Preview | New World

Many people can’t wait for Amazon’s newest video game the new New World. This game is expected to breathe new life into the MMORPG genre. The New World game was initially expected in 2020, but has unfortunately been delayed. New World is expected to be released on August 31, 2021, but it remains to be seen whether Amazon will actually meet this deadline.

New World is the upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game or MMORPG from Amazon under the name Amazon Game Studios. Although the New World game was initially announced for May 2020, as previously stated, it has been delayed for more than a year because there was still a lot of criticism about the state of the game. Compared to other MMOs like World of Warcraft, where you have to buy the game and pay monthly, the New World game will only maintain a “buy-to-play” model. This means that you only have to purchase the game and you can play unlimited.

As a player, you can team up with up to 4 other players in a group. There are three factions in the game which are Marauders, Syndicate and Covenant. The New World game has a crafting system and offers both PvE (Player vs Environment) and PvP (Player vs Player). You can also take over settlements, do quests or just explore the world.

A big difference with many other MMORPGs is that you don’t have an auto targeting system. This means that you will have to focus on your target yourself. As far as is known, you can choose between a variety of weapons including bows, hammers, guns, spears, axes, sword and shield, an ice gauntlet and a life of fire staff. In addition, you also have the standard stats that you need to increase to become stronger like Constitution, Focus, Intelligence, Strength and Dexterity.

The professions can be divided into 3 different categories: Crafting, Refining and Gathering. Crafting means professions such as Weaponsmithing or Cooking. Refining means the refining of certain materials like the smelting of ore or leather processing. Gathering is of course the collection of materials, such as Mining or picking herbs.

Important and especially unique about the New World PC game is the fact that there are no classes in New World. You have the complete freedom in which weapons you want to use and how you want to develop your character. Instead, you focus on upgrading certain weapons through the Weapon Mastery system. The more you focus on a certain weapon, the more options you have with it. Ultimately, the idea is to pick a few weapons you want to specialize in, so you can switch between them during combat depending on the situation.

As a player, you can even buy a house of your own and fill it with furniture of your choice. In addition, you can then quickly move between cities if you buy houses in different cities.

The combat system of the New World PC game is a lot more dynamic than that of other older MMORPGs. The developers have stated that they were inspired by the Dark Souls system, which means that you will have to roll a lot to dodge things and find openings where you can attack instead of always playing offensive. However, the combat system still has some small flaws. The animations are very long and the timing for rolling to avoid attacks is very tight.

We conclude that Amazon’s New World PC game may breathe new life into the MMORPG genre. Amazon is of course a gigantic company and also has the necessary investments to make a game qualitatively very strong. However, the question is whether Amazon Games can also fulfill the wishes of the players as this is their first MMORPG.

According to the Amazon Games website, the minimum specs to play New World are as follows:
OS: Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 / AMD CPU with 4 physical cores @ 3Ghz
Memory: 8GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 670 2GB / AMD Radeon R9 280 or better
DirectX: Version 12
Network: Broadband Internet
Storage: 35 GB available space

In terms of graphics, the game is beautiful, but can New World also meet the expectations of players worldwide in terms of combat and content? That will have to wait until August 31, 2021.

Preview | Legends of Runeterra

One of the biggest games in the world, League of Legends, has held this possition for decades. The MOBA draws in millions of players from around the world, and Riot Games is using this popularity as the foundation for a much wider universe of games.

This a collectible card game experience from the creators behind League of Legends, taking place in the same universe with plenty of familiar locations, champions and lore that long-running fans will definitely appreciate. That being said, it’s been developed in a way that ensures newcomers won’t feel completely overwhelmed with what’s going on.

6 regions and 24 champions will be available at launch, with more planned in future expansions and updates. Those will increase the universe until, potentially, it matches the scope of its progenitor.

For example, I’m not a League of Legends player anymore, but after playing through a handful of tutorials I felt right at home with Riot Games’ new venture. It does an excellent job of drawing players in, ensuring they feel both comfortable and capable when it comes to taking on other players from around the world.

When it comes to the available platforms, Riot Games has said it’s focused on PC and mobile for the time being, and will consider consoles and other ways of playing the game going forward.

