It's only been a year since release, but Amazon Games has seen fit to revamp New World's early player experience. Announced a few months back, this revamp is aimed at easing the onboarding of new players into Aeterunum in a way that reduces the grind, sets the stage for the world to come, and gets players going for future content.
And by and large, I think it succeeds in that endeavor. From the moment I stepped foot on Aeternum armed with a new character to explore the changes, its impact was immediately felt. The early game tutorial that sees your character shipwrecked and lost on the Eternal Isle is, for the most part, the same, but subtle changes bring it to life in a way that it never was before.
And the key to this is Amazon is finally giving its set up the needed context to root players in the world.
Context is key
Instead of simply fighting your way through zombie-esque Lost creatures, devoid of any direction or story, we now encounter a voice in our head that the player and Captain Thorpe don't exactly recognize. While Thorpe succumbs to the Lost, the player doesn't, instead pressing on despite this voice. It helps to set the stage, I think, for the story to come, which is told a bit more in some contextual cutscenes in upcoming quests. It's a nice, much-needed touch on an experience that, while the island was incredibly interesting to explore on its own, didn't really have much in the way of ensuring characters and story beats were memorable.
It seems too that this last part, characters being memorable, was taken the heart by Amazon as the vaneer of New World's release started to crack a little post-launch. Before, Yonas was one of the only characters that was memorable to me, and the reason for that wasn't because he himself did anything really worth of note, rather it was always a pain in the ass to trek across the island to go back to Yonas to start the next quest in the main chain.
However, early on in this new revamp, we're introduced to some memorable characters, such as the enigmatic and chaotic Grace O'Malley or the stoic, venerable Knight-Regent Jin Jae. Even the disembodied voice, Isabella, makes appearances to set up future content for the player.
This context, and learning more about not just which places are good to farm iron, but rather the history of the people in New World's Aeternum, is key to keeping me engaged. I remember when the MMO first launched last year and I found myself more or less rushing through content because nothing ever compelled me to actually stop and take in what was being said or done. Everything was simply a fetch quest, a slayer quest or some variation on the theme that was endlessly being repeated, not to mention sending me on enormous hikes across the world to no end.
Now, though, the story being told, at least in Monarch's Bluff's revamped Prydwen settlement, feels distinct and important. I want to learn more about the True Heir and their return. I want to uncover the intrigue going on at Court and help the Knight-Regent ensure that Monarch's Bluff is safe from the Lost menace that seems to be taking over the region. Also, Grace O'Malley is just a fun character to interact with.
Setting the pace
One of the major gripes about New World has been its grind. While MMORPG players are known for enduring grindy content in the name of new gear, a shiny new costume, or just unlocking that next raid, New World's grind was exacerbated thanks to just the dearth of actual PvE content to do. Sure, there were quests, but those felt like endlessly recycled facsimiles of each other, just put there at the last minute to tick the "PvE content" box on the game design checklist.
Now, at least in Monarch's Bluff which has seen an incredible overhaul of the content, these quests don't feel grindy at all. Sure, they haven't changed much in what you're doing: you're still going to kill Lost, and uncover clues and loot containers in the name of leveling up, but the structure around these quests is so different than at launch that it feels fresh and new. And it doesn't hurt that it feels as though experience gain has seen a bump as well. Through the first few hours of this, I found myself already in the late teens and climbing, the pace never feeling like it was going to slow down.
This is ideal, as I feel as though not only am I progressing through the world, I am getting more powerful. The new Greatsword is an amazing addition I find myself never giving up now (seriously, the Onslaught tree is a ton of fun), and there really hasn't been a moment of content or grind fatigue.
Keeping the pace
I wrote about this when the new player experience was first revealed, and the new leveling experience only progressed to level 25 or so. For me, this is the biggest concern I have for players who have enjoyed this incredible pace and wealth of engaging story content in New World: what happens at level 26 and you've moved on?
That remains to be seen, I think. While I do anticipate players hitting that dreaded "wall" that many of us faced in the 20s and 30s where everything just felt like an unsurmountable uphill climb, I can't imagine what it's going to feel like for a new player expecting the later game to mirror the pace and engagement of the early game content. Brimstone Sands itself feels poised to continue that world-building and storytelling that the NPE now houses, but there is a lot of content between 25 and 60 to get through first.
What happens to the players who get through the NPE only to be discouraged by the sudden drop off in experience gain, stilted and middling story content and more? It makes me feel as though Amazon would be better served to keep the pace throughout the game versus stopping it at 25 to evaluate before applying it everywhere else. Sure, it is likely easier on the development standpoint, but if the wall is as towering as I'm anticipating it will be for new players who just don't know to expect any better, I wonder how much damage it will do long-term to the player base. Will it discourage new players from continuing on in their New World journey, or will see players drop off to either way for similar revamps down the road or just play something else entirely?
Time will tell. However, the work in the new player experience shouldn't be forgotten. This is how I hoped New World had felt at its outset: a compelling world that draws me in immediately not simply because of an intriguing premise and interesting time period, but the people on the island making the most out of their situation there.
The only thing missing right now is the rush felt early on as players scrambled for territory and PvP glory. Hopefully, next week's infusion of fresh start servers will create the best of both worlds: a real, compelling starter experience with the added benefit of there being real, tangible stakes for those PvP players eager for some excitement.