"Time to phone your friends and family one last time and wave goodbye to your social life for a good long while: there's a new MMORPG in the shops, and it's a biggie."
Time to phone your friends and family one last time and wave goodbye to your social life for a good long while: there's a new MMORPG in the shops, and it's a biggie. If you thought that World of Warcraft was the absolute best that the genre could get, then you were very, very wrong. There's a new game in town, and it's destined to achieve unprecedented success.
This game's name? Sword of the New World, and it's fanfuckingtastic.
Set within a newly-discovered continent, the tale is one of discovery and exploration, loosely inspired by Europe's acquisition of territory within the Americas. The climate within the game (as in history) is one of war between the different nations of the homelands these intrepid explorers had left, eventually spilling over to this vast new world as more and more settlers clamoured to gain territory for their home countries. It is within this environment that your story begins. The atmosphere of war displays itself within the gameplay incredibly well. Yes, there are simple player versus player combat scenarios that most gamers have come to expect in a game of this type, but also there are sieges, family versus family battles, and city versus city rampages on an epic scale.
Initially you'll only be able to use one character, but after a quick run through tutorial mode, you will unlock the ability to use more characters. In fact, within the game itself you can house up to 36 characters within a fantastic family system, and can use (and control) up to three separate characters at any one time. All this as a single player - quite innovative within the genre, and it works surprisingly well. The way this translates to combat is much smoother than one might think it would be. The easiest way to use your characters effectively is simply to switch between them whilst fighting an enemy. These transitions are fast-paced, so you never really take damage while waiting for the game to catch up. Indeed, loading times are kept to the absolute minimum - a welcome change from the norm.
With five different types of character available, each with its own distinct set of skills and attributes, considering how many characters each player can house and develop, one can see immediately that Sword of the New World offers an experience like no other. The sheer array of skills you can use within a party of three characters (each of any type you choose) is quite daunting initially, but fortunately the game's tutorial mode and combat help explains the system with ease, enabling you to take full advantage right from the start. You'll quickly find that it's always handy to take along a wizard, as not only can this character class launch powerful attacking spells against an enemy, but he can also shield your characters from damage. Indeed, the wizard can actually do both at once - there's a spell that reflects damage inflicted back to the enemy that caused it, making this perhaps the most powerful character type available. This isn't necessarily useful against other players, as they may well be able to deflect it right back at you. However, against random monsters in dungeons (most of which don't have this ability), this skill is indispensable and of great help.
Aside from the uber-powerful wizard, each player can choose between the fighter, the scout, the elementalist, and the musketeer. But with a maximum of 36 character spots available in your family, why not have a few of each? Variety is always best, as you never know quite who or what you'll be up against next. Given that the in-game AI is actually of a very high standard, it's incredibly useful to make sure that you have plenty of different skills available to you whilst in general combat. This isn't an easy game by any means, and the game will keep you on your toes. It does start out quite gently despite the fact that you're thrown straight into the action, but it's still wise to ensure that your family is capable of dealing out a decent variety of attacks.
Speaking of families, while giving birth to 36 screaming babies would be somewhat challenging to the average mother, your own offspring will emerge fully-grown from the uterus. If only we could do that in real life. You really can control them all as well, although you'll only be able to take three out of your house at once. If you get a bit fed up of them though, you can send them straight back home at any time. Handy if one is close to death and needs to leave in a hurry, although you won't be able to do this in the middle of a fight. You can also fight other families by way of a clever duelling system. These work in a similar way to fights against enemies, although they're somewhat trickier since rather than fighting against the in-game AI, you're up against another player who could feasibly be better at it than you. Indeed, there's actually a leaderboard, and no-one likes to be bottom of the list. Best to get into this quite quickly, as not only is it a useful way to gain levels, but it'll also give your pride a bit of a boost.
The standard of play is excellent, through not only the different options available to you for customisation, but also the appearance of the environment. This is one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen. Characters, buildings and the natural world itself are all stunningly beautiful, and give this game a real sense of depth. It's tremendously polished, and this is of huge benefit to the player as it gives you an incentive to explore, to discover even more of it. Given the online element of play, whilst the world is not infinite, there is infinite opportunity to play and develop within the game itself, and this is a deeply rewarding experience. This is one of the most exciting games I've played in a long time. I just can't recommend it highly enough, although I do recommend that you explore and discover it for yourself.
The New World awaits. Will you be a part of it?
Freelance review by Lisa Harrison (July 23, 2007)
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