At its core, Legends of Runeterra is incredibly similar to Hearthstone in terms of layout and pacing, but the execution transforms what could be perceived as a shallow copycat into something much, much more. At first glance, many of the staples you associate with the genre are present and accounted for. Each turn you draw a card, the number in your hand growing alongside a mana pool which increases as the match progresses.

The more mana you possess, the more powerful cards, spells and abilities can be played on the field. Obviously, the same principles apply to whoever’s on the other side of the field, eagerly scrutinising your every move. It isn’t all about playing your most powerful card and hoping for the best though, Runeterra is far more nuanced than this. Largely because of how it overhauls the two-turn structure we’ve come to associate with digital card games for so long.

There are two types of rounds – offensive and defensive – with roles switching between players with each turn. When playing offensive, you’ll need to populate the field with powerful cards, with the goal of either destroying the enemies’ units or damaging their Nexus – which essentially acts as a health bar. This phase is all about making brave choices, since there’s rarely a way to predict what the opposing side will do next. I took multiple leaps of faith, many of which led to a sudden victory.

Defensive play requires a more timid, level-headed approach, all about ensuring you’re blocking incoming attacks with your own cards. Each unit has its own health and damage values, which will determine who emerges unscathed with each encounter. The basic idea of managing health and armour is made more complicated with certain cards possessing shields, while others can be summoned with ‘elusive’ skills that circumvent combat and attack the Nexus directly.

Runeterra has a weekly vault, which levels up the more you play: ascending through the ranks and increasing the innard’s value the more experience is earned. When you finally open it, the reward is determined by the vault’s level. It could be Bronze, Silver, Gold or even Platinum, and it can only be opened once. After that, you need to wait.

This isn’t the only means of earning new cards, shards and other pieces of loot across Runeterra. Each region has a line of progression with twenty distinct levels you can swap between at anytime. Rewards range from random chests to wildcards – objects of different rarities that allow you to pick any card of your choice and add it to your collection. It’s a great way of superseding the randomisation that makes loot boxes so frustrating.

After playing for a handful of hours across various regions, it did start to take longer to reach higher levels, providing a glimpse at the free-to-play mechanics rearing their head after the honeymoon phase.

Ahead of its full release across PC and mobile devices in 2020, Riot Games will be holding a number of ‘preview patches’ for Legends of Runeterra which will add a variety of new features to the experience.

Preview | Diablo IV

Good news for everyone who hated Diablo 3: in Diablo 4 the most frequently heard criticisms will be resolved.

Who still remembers the controversy surrounding Diablo 3? The game was under fire both before and after appearance. Gamers were initially angry at the graphic style as it would be far too colorful compared to Diablo 2. And then it turned out that the game could only be played with an internet connection. Painful, especially because the servers were out the first days.

A little later the game introduced a marketplace for found weapons and armor with which you could earn real money. In this way, Blizzard hoped to earn a little pocket money after the launch, but soon this system turned out to ruin the metagame. The new skill system also felt limited for many, because you could only link upgrades to specific attacks.

Since then, Blizzard has polished Diablo 3 to turn it into a game fans were hoping for. The plug was pulled out of the marketplace and in the Reaper of Souls expansion a more dark and grim style was used.

A new talent system ensures that you can adjust it to your own taste. Once in so many levels you get new points, which you can invest in extra upgrades on a screen. A standard system in many games, but for Diablo 4 a return to the classic form. This gives you more freedom to customize a character to your own taste, which makes more potential builds possible.

Just like in previous Diablo’s, you are constantly looking for new equipment. In Diablo 3 that could sometimes be confusing, for example if you had to choose between pants with 5 percent extra attack power or 500 raw attack power,  because then you suddenly had to make difficult calculations. Blizzard hopes to prevent this hassle in Diablo 4.

The runesystem is back. You will find all kinds of runes during your journeys through dungeons, which you can then put in your gear. In this way, a weak weapon can eventually measure itself against a legendary sword. And because you choose the runes yourself, you can adapt a weapon to your playing style.

