New World has been a mixed bag for me thus far, and it’s hard to put a finger on exactly why that has been. I’m having fun - let’s get that out of the way first and foremost. My time spent in the world has been mostly enjoyable, but pockets of the almost 20 hours of gameplay I’ve been able to sink into Amazon’s MMO since it launched on Tuesday have left me either scratching my head or downright furious.
Oh, and the queues.
Queues, Queues, and More Queues
Likely it will be the first time you log into the MMO, you’ll be faced with long queue times depending on your server of choice. Amazon has spun up hundreds of servers in New World since its initial launch this week, so there is a chance you’re hitting one of the lesser populated ones, but for those of us who hopped on a server early and now do not want to start over, queue times are just something to plan around now.
I wrote earlier this week about how queue times were bound to happen - it’s an MMO launch, afterall. There is no single online game that will launch without issues, period. That is unfortunately just a fact of the gaming industry now, no matter how much we expect the products we buy to just work. However, if there was one company that could have a chance to make it smoother, Amazon - a company that sells scalable server services to pretty much The Internet - felt like it could be the one.
Popular servers, especially those with streamers creating communities, have long queues. The server my group and I decided upon has a smaller queue during peak hours, though it is still enough time to get through the latest episode of Ted Lasso. Popular MMOs have queues even years later: Final Fantasy XIV has dealt with queues this year thanks to its incredible surge in popularity. During the launch of The Burning Crusade Classic queues were a normal occurrence. They happen. I can only hope that the queues get shorter and as Amazon opens up player transfers next week it helps alleviate some of the issues and spread those still hoping to play on a popular server to the new ones Amazon has spun up, keeping queues on the lower end for the foreseeable future.
But like, how does it play?
New World feels like a survival game with an MMO wrapper. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I feel. It’s best systems: the faction PvP, its crafting and gathering loop, and combat shine through while the actual content of New World does leave something to be desired. Throughout my 20 hours of gameplay, the vast majority of the time I’m grabbing tasks from various points in a town: the town board, faction rep, as well as the few quests scattered around the settlement, and then venturing forth. It feels very old-school in its design, eschewing the “on the rails” questing we see in more modern MMOs, going back to a hub design. You’ll get the quest, do it, come back to turn in and repeat.
It’s simple and repetitive, something a player like myself can fall into a groove with and mindlessly tackle tasks while listening to a podcast or sitting on a Discord call with friends doing similar work. The actual content of each quest is left wanting - town boards and your faction rep don’t really give you context or story...or anything for that matter when they send you on your way, you simply pick up the task and do it. This leaves me wondering what the motivations are as to why I’m doing something within the world. Tangibly, I know why I’m doing a town board quest: to improve the settlement itself, and the faction rep quests are to build up reputation with the faction itself. But there doesn’t seem to be much more beyond that, and it does start to wear on me.
This is coupled by the fact that tasks themselves are the same thing over and over again, especially the PvP tasks from your faction rep. I cannot begin to tell you how boring it is to have to kill a named mob for an assassination quest, turn it in only to be given the exact same quest again by the faction rep right away. The tasks themselves are so similar that you’d be forgiven thinking that every single one was this way - you just go to different locations. Go here and kill 8 Lost. Okay, now go back and search 8 chests in the same area. For the PvP quest, go here an survive for 30 seconds, or grab a cache and then deposit it in another box. Rinse and repeat. The sense of urgency or really any motivation other than what you create for yourself just isn’t there.
To break up the monotony are quests you can pick up from NPCs in your settlement, as well as the main story questline that tells the tale of Aeternum. This is the only real narrative-ly driven quest I’ve found thus far, and it is refreshing to have a bit more motivation behind why I’m doing something. However, even these quests don’t feel all that different than the regular quests and tasks you do in your chosen settlement. Yonas, a aged character who was once a Soulwarden, tells the tale of the fall of the Soulwardens before you as you start your journey to become one yourself and fight back the corruption that stalks Aeternum.
However, when Yonas is done talking and you’ve accepted the quest, the goals themselves are pretty routine. Go here, kill these monsters. Go there, read an etching on a wall. Go to this place and loot a chest. There is nothing mechanically different about the main story quest that would set it apart thus far, something I’m really hoping opens up more as I progress past level 20 and I’ve obtained the Azoth Staff, an item used to deal with the corruption pockets that dot Aeternum’s landscape.
