New World has been out for a little over a month now andI’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly how to summarize my experience in Amazon’s MMORPG. Sure, I’ve had fun in my almost 120 hours of gameplay in Aeternum. But I’ve also had countless hours of frustration and boredom that have made putting my thoughts down in digital ink a bit more challenging.
By and large, New World is an okay game right now, one that has good bones and potential to be really good with time. It’s definitely in its early stages going through typical MMO growing pains, and, as the largest game to release by Amazon Game Studios to date, it’s worth commending the studio on the launch. But the question lingering in my head is a simple one: does New World do enough for me to recommend it right now? The answer to that question is a bit complicated.
Set during the twilight of the Age of Exploration, New World takes place on the enchanted island of Aeternum. While people have found Aeternum and sought to make it a settlement all their own, many of the issues from the Old World can be found here: war, ideological differences and, of course, taxes. One thing that isn’t certain is death, as nothing on the Eternal Isle ever really dies.
Starting in one of four starting zones, an effort to spread out the population at the get go (spoiler: it didn’t work - all hail Everfall), exploring New World’s, erm, world can be both incredibly beautiful and incredibly dull.
Dense forests give way to oppressive fog-covered bogs. Regions, such as Ebonscale Reach, evoke the cultural differences still flourishing in Aeternum, while Reekwater reminds me that humans will find a way to survive in any environment. Aternum’s greatest asset is its beauty, its art direction a triumph.
This is coupled with stellar sound design. New World feels alive, even when another player isn’t around for miles. I never found myself too far away from a gobbling turkey running ahead of me, or the sounds of a deer fleeing my presence. The echo of a pickaxe hitting paydirt would often play in the distance, a subtle reminder that I’m not the only player in the area.
However, this doesn’t last very long. While I love the rolling plains of Windsward or the dense forests of Everfall, they get boring after a while when I’m forced to run back and forth during New World’s repetitive and dull quest design. As I mentioned in a previous review-in-progress, New World has a questing problem, feeling soulless and tacked onto the experience. Quests are repetitive facsimiles of each other to the point where I would often question whether or not it was a waste of time to do them.
And in some cases it was. Throughout leveling in my 30s, I found it more efficient to quest in the various corrupted portal zergs going on in my server instead of taking part in quests around Weaver’s Fen and Cutlass Keys. My 40s saw me literally buy my way through completing town board tasks, ignoring the quests entirely. Instead, I would spend hours running back and forth from the town board to the trading post, buying resources to turn in and progress. And sure, this is viable, but I couldn’t shake the feeling it was just a big waste of time.
It also culled my desire to explore and do one of the things I actually enjoyed when running around New World: gather resources and level my tradeskills.
Flashes of brilliance
New World has what I’ve come to call “flashes of brilliance.” There are moments where it just hits every note for me, and in one key aspect, knocks it out of the park: tradeskills.
Logging into New World to level my Logging or to set out and get my Cooking to 100 reminded me of the days in my early MMORPG years playing RuneScape. It transported me to my childhood where a friend of mine and I would log in just to level our Runecrafting or mining skills for a few hours.
What it does is allow me to set goals for myself when logging in that feel attainable. The sad part is that leveling consistently never felt attainable for me in New World, but progressing a tradeskill did. What’s more is the crafting loop is satisfying and requires the use of multiple tradeskills. In other MMOs, this means you’re going to need to rely on other players since you can’t do everything.In New World, Amazon hands you the reins and lets you control just how much you choose to do.
Some might see this as a detriment. In theory, this could mean the market collapses since everyone can gather and craft everything. But I think Amazon - and most people - are relying on good old fashioned human laziness to see them through. And that's not a complaint.
Not everyone (especially me) is going to want to do everything and instead rely on the market to get them through. I don’t enjoy furnishing, but I do enjoy cooking. I really appreciate how AGS attempted to ensure cooking recipes made sense and emulated real-life recipes even if I feel farming would have helped make things easier.
Betting on the market
However, the economy is going through its growing pains right now, even with an influx of materials and resources landing on the trading post. Initially, New World sported a regional economy, where the trading posts were separated based on settlement. However, as it became apparent that some regions were simply unable to sustain themselves through the level of trade in the latter areas like Mourningdale or Ebonscale reach, Amazon has linked the trading posts together.
Now there is no reason to corner the market in a specific area, especially in regions where a resource might be plentiful versus others. Now they can be purchased from anywhere, which makes it more convenient, but does call into question whether or not the regional market was ever a good idea from the start (personally, I think in theory it was as other games like EVE Online can make it work, albeit with much larger game worlds to support each region).
I also wonder how each server will cope with dwindling populations, especially since there are no real NPC traders to sell stuff too if the population can’t support the market. We’re already seeing populations dwindle, and without players to drive the economy, it could leave some smaller populations facing an even larger currency crisis.
Combating the corrupted
In my very first review-in-progress, I mentioned I was enjoying the limited skill bar and combat in New World, but I did state it would remain to be seen whether that would hold over the course of my time in the MMO.
