than becoming the sole survivor of this round!  Hardest Level:Tip Toe On this level, space comes at a premium as the finish line gets closer and closer. You see, players must find a safe path through trial and error, keeping an eye out for tiles that fall away when stepped on. It’s no easy task to lead the pack and avoid getting pushed off by opponents at the same time. There is no greater heartbreak than getting in sight of the finish line, only to be pushed off at the last second. When I played the level, I summoned my courage and broke ahead of the group, forging my own path ahead – something I’m very proud of. This of course, often resulted in me falling and returning to the start line. I always had company though, rejoining all the other jellybeans standing in shock of how to navigate this tricky round.  Aoi Ogasawara Favorite Level: Hex-A-Gone Hex-A-Gone is a perfect mix of skill-based strategic gameplay and chaotic fun. You can drop to the lower layers first and erase many tiles to set up “traps” for other players. Or, you can try to stay at the higher layers as long as possible with some well-timed skillful hopping. You can run towards other players to pressure them, or, you can try avoiding contacts as much as possible. There are so many great strategies you can choose from and whatever playstyle you chose, you will have so much fun!  Hardest Level: Hoarders I was never good at football when I was a kid so naturally all the minigames that require you push around huge soccer balls are going to be difficult for me… So why is Hoarders the most difficult one out of the three ball-based minigames (Hoarders, Rock n’ Roll, and Fall Ball)? Well, it is simple math. The more balls there are in the stage, the harder the minigame. Rock n’ Roll has three, Fall Ball has two, and Hoarders has a whopping SEVEN balls in the stage!  Chaz Conopo Favorite Level: Dizzy HeightsIt is simple and effective. Run across the platforms that are spinning, dodge the oncoming spheres and simply not forget there is a gap to jump across near the end. A proper race to the finish challenge that every time it comes around something dramatic always happens. Newest tactic I’ve found is when you are climbing the hill near the end, grabbing the opponent in front to the point they will fling away from you, if the timing is just right they will collide with a ball and get knocked all the way down again. Sorry….. not sorry, the victory is all mine and it feels good. Hardest Level: Fall BallGet the ball into the goal. Ok it sounds easy, BUT it definitely ranks up the frustration meter when you are up against what seems to be the best football players on the pitch literally jumping up for the ball and knocking it into the direction of your team’s area as soon as the game starts. What is this magic?! I’m a tiny bean compared to the ball I’m trying to direct in a particular way towards the opponent’s goal, dodging, diving and shouting unplesantries at the TV screen. Before long my team is down by 5 points and all I can do now as a last resort is entertain the crowd by using the chicken emote in the middle of the field. Do I get bonus points for that? Sad face.

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