Combating Corruption - And A Home Cooked Meal
All this is to say that the actual content of New World feels to be its weakest point in the early going. This might open up as the story starts to lead into the different dungeon Expeditions, which I have enjoyed when I was able to play them in previews. We’ll have more on all of this, though during our full review later this month.
What keeps me going with all of this in mind is just how satisfying the main gameplay loop actually is in the end. I relish the idea of venturing out from our settlement to smell the roses, so to speak. An opportunity to hunt for materials like iron or dominate the hemp gathering market on our server speaks to me on a level no other MMO has done before. I absolutely love how easy and natural Amazon has made crafting in New World.
It has its quirks, sure. In no world does it take multiple iron ingots to create a rapier - seriously there are whole TV shows devoted to forging weapons, I really wish crafting was somewhat realistic in games in that regard. I also think it’s weird that crafting a hatchet - a weapon - improved my engineering skill rather than my weapon crafting skill. And if you’ve got the patience to gather the materials and make bullets for the musket, you deserve all the riches the market will bestow upon you.
Also, like in real life, I adore cooking in New World. Crafting a roasted potato dinner for my friends is rewarding, and it makes me want to make actual roasted potatoes after seeing the item icon a few times.
It’s interesting too as in most MMOs I kind of drop off the crafting radar rather early. Other friends who have more patience and the attention span usually out pace me quickly in that regard, so I rely on them to help craft my gear in other games. However, New World is different. My friends and I are planning out which crafting profession we’ll stick with to help out the collective. It reminds me of when we jokingly called ourselves communist Vikings in Valheim - we all had a role to play in our tawdry little group.
Aside from crafting, combat is a strong point for Amazon as well here with New World. It’s an action combat game in the vein of most modern MMOs now - meaning if you’re a tab targeting purist, you’re going to be disappointed, unfortunately. Since New World is classless, you’re defined not by a predefined class but rather how you mold your character by mastering the various weapons on offer. The Holy Trinity is still here, meaning you’re going to eventually find yourself slotting into either heals, tank or DPS roles, but the flexibility New World gives to get you there is nice.
For my part, I’ve found I’ve fallen in love with the Rapier - which isn’t too surprising considering it was my weapon of choice in the last few tests. Each weapon has two skill lines that play very differently from each other as well, letting you either go hard on one or meld them into a hybrid that combines the the best of what each weapon can do.
For example, the basic sword and shield combo leans into either a DPS line where you do AoE spinning attacks and high damage skills, such as a reverse stab. Conversely, you can lean more into the shield aspect of the build, helping to interrupt and keep enemies off balance, while soaking up a bit of damage for your friends in a tank-y mode. The rapier excels at high damage, bleed and fast damage in one skill line, while the second excels in mobility and creating openings to counter attack, especially with its incredibly satisfying parry skill. How you choose to play is, really, up to you.
This level of flexibility is nice in an MMO, though it is limited. Each skill line only has about three skills total - which works out since your skill bar can only host three skills. It feels more stifling than a game like The Elder Scrolls Online, which also has a limited skill bar, but many skill trees to help build the ultimate character.
Time will tell whether this feels too limiting down the road, but for now I’m enjoying the flexibility on offer. You’re not constrained to just one weapon as well, you can swap in combat to a secondary weapon, so if you want to work as an off healer and provide some damage to burn down a boss in the end of a fight, you can easily.
As I approach level 20 and am opening up more of the story, I am excited to see more of New World itself. The starter zones, while pretty, seemingly tend to blend into one, and I’ve really not touched the PvP aspects of New World that make it so social - and exciting. We’ll have more on that in our next review in progress. But thus far, while I’m having fun, there are some holes I’m hoping are plugged up, especially content-wise, as I get farther into the world itself.
But, I’m having fun. And that is key. Even with its issues, I still want to explore this world. I want to know more, and I want to contribute to my faction’s goals of dominating the map in the weeks to come.
New World, so far for me, feels like a mixed bag. But it’s a bag I’m interested in exploring.