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New World: What you need to know about Amazon's new MMO

New World is the hottest PC game going right now. Here's what you should know about it.

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Amazon Games

If you're even a casual observer of gaming, you've probably heard the name New World get thrown around in the past week. After many delays, the long-awaited game launched on Wednesday. It's developed by Amazon Games which, after the failure of previous Amazon title Crucible, makes it a high-stakes release for the commerce giant. 

You can only gauge a massively multiplayer online game's success months or years after release, but New World is off to a good start. New World has more concurrent players than any other game right now, according to Steam data, as well as more Twitch viewers. Over 700,000 were playing New World on Wednesday, a peak reached by few games on Steam.

But what is it?

What is New World?

New World is a fantasy MMO game developed by Amazon Games, and it's exclusive to the PC. It has all of the trappings you'd expect from a big-budget MMO in 2021 (and you know Amazon has a big budget): a huge world with varied environments, a range of modes that include player-versus-player and player-versus-environment (PvP and PvE in MMO-speak), and deep roleplaying options.

Like all massive online games, you'll need to play New World to really get your head around its many, many elements. But here's a rough outline. 

New World takes place on Aeternum, a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. You play as an explorer essentially looking to colonize the island, but find that Aeternum is home to a magical substance called Azoth. Not only does Azoth make the local fauna and flora hostile to you, it also animates the dead explorers who came to Aeternum before you. Essentially, the island is trying to kill you. You'll harness the power of Azoth to fight back.

When you begin, you'll choose one of three factions: The Marauders, The Syndicate and The Covenant. Within each factions are companies (what would be a guild or clan in another game), which you can join. Companies can work together to take over settlements scattered throughout Aeternum, which can then be turned into player cities -- which you'll then need to protect. There are also four computer-controlled factions in The Corrupted, The Lost, The Ancient and The Angry Earth. The player-controlled factions are often at war, and you'll have to align with one and fight in these battles. 

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It's swords and axes, not guns and rockets.

Amazon Games

What about multiplayer?

The player-controlled factions are at the heart of New World's multiplayer. There are four types of multiplayer in New World: Expeditions, Invasions, Outpost Rush and War Mode. Here's what they entail:

  • Expedition: This is your conventional MMO dungeon. You and four other players partner together to solve puzzles and take down big bad guys. 
  • War Mode: A 100-person PvP mode that pits one faction against another. Either you're attacking another faction's fort or defending your own.
  • Invasion: This is New World's PvE mode, where you'll work with 49 other players (so 50 in total) to defend your faction's fort against waves of computer-controlled enemies. You need to survive for 30 minutes to be victorious. 
  • Outpost Rush: Here's where it gets a bit complicated. Outpost Rush is a PvPvE mode. It's a 20v20 battle where you fight against another team to capture and defend outposts, all while fighting off computer-controlled enemies.
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System requirements for New World.

Steam

Why is New World a big deal for Amazon?

In 2014, Amazon Games announced that it would move away from the mobile games it had been making (Airport Mania, To-Fu Fury), and would begin embarking on AAA game development to take on studios like Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft and Square Enix. To that end, in 2016 it announced three titles: Breakaway, Crucible and New World.

Breakaway, a combination of Rocket League and League of Legends that targeted the esports crowd, was canceled in 2018. Crucible, a team-based shooter roughly similar to Overwatch, was critically panned upon release last March; response was so poor that Amazon shut down Crucible servers after just seven months.

So yes, New World is important for Amazon Games, because the studio really needs a big win right now. New World has been delayed three times, originally slated to launch in May 2020 before being pushed back to August 2021 -- before a final one-month delay. 

What's the response been so far?

Launch day response has been mixed, but many of the negative reviews players have left on Steam relate to the long queues to get into New World's servers. While critics' reviews have yet to come in, New World has certainly attracted many, many players. (Thus the server queues.) 

New World is both the most played and most watched PC game in the world right now. It has 542,000 concurrent players on Steam, while over 620,000 people are watching New World streams of Twitch at the time of writing (compared to 230,000 for Grand Theft Auto 5 and 110,000 for Apex Legends).