The world of Diablo 4 is dark and bloody. Slaughter a horde of enemies and your hero will soon be drenched in blood, leaving behind broken carcasses. The world looks brown and gray, with hardly any room for contrasting colors. With that, Blizzard recreates the style of Diablo 2. As a result, the game also feels like a kind of crazy reference to the late 1990s, when games tried to distinguish themselves by being as bloody and ‘mature’ as possible.

In the demo we had a series of simple missions. There was a short story to play, about a boy who had nightmares about a possessed cave. Once we arrived we saw the spirits of a father who drowned his son as a sacrifice to the gods. It is the dark undertone that Diablo 4 wants to convey more often in his stories, the developers tell us. There were no winners here: after crossing the dungeon and beating the boss, it appeared in the village that the dreaming boy had suddenly died.

Side missions sent us to the corners of the world to defeat enemies in a fairly standard way, but these are not the only ways to deviate from the story. Diablo 4 is an open game, with gigantic environments that you can explore freely. During a walking tour we encountered everything, including mysterious dungeons and adventurers who needed our help. In Diablo 4 it pays to blindly pull out, making the game feel more like a rpg than the previous part.

The areas in Diablo 4 also feel a lot more vertical than in the previous part. Dungeons are no longer linear paths, but require that you climb multiple floors. As a result, the environments feel more like a real world, rather than a set of mapped out levels. In addition, for the first time you can roll into the PC version of a Diablo game: that option was originally only introduced in the console version of Diablo 3.

It will probably take a while longer for Diablo 4 to appear, but the first game session promises a lot. This is the grim Diablo that people longed for in part three, with more freedom and a more robust system to adjust your character to your own taste. You still have to be online to play the game, but in 2019 we can live a lot better with it.

Diablo 4 is being developed for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is not yet known when the game will appear.

Preview | Pokemon Sword & Shield

A lot of information about Sword and Shield has been revealed, we were therefore allowed to put our cap backwards and dive into the Galar region for the first time.

Two new features of the game are central to the demonstration. The first is the concept of gyms in Sword and Shield, which actually consist of gigantic stadiums. Before you can enter the field, however, you must complete a so-called Gym Mission, a nice word for puzzles in which you will encounter different trainers. In this case it’s a large room with waterfalls, entirely in the theme of the water gym.

The puzzle consists of persuading switches of the right color to gradually open paths to the gym leader. To be honest, the gameplay is neither innovative nor challenging enough to distinguish this part of gyms from previous parts. Sun & Moon somewhat threw up the concept of gyms with Trials, but it didn’t really make the run up to the big fight any more fascinating. Now that Sword and Shield are returning to more traditional gyms, we had hoped that Game Freak would turn out with cool puzzles or other gamplay, but at first glance that is not the case.

The fight with gym leader Nessa is a true spectacle. Game Freak finally makes gyms look like the events they are in the anime, with cheering audiences in the background and clearly football-inspired kits. The stadiums are not all that big to allow as many spectators as possible, but also for Dynamaxing.

That new feature, perhaps overemphasized in the recent Pokémon Direct, means that Pokémon will become the size of an apartment building for a short time. I initially had my reservations, but in practice it makes end fights more spectacular. Moreover, the strategy that comes with Dynamaxing is more radical than, for example, Mega Evolutions, thanks to the fact that they only remain active for three turns. So if you use your Dynamax at the wrong time, you run the risk of losing the fight.

Once transformed into a giant pokémon, the attacks of the monster have been changed to Dynamax variants. For example, still cheerful Grookey can handle the bombastic grass attack Mega Overgrowth, which makes Nessa’s Drednaw short. Dynamax attacks sometimes cause a change in the terrain, such as a sandstorm that causes damage.

Furthermore, the short demo confirms many of the expectations of a “hardcore” Pokémon-rpg, such as the fact that screen texts return and voice-acting is missing, and that battles are still in turn and offer more depth than you might think. You also catch pokémon again by weakening them and throwing a ball with the push of a button. A fine adjustment to the menu for pokémon during battles is the display of moves, which you previously found under “Summary”. Unfortunately, the menu was not yet available outside of combat, so we could not notice any changes there.

Also two new pokémon were shown, Yamper and Impidimp. Yamper is a funny electric corgi pokémon that fits perfectly between the other announced animals. And then tehre was the purple Impidimp. Who actually looks like the evil twin brother of Mankey.

