Author’s Note: New World is an MMO, so it’s going to take a long time to get a clear picture on the game’s true staying power. This review-in-progress is based on my experience with the game over the course of roughly 48 hours of gameplay.
New World. You’ve either heard about it, played it already, or you’ve been enjoying a nice cozy stay beneath a rock for the last few months. Amazon Games’ first major title has been the talk of the internet streets for a good long while now, but now that the honeymoon phase is likely over it’s time to make a decision… Is the game any good?
That New MMO Smell
For those somehow uninformed, New World puts you in the boots of a colonial-era adventurer who’s lured by the call of fame and fortune by journeying to the mystical island of Aeturnum. The journey, of course, does not go as planned – and you are very quickly thrust into what seems like a conflict that’s already been going on for thousands of years. You then find yourself siding with the rest of Aeturnum’s settlers as you find ways to adapt and survive, lest you become one of the twisted, corrupted denizens that have fallen victim to Aeturnum’s curse.
New World’s story is super straightforward right off the bat, and you’ll quickly find yourself inundated with quests that revolve around solving the mysteries of this island, warding off the Corrupted, and becoming a Soulwarden yourself – though I’m not really far enough in the game yet to truly understand what that entails. You’ll need to side with a faction – the warmongering Marauders, the pious Covenant, or the clandestine Syndicate – and will find yourself allied with other players to stave off the corruption, and build a new life for yourself on Aeturnum.
Defense Against the Dark Arts
Of course, New World has tons of competition out there when it comes to MMOs. Being the new kid on the massively multiplayer online block is always a huge test, and standing the test of time against genre titans like World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Final Fantasy XIV (to name just a few of the big boys) is no small feat. Luckily, New World brings a slew of quality of life changes and innovations to the table that set it apart from the masses.
To start off, the combat alone makes New World worth a try. The active, action combat system requires you to control every swing of the sword and raise of the shield, and to dodge and strafe around enemy attacks. This makes combat incredibly exciting, as telegraphing and paying attention to enemy moves can make all the difference between surviving an encounter with an enemy a few levels higher than you, or ending up as plant food.
There are also a huge amount of fighting styles to master, with eleven weapon types and two distinct specs apiece – totaling twenty two total skill trees to mix and match as you see fit. The first twenty levels in New World let you respec as much as you want for free, so you’ve got a lot of time to figure out how you want to defend yourself on Aeturnum.
A Peaceful Life (Or Not)
One aspect that’s absolutely got its hooks in me for New World is the game’s crafting and harvesting systems. I swear to god almost half my time in the game thus far has been spent crafting, harvesting, and exploring the different skill trees on the more pacifist side of New World.
It would seem that the game’s crafting system offers a good amount of XP as well, so much so that I’ve seen multiple conversations in New World’s chat channels regarding players who have leveled themselves up at a pretty fair pace by just crafting, harvesting, and completing the game’s “Town Board” missions, which call upon players to level up each settlement’s crafting stations by delivering specific goods. This is an evolution of The Elder Scroll’s Online’s writ system, which provides similar challenges but for not nearly as much reward.
I’m a huge fan of the in-game artisan fantasy here, and since the game’s economy is exclusively based around P2P buying and selling (you cannot sell items to NPC vendors), the ceiling for rewards for those who dedicate time to crafting is absolutely huge.
The Sights and Sounds of Soulwarding
Aeturnum is beautiful, let’s just make one thing clear right off the bat. The artistic charcuterie board that co-mingles colonial-era architecture and fashion with dark fantasy, borderline Lovecraftian eldritch horror makes for a completely unique setting that helps New World to look incredibly unique. The game’s sound effects are probably the biggest highlight for me, as everything from harvesting stalks of hemp to hearing the ambience of a corrupted cave of monsters makes each keystroke and footstep immensely satisfying.
New World does have an issue with the variety of character and creature models, however, as most NPCs (aside from the key ones you encounter along the main story) start to look and sound extremely similar after the first few hours. For a game with quest dialogue that is fully voice acted, the acting itself is not a strong point of New World. Most of the performances feel flat and uninspiring, and as someone who dedicates themselves to listening to every syllable of voiced dialogue in any MMO that offers it (like SWTOR and ESO), it was pretty disappointing to not hear and feel the same level of conviction from the NPCs that we see in almost every other aspect of the game.
Creature models are also pretty repetitive. Across the game’s first 25 levels of play, I have mostly encountered various types of fauna (wolves, bears, tigers), and 2-4 different types of “Corrupted” which are presented as ghosts, zombies, shambling ogres, and pale humans with red eyes. This was most painfully exposed in the game’s first “Expedition” (New World’s dungeon instances) – where I think I saw like 3 different enemy models, max. This made for a pretty blah experience with the game’s next tier of content, though I’ve been assured that the next few instances are much more varied.
New World, Familiar Issues
I know it seems like I’m mainly gushing about New World here (I am) but Amazon Games’ first foray into the MMO space is not without its shortfalls.
There’s plenty of bugs that have carried over from New World’s beta, such as texture and character popping, NPCs refusing to load in after minutes of being logged into the game, and some weird movement bugs that find me running in place or “rewinding” back to a spot I just ran over from. These will be ironed out, I’m sure, and don’t really ruin the experience – but the fact that I see them almost every time I play the game is pretty irritating.
New World’s server system is also kind of a mess, although with the first few weeks of an MMO this is pretty much an expected headache. Amazon Games has teased the upcoming release of free server transfers to alleviate pressure on the game’s various realms, though there’s no details on when that is coming.
Lastly, I am pretty confused by this game’s micro transaction model. New World is just $40, but otherwise requires no form of season pass or subscription (yet) to play. The game’