Back in August, Amazon Games invited Den of Geek to play its forthcoming game New World, an MMO set in a fantastical version of Earth inspired by the Age of Exploration, where magic and gunpowder coexist and adventurers duke it out on the mysterious island of Aeternum to take control of different territories in 50v50 battles. I participated in one of these battles in my first preview and was generally impressed with the tighter-than-average MMO combat and gigantic sense of scale.
Earlier this week, I got another chance to go hands-on with an alpha version of the game, and this time I explored a new region called Reekwater, a swampy, bayou-inspired zone that introduces new creatures and a robust fishing mechanic.
At virtually any body of water, you can pull out a fishing rod, attach bait to your hook if you’ve got it, and cast a line in hopes of catching one of the game’s 40-plus different species of fish. At the start of my demo time, I headed straight to a swampy area in the Southeast section of the map to try the new skill out, and I was pleasantly surprised by how fun it was.
I typically don’t care for extracurricular activities like this in MMOs, but right away, I could tell that New World’s fishing mechanic was well thought out by the developers. The controls are simple enough–you press F3 next to any body of water and hold left click to bring up a vertical bar with an icon that rises and falls. Release at the bar’s apex and you’ll cast your line at maximum distance; if your timing is off, you’ll fall short.
Once your line is cast, you’ll see an icon that’ll bobble when a fish approaches. Click at the right time and you’ll snag the fish and initiate the timing-based reeling, in which you hold left-click and release in measured intervals so as not to break the line. All of this feels intuitive and smooth out of the gate, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to spend the rest of my demo time casting my line in different bodies of water.
Depending on what type of water you’re fishing in (fresh or salt), you’ll find different varieties of fish. These vary in rarity, and the rarest fish are hand-placed by the developers in specific “hot spots” across Aeternum, so you’ll have to do some exploring to catch them all. Once caught, fish can be broken down into various items that reflect the rarity of the fish and can be used to craft gear. You also gain XP from fishing.
After a few rounds of fishing, I ventured off into the jungle to see what else Reekwater had to offer. Above all else, I’ll say this—Reekwater is for higher-skilled players. We were told as much prior to our demo time, and the devs weren’t kidding. I died A LOT despite having a buffed-out level 60 character, and the enemies were fearsome to say the least. You’ll have to travel in groups with similarly high-leveled companions to survive, which will be great for players looking for a challenge.
While getting killed mercilessly by Reekwater’s menagerie of enemies was a drag, I did appreciate just how cool the creature designs were. At one point, I stumbled on a moldy temple ruled by amphibious warrior creatures called makogai, who swiftly descended on me and tore me to shreds. They were led by a spell-casting elder-frog-thing and it was cool that the enemies were presented not just as a random group of grunts, but as an organized clan defending their home from me, a spear-wielding invader. Little touches like this go a long way in MMOs.
The most distinctive thing about Reekwater visually is the sheer variety and amount of foliage on display. When I spawned into the area all I saw was green in every direction, and the designers did a great job of making the zone feel just barely touched by humanity, with nature clearly the dominant force. There are wrecked ships scattered about, a developing central settlement with quest givers, and plenty of explorers sloshing about the swamps, but the area feels wild and lush nonetheless. The environments look impressive when compared to other games with similar areas, which often feel too sparse, open, and flat. Reekwater feels overgrown and full of life, and it invites exploration.
New World seems to have a lot to offer both in its content and world design, though I’m still curious to see how it’ll all come together when the game launches in 2021. The massive 50v50 PVP battles will likely be the main appeal for new players, but the stronger Amazon Games can make its side content, like fishing, the better chance the game will be able to sustain a large following.