When I first logged back into New World a week ago to start Rise of the Angry Earth, I was primed and ready to go. My main character still had some of the main quest left to do to get to the point where I could start Rise of the Angry Earth proper, but I figured I could tackle that quickly and then move on. However, that dream was dashed when I realized my main character's MSQ progress had been bugged with no way to really progress.
It's one of the known issues that Amazon has been dealing with since the launch of its first paid expansion, and initially, I wasn't happy about this. As someone who not only wants to play this because I'm genuinely invested in the story Amazon is telling but also to meet a work deadline, it was a bit frustrating. However, it also has turned into a blessing in disguise as I started a brand new character on my server, as it's morphing the expansion review into the full re-review I had planned for later this year anyway.
So this isn't just a review of Rise of the Angry Earth, but New World proper, two years after its initial launch.
Transformative Mounts Are Transformative
One of the major takeaways I've had in the week I've spent grinding levels through the MSQ is that the way New World plays today is really the way I think we all would have loved it to feel when it launched two years ago. The major revamps the New World team has done for the MSQ last year around the Brimstone Sands update are made even better by the arrival of mounts at level 25.
I talked about mounts a ton in our preview of the expansion back in August, but I'm not quite sure I knew then just how transformative they would be to the whole experience. The main reason is that in that test, things were very much geared towards just getting a feel for what they are like to use rather than how they are incorporated into the whole gameplay loop.
Now, as the mount has become an integral part of my journey since talking to Jochi Khan at level 25, it's hard to imagine New World without them. The ability to zoom around a zone on my own personal Shadowfax has felt transformative, especially considering one of the biggest complaints I've had with New World was just how slow things felt running back and forth between quests and points of interest.
Tying it to a life skill is also key, as there is a feeling of progression with the mount itself rather than it just being an arbitrary unlock. Leveling up the Riding skill gives access to higher-tier horse accessories, such as horseshoes and charms that increase things such as the stamina pool for sprinting or a faster run speed. Horses also feel drastically different whether you're on a path or going off-roading, with the momentum of the mount being hampered by the countryside a bit. I like this personally, but I understand if some might find it annoying, especially if the fastest way to something is to cut across the countryside.
Where mounts really feel transformative is there is no longer this feeling that I have to live or die by how close I am to a fast travel spot. While the team was trying to address the problems with the back and forth and dearth of spots to travel quickly to, they added a ton more fast-travel shrines to the MMO over the course of the last two years. It used to be my first thought to open my map to see exactly how far I was from a fast-travel location or whether it would just be faster to recall to my Inn to get where I wanted to go.
Now, though, I'm using my mount to get me where I want, even if it's all the way across a zone. It saves Azoth, and I might even get to do a rally race on the way to my goal to boost that Riding skill. It's also incredible to see a group of players cresting the horizon on their mounts, whether it's a pack of horses, a Direwolf or one of the Lions you can snag at level 60. It's like New World's own mini Ride of the Rohirrim in action.
It has made leveling so much more enjoyable and fast, as the slog to run from Everfall to Brightwood, to use one example, is so much faster now. I also appreciate that you can be moving and summon your mount simultaneously - and it feels incredible to get that surge of speed the minute my horse appears from underneath my character, darting forward ready to tackle what Aeternum has to offer.
The other major addition to New World with the Rise of the Angry Earth is the new weapon type: the Flail and Shield. Scaling with Stregnth and Focus, the Flail effectively fits the bill of the cleric/paladin build that has been somewhat missing in New World since its launch. Positioned as an off-healer/off-tank, depending on which route you take the class, it's also the first class with its own animations built into the weapon itself.
I am having an absolute blast with the Flail and Shield, personally, with the Cleric line being the one I'm mostly taking to give groups just a little bit of extra heals while dealing Void damage with each strike. Each swing of the flail feels impactful, and running in and smashing the ground with Arcane Smite always feels satisfying.
I've mostly been soloing this whole time as I level up toward the cap again, and the Flail has proven to be a permanent spot in my weapon rotation now. I've spent so much time trying to find a great weapon combo with the Flail, especially since it's one of the few weapons that scales with Focus (specifically for its healing DoTs and such). The Void Gauntlet is a great choice, especially if you're really keen on playing the support role in a group, and after a few levels of trying it out, I have to say it was a lot of fun.
The Greatsword is also an outrageous combo, especially if you're going to use the Onslaught skill line. The added DPS from the Greatsword is incredibly useful when clearing packs of enemies, though it pales in comparison to a build I feel is absolutely broken right now: the Blunderbuss.
Seriously, this combo has been wrecking things as I make my way towards level 40 on the new character.
The real test of the Flail will come when I end up doing some late-game expeditions with other players. Since so many of the Cleric skill line's upgrades add things such as lifesteal, cleanse, with the ultimate granting a passive heal to the group, the greatest benefits of the weapon really won't present until I'm in a large group. But I can't wait to put it to the test.
For now, I will continue loving every time I run and smash, wiping out whole groups with the Arcane Vortex, all while healing myself in the process.
As I continue this week with our review of Rise of the Angry Earth (and full re-review of New World), I'm eager to hit the cap and get through the Bramble Wall. While there have been issues since launch, the New World team has been communicating them ever since the expansion dropped last week, it hasn't stopped my enjoyment of the expansion thus far. While we've not been able to test out the story content proper just yet, the other features that dominate the expansion are well at home here with New World at large, transforming the early game and making the state of New World today feel like the version the MMO should have always launched as.
I am eager to see and experience more, especially as I get into the late and end-game stages again. We'll have more in the coming days and weeks as we work our way through this MMO once again.