When Amazon Games' MMORPG New World launches next month, it'll bring Expeditions – the game's own take on instanced dungeons full of baddies to best and special loot to nab. Like New World's War mode, they'll also throw a more structured sequence of combat and gameplay at players that offers something very different to what's found in its overworld of Aeternum. There'll be six Expeditions to dive into when the MMO launches, and by blending challenge, story content, and the game’s classless character progression, they'll “offer a chance to go deeper on both the combat and gameplay experience”.
“Our desire was to tell different stories about Aeternum,” head of world experience Mike Willette tells us on how the team went about crafting Expeditions as their own distinct experiences. “Whether it was about a group of researchers going missing in a local ancient dig site, or the Angry Earth and their origins. Alongside that we want to add some pace breakers to the experience. Different types of challenges and puzzles that are tied to the spaces and make the overall experience richer.”
“For us, Expeditions are an important space to offer players a unique experience different from the open world,” art director Charles Bradbury explains on the same point, adding that what New World's dungeons offer is “more hand-crafted content” that has “a flow and overarching narrative to follow”.
“Expeditions also give us a chance to focus in visually on a particular theme or mix of themes, and create memorable moments that will stand out for players,” Bradbury adds. “Some are more branching, while others are more about specific challenges. Our combat gives us a lot of interesting opportunities in how we lay out space, how to guide the player’s eye and give them opportunities to interact with the space, enemies, and each other in interesting ways.”
These elements are made clear in the first to be revealed, which we took a look at earlier this year: the Amrine Excavation. It takes gaggles of players down into a spooky, cavernous network of chambers beneath a forest to tackle some pretty tough enemies. This dungeon is notable for the challenges its puzzles and layout throw at the player, with close quarters in some spots of Amrine, and sheer drops down chasms threatening doom in others – and some really dastardly beasts to fend off all the way through. But it’s the combination of these narrative, gameplay, and stylistic elements that’ll offer something deeper for players to dive into in New World’s dungeons.
“Expeditions offer a chance to go deeper on both the combat and gameplay experience as well as the story and visual themes,” Bradbury tells us. “Because it’s a more guided experience for a small group, it gives us an opportunity to really focus players’ attention on key focal elements, be that a boss with a dramatic introduction, or just a bit of environmental storytelling that gives hints at some of the wider narrative in the game.”
“We want players to experience our combat in a new context while diving deeper into stories of Aeternum,” Willette also explains. “Things that you wouldn’t necessarily discover or experience in your journeys in the open world. We playtest often and try to strike a balance that feels fun, challenging, and rewarding for players.”
As for how New World’s classless combat system factors into crafting Expeditions, it sounds as though – while it’ll offer a huge variety of ways for parties to tackle its dungeons in the ways they want to – it’s also a tough element to grapple with. Balancing Expedition content to suit all playstyles and offer equal, but different, challenges is no easy feat, which Willette touches on. “The classless combat system gives players tons of options for creating builds tailored to their style of play,” he tells us.
“Want to be a paladin? Or a standard knight? or how about a ranger? All possible with different combinations of attributes, armour, weapons, gems, perks, weapon masteries, and consumables available.”
But, in terms of fine tuning this, he explains that there’s an “extraordinary amount of variation” for the New World team to balance across both the MMO’s PvE and PvP gameplay, adding that the devs do “a ton” of internal playtesting to get this right, in addition to looking at players’ alpha and beta data.
“When it comes to bosses we have goals for the play experience,” Willette tells us. “How difficult should it be for players at the recommended level? What is the time to kill for an Elite enemy? What is the ideal build for playing against enemies of a particular family?” – this meaning their strengths and weaknesses.
“We consider the player’s preparation loop and the maximum amount of utility they would have at that recommended target,” he adds. “When we look at bosses we think about the potential tools the player has and what would be a fun interaction or moment. What happens when the boss changes its attack patterns and how the player will learn from it?” For example, the Lazarus Instrumentality Expedition’s first boss, Cilla, has a “stacking mechanic that players need to learn where she starts doing a ton more damage. Learning when to disable that stack and when to heal and attack is crucial to success. It also means that there should be players able to manage threat and attack damage.”
Get ready to roleplay: Pre-order New World here
New World will feature six Expeditions when it launches, aimed at a bunch of different levels, from the easier end of the scale with the Amrine Expedition to the endgame Lazarus Instrumentality dungeon, which takes players to a secret site to battle a monstrous threat – the behemoth Chardis. New World launches on September 28, so you’ll be able to get stuck in when they’re all live very soon.