Well, 100 hours later and I can safely say that it gets old.
Attributes and how you spend them will heavily influence the type of character you play in New World’s classless system. Weapon type plays as huge a role as the two are dependent on each other. While the system is designed to evoke freedom of choice between the myriad weapon choices, it ends up feeling, well, limiting in the end.
Weapons scale based on specific attributes, making it hard to lean too heavily away from a specific playstyle once you've decided on one weapon out of the two you can wield at any given time. Sure, there is nothing stopping me from strapping a Life Staff to my back while running around with a Hatchet, but I never felt as powerful doing that as I did when I leaned heavily into one or the other.
This meant that while I felt I could wield anything - and for a while I did - I never excelled at anything. I finally settled on a Life Staff/Rapier build that still doesn’t feel as powerful as it could be thanks to needing to rely on splitting attribute points and gems to scale damage properly.
The actual moment to moment combat, while initially interesting and challenging, became dull and monotonous in the later levels. It was initially satisfying to land a parry with my Rapier. But now, it’s simply a matter of course. Standing back and firing off light attacks with the Life Staff can become a matter of routine now with little thought put into the action other than the need to reduce cooldowns of my other skills.
The limited skill choices also don’t help much here either to break up the monotony. While I’m not against limited skill bars - I actually appreciate them myself - this works in other games like The Elder Scrolls Online thanks to the sheer amount of skills you have to build the ultimate character.
New World only has six skills per weapon, and with each skill path typically doing something drastically different than the next - such as the Sword and Shield’s diverging paths of damage versus a tank build - combining them doesn’t always work out. And after hours upon hours of using the same three skills over and over again, things can get rather old fast.
Environment vs. Player
This feeling of monotony is coupled with the incredibly repetitive nature of quests throughout New World. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews-in-progress, as well as even a preview before launch, New World has a questing problem. I just don’t see anything that sustains it for the casual PvE player - arguably the life blood of any MMO - beyond the first few weeks.
Where I feel New World can pick up some steam is by incorporating some of the puzzles and quest design in their exceptional Expeditions into the regular questing gameplay. Instead of simply sending me on repetitive quests to kill 10 turkeys or loot a group of chests that I just finished looting for a different quest, have me explore a cave that has interesting puzzles I have to overcome. Let me continue the quest there instead of running across the map to turn it in, only to run back across the map for the next part.
These types of quests really make me wonder how much QA time went into every aspect of the MMO.
Right now, however, the PvE content in New World feels tacked on.This makes sense considering the delay for a year was to add PvE content to the mid and late game parts of New World. However, it’s deeper than that.
New World feels like an MMO that wants you to play with your friends, but doesn’t actively encourage it through systems to easily enable that. There’s no quest sharing to be had at all, and even working with faction members on PvE tasks can be hit or miss whether you get the same quest to work on.
Parts of the forgettable main story are even gated, meaning that unless you are on the same quest as your friend, you’re unable to help out (even if you’ve already completed it yourself. The main story is only really worth completing if for no other reason than to get access to the various levels of Azoth Staff you’ll need to close the corruption breaches that threaten Aeternum.
This is basic stuff for MMORPGs in 2021. Quest sharing should be standard, as well as the ability to help your friends with challenging content that isn’t exactly meant to be soloed.
A major issue I find with my time in New World is that while the world is pretty to look at, there is nothing compelling going on that makes me feel like what I’m doing matters. Why do I care about corrupted breaches? Why am I looting this chest for the millionth time? What does it matter if I’m killing this corrupted or Angry Earth enemy again? The world-building on offer is simply lackluster, a pretty backdrop for the real meat and potatoes of New World: PvP.
Call to Arms
Originally meant to be a full loot PvP game, some of the lasting and most compelling systems in New World center around its PvP mechanics.
This is felt most keenly in the various settlements that make up the world of Aeternum. Three factions vie for control over the island, ideology separating them much like what we see in the world today. You have the Science-loving Syndicate, the melee champions Marauders and the pious Covenant all seeking to stretch their influence over the Eternal Isle.
Factions are everything in New World I feel, yet they don’t necessarily add to the world-building other than simply having something for players to belong. Unlike games like World of Warcraft where the Alliance and Horde help shape both the storyline of the MMO as well as player identities, New World’s factions act more of a backdrop - a way to categorize players to facilitate PvP.
I will say that it does provide some unity with players on a server. In my experience, being able to poll faction members for corruption portal runs or see about getting groups together to push a territory does bring about some community building.
PvP is by choice, though everything you interact with in New World is filtered through its PvP. Settlements are run by companies that took control of it through warfare, and those settlements collect taxes and fees PvE players will also have to pay. Town board tasks contribute to upgrading the settlement as well as the zone’s fort to help better defend it during wartime.
Toggling for PvP, especially when playing solo, doesn’t feel like it’s all that rewarding unless you don’t mind the occasional gank. I can’t recount the amount of times I would try to quietly quest to get that extra 10% experience bonus only to have a roving pack of Marauders descend upon me, making quick work of my character. It’s frustrating to no end and more often than not left me toggled for PvE-only.
