As I hit level 40 over the weekend in New World in my review playthrough, the grind started to get to me. I’ve been having fun in Aeternum for the most part, but the path to get to the level I’m at now was one that started to take a toll. The main culprit? Subpar questing.
Questing In New World Is Way Too Repetitive
I almost laughed out loud when a character in Everfall apologized to me for the repetitive quests he was sending me on. It was as if the game developers realized the core issue with their questing loop and decided to apologize through one of the few NPCs in town that offered quests to players.
Questing in New World basically falls into two main categories: slayer quests and searching a chest. There aren’t really any puzzles to solve, any NPCs to escort or save and so on. Often times it’s “Go here, kill the thing, come back.”
MMO quest design doesn’t really reinvent the wheel with each new release, mind you. Quests typically fall into these categories of slayer, loot, and escort quests. However, what makes them compelling oftentimes are the stories or motivations behind the player as they complete them. A great story quest in ESO can make up for the fact that the quest boiled down to just killing ten skeletal Argonians. The Lord of the Rings can turn a monotonous quest where you carry a mailbag from one Shire town to another with the addition of nosey Hobbits to avoid.
However, in New World the stories and motivations behind each quest are lacking considerably. In my near 90 hours of gameplay now, I’m not sure I really remember anyone’s name, save Yonas. And I really only remember him due to his quests being the poster child of how poorly structured New World’s entire questing experience would be.
Instead of the convenience offered by moving quest givers or ensuring that the tasks they give you are close enough that it doesn’t feel like a small hike to get to and from the are you need to go, Yonas would send you to far flung areas of the map, and then require you to meet him again back at his fishing spot in Monarch’s Bluffs. The poor design of those quests are mirrored in the various NPC tasks you’ll find yourself doing throughout the world proper.
It’s really not endearing, and it doesn’t make the experience better for it either. I find myself longing for ESO’s excellent phasing technology, where the world looks different to players based on the step they are in on a quest chain. NPC’s move around, making turn in and the continuation of a story convenient, not a chore.
However, the amount of multi-chain quests I’ve gone on in New World that were simply back and forth to some random NPC placed in the middle of nowhere expended all my energy in doing the quest. I dreaded wandering the roads of Weaver’s Fen to get back to a northern quest giver (the name of which escapes me), only to be sent back to the far south to collect some stones. Instead of meeting me there themselves, I’m then tasked with the journey back north, all the while dealing with the dangers of the road and the real boss itself: whether to put a YouTube video on my other monitor or fully engage with what is happening in Aeternum.
And I think that is the kicker for me right now: the design of New World’s quests aren’t compelling. Rather, they’re boring.
Repetition Makes For A Monotonous Grind
This repetition, and the fact that the quests themselves aren’t all that compelling to begin with make for a monotonous grinding experience. Instead of relying on these story-driven quests, I found myself instead trying to hammer home town board quests, which aren’t much different. I would pay for overpriced goods on the Auction House just to quickly get any experience I could from town board and project quests. Restless Shore needs 50 fish filets? Sure, I’ll pay 10 gold a piece if it means I don’t need to go out and fish myself. Need travel rations? I’ll make them if I can, but I’ll buy them if I must. Do I really want to go chase down 3 Elks? Nope – cancel that quest.
The design flow here doesn’t really add much to the experience, and the faction quest givers aren’t much better. Aside from my friends I’ve made through New World’s faction system, there is no compelling reason in-story why I should care about the Syndicate. PvE quests typically send me on a journey to the same location I was at an hour early to kill the same corrupted and loot the same seven chests. PvP quests are exactly the same each time, meaning that factions have figured out the most economical and time-saving routes through the map to quickly turn those into the board each time they’re completed.
As such, the grind in New World is the same thing over and over again. Which, I know, is kind of the point of grinds in MMOs. However, typically the grind for a new weapon or for a rare drop isn’t the core of the game experience, rather something you do in addition to a PvE or PvP loop. In New World, the repetitive quest design is the grind, and one that isn’t all that voluntary.
Sure, you can level up doing the incredibly fun Corrupted Portals. However, even those start to blend together in my mind, making them boring over the long stretches. It’s a shame, too, as the delay of New World was stated to be in order to add mid-to-late game PvE content to the MMO. Yet, as a result, the content feels “tacked on,” almost an afterthought.
Where this doesn’t stand up, though, are through the dungeon-esque Expeditions.
Solving the Repetition
Expeditions are a breath of fresh air, even if they can over time become something you can rush your way through once everyone knows their role. However, they are a refreshing aside to the normal questing grind for one major reason: they don’t feel like the same thing over and over again.
Expeditions such as Starstone have you solve a maze made of literal lasers. Even going with players who had done it before when I finally finished this the first time, the danger involved with the laser traps made the expedition thrilling. When fighting the boss, positioning in the arena was paramount, especially after our tank was slowly pushed back by the boss into a wall of lasers in the area, causing us to beat the encounter without a tank.
Amrine, the first expedition in New World you’ll encounter, sees players finding bones that drop from Ravagers for Barikmedes, all the while having to contend with mob respawners, pressure plate puzzles and more. This type of questing could be incorporated into a regular quest chain – especially in a game meant to be played with other people. Giving players the ability to share a quest would be a good start, but instead of sending us to just cull corrupted at a sunken ship, why not send us into a mine where we need to use the Azoth staff we spent hours crafting to solve riddles and open secret pathways?
Amazon can take the design and nature of these expedition quests and translate them into everyday questing. Does every quest need to be as complex as the Lazarus Instrumentality? No, but not every quest needs to be needlessly dull as looting four chests and then running back to town, either. There should be a balance. Variety here is key.
At the center of all this should be compelling and creative characters that endear players to them. Yonas is one of the few characters I remember mainly because of how frustrated I was with his inability to put down the fishing rod and at least meet me halfway on the road, but others have cropped up as well. The Covenant leader Emile d’Aquitane, or the Marauder character who challenges you to prove your worth in Cutlass Keys, Rima Bahar. In order for these stories to mean something and compel players like myself to play through them, the characters need to step up and become memorable. World of Warcraft is as successful as it is not simply because it changed a lot of what it meant to be an MMO compared to the old Ultima days, rather its characters helped the story in Azeroth endure through the years.
New World’s quests could benefit from an infusion of variety and character, something I’m hoping as the months and years go on Amazon injects into the lifeblood of Aeternum.