As mentioned, the game play demo was rather limited and only a fraction of Sword and Shield was shown. For example, it was not possible to discover the largest new addition to the game, the Wild Area. Different pokémon walk around in this region depending on the weather and you can control the camera yourself for the first time. The bike also returns and you can even meet other players to participate in raids. It is an intriguing way to discover the Galar region as well as a gathering of promising features.

All in all, Sword and Shield seems to be a safe, but fun, Pokémon game. The Gym Missions are a bit disappointing, but main fights are atmospheric and spectacular.

Pokémon Sword and Shield releases for the Nintendo Switch on November 15 .

Preview | World of Warcraft Classic

Long black hair, goatee, green eyes and pale skin. It was over 14 years ago that I created my paladin in World of Warcraft. In all those years I haven’t changed anything about his appearance. Okay, except for one time when I wanted to earn the “Shave and a Haircut” Achievement. After that, however, I did not know how quickly I had to change his haircut back to the original!

Blizzard has less trouble changing things. In fact: if the developer changes a little, it goes much further than just a simple visit to the barber! The current World of Warcraft can therefore no longer be compared to the game I was introduced to 14 years ago. Just like the character models, the rest of the game is now more refined and slicker. Nevertheless, I often long for the WoW of the past. I could personally experience my nostalgic sentiment in the beta and stress test, where I was allowed to work with World of Warcraft Classic.

Classic WoW is a special version of the MMORPG, which allows players to relive the original version of the game which was announced during BlizzCon of 2017. You can play the Classic version with your normal subscription. In other words: you do not need a separate subscription to be able to check this Vanilla version.

Endless tinkering with dividing the points in my talent tree and the almost death experience after picking more than two mobs. What year is it? We have to ask this question to the man who has been working at Blizzard for 16 years, helped develop World of Warcraft 15 years ago and is now looking into the Classic version of the game. 

This man, Omar Gonzalez (now Senior Software Engineer) revealed during an interview that the devs always seemed eager to make a Classic version. And there was always demand from the player base as well. 

When Blizzard decided to make World of Warcraft Classic a reality, it turned out that it wasn’t that simple. Gonzalez said that Classic is not a simple port on which they could just throw the old version of the game online. Instead, the old art assets run on the modern code structure. In other words: old information must work in the modern way that Blizzard now runs its games. Gonzalez describes this process as wanting to merge two halves of different games, which of course do not connect well. He was sometimes surprised by how much the core gameplay systems different. Gonzalez has succeeded in combining those two halves! Gonzalez follows by saying that the world in the former WoW was much more challenging. It was much harder to survive on your own. Thus, the world encouraged players to form groups and help each other. When a raid was planned, you arrived on time, even if you were tired. You just wanted to help your friends, because abandoning them was not an option!

It’s nice for new players that everyone starts at zero. You do not always follow the facts on this leveled playing field and you also have the opportunity to earn achievements that were previously only reserved for older players. Achievements and titles that people earn in Classic are not visible in the modern World of Warcraft.

Classic will be based on version 1.12: Drums of War from circa 2006. After the launch of World of Warcraft, each class gradually underwent a major rework. Patch 1.12 is the sum of all these improvements. In other words: it’s World of Warcraft Vanilla in its best condition!

After the launch of World of Warcraft Classic, the content is added in phases. Below is a global overview of the first Content.

Phase 1: Molten Core, Onyxia and Maraudon

Phase 2: Dire Maul, Azuregos and Kazzak

Phase 3: Blackwing Lair, Darkmoon Faire and Darkmoon deck drops

Phase 4: Zul’Gurub and Green Dragons

Phase 5: Ahn’Qiraj War Effort, Ahn’Qiraj raid, dungeon loot reconfiguration

Phase 6: Naxxramas and Scourge Invasion

I’m looking forward to phase 5, in which the Ahn’Qiraj War Effort erupts. The opening of the gates, after all resources have been collected, is one of the greatest moments in the history of World of Warcraft. When thousands of players came together, however, Blizzard struggled with offering reliable services and uptime, but that will change now.

World of Warcraft Classic is launching on August 27th on PC for anyone with a active WoW subscription.