PvP isn’t simply relegated to roving PvP patrols either. War sieges are common in New World as each faction tries to take the territory owned by another. It’s here where I feel New World is at its strongest. There is something to be said of players organically coming together as a faction towards a common goal, whether it be trying to take over a new area or stopping a rival faction from doing the same. The amount of times I witnessed general calls to defend Everfall, a region my company owned on our server ever since the first moments New World went live, even from people who weren’t in my company was incredibly motivating.
It truly brings people together and at times gave me both a reason to stay logged in and a goal to work towards. Pushing for Syndicate influence in Weaver’s Fen to try to win it back from the Covenant was more compelling than any quest I had done up to that point. Defending Everfall from a PvP push one night last month was exhilarating, as myself and my Syndicate comrades fought off Marauder pushes into the region.
However, war is declared if one faction pushes a region into conflict. This is where I feel New World’s stellar ability to bring players together in PvP falters, as it no longer matters how much you fought in the defense or even attack. At this point, it’s up to whether or not the company conducting the war feels you are a worthy addition to their army.
War in New World as a result can feel like a popularity contest. Make a name for yourself and you’re likely going to be a staple in wars throughout the server. However, because companies have control over the war rosters, there will be countless players in New World who never sniff PvP War Sieges. And that is a shame.
I’ve been lucky to have been part of both an attack and defense - but this was back in early October when players didn’t know what they were doing yet during these sieges (and there wasn’t a plethora of level 60 players to prioritize on these rosters). Both times, war felt like a laggy zerg, capturing points felt less about strategy and more about how much AOE and bodies you could keep on a flag at any moment.
I fully admit, too, my wars were likely hamstrung by bad leadership. New World doesn’t exactly offer the best tools in game to coordinate wars fully either, though. There was no cohesive leadership at all in a war I took part in attacking Cutlass Keys. It was as if the company in charge simply didn’t care whether or not the attack worked out. We lost that war pretty easily, never actually capturing a single control point thanks to a general lack of shot-calling.
Weaver’s Fen’s defense was actually worse. That same company was commanding the defense of the Fort, yet couldn’t seemingly keep track of what they wanted their army to do. This led to us losing the fight rather convincingly, and with it the territory. It was demoralizing, but the moment to moment combat was some of the most fun I’ve had in the MMO - albeit frustrating with the level of lag plaguing the battlefield.
Outpost Rush, which opens up once you hit level 60, can be seen as a concession to those players who want to play PvP modes but are never able to get into a war group. Locking this behind level 60 does mean many players will never sniff this game mode, making me wish they had lower level versions to hop into to break up the monotony. These matches consist of 20v20 battles over forts in an instanced area. It combines the various aspects of New World: PvP combat, PvE enemies and resource gathering. It is a lot of fun, and can confer some great rewards, especially gold, on those who participate. But it’s no substitute to helping to make a lasting impact on the server through a war.
Final thoughts and conclusion
So where does that leave us? I ended my first review-in-progress calling my thoughts on New World a “mixed bag.” After 120 hours, that hasn’t changed. There are some parts of New World that are brilliant. Crafting and resource gathering are satisfying, and, when able to participate, PvP wars are compelling and fun. The faction dynamic does bring people on the server together organically, something that can be built upon over time.
There is so much in New World I’ve barely touched as well, from the (formerly) regional marketplaces driving competition (and in some cases deflation) across the game world, to the PvE invasions that can downgrade a settlement. However, in the first month of operation, New World has had a ton of issues, many of which felt game breaking in their severity.
From an invincibility exploit that could have disrupted wars, to Amazon completely shutting down wealth transfers for over a day while they tracked down and fixed a gold exploit, New World has felt like it’s gone from one major problem to the next this past month.
I also wonder just how much staying power the MMO has beyond the initial offerings. Does it have enough to keep players engaged, or will we see concurrent player counts continue to decrease as time goes on? I can honestly admit if I wasn’t reviewing New World, I likely would have stopped playing quite a while ago. There simply isn’t enough compelling moment to moment content to keep me engaged.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game, not by any stretch. I do like a lot of what New World has on offer. But what it does well doesn’t counterbalance the hours of dull, monotonous and frustrating grind that has plagued my time in Aeternum hour after hour.
After spending a few days literally buying my way through my 40s, completely ignoring much of the content purely to progress, I can honestly say I’ve only felt my time was wasted more in only one other game - Atlas.
New World has good bones, a foundation upon which it can build. The question now is what’s next? What does Amazon have planned to make New World take that next step forward? Plenty of MMOs have had rocky launches and risen to become incredible games. I don’t think New World is as bad off as, say, the original launch of Final Fantasy XIV Online, but it does have some work to do to compel me to continue questing in Aeternum.
New World is off to a rocky start, but if Amazon can right the ship and address real player concerns, it has the chance to be something really special. But right now, it’s an okay experience overall that leaves me wanting more in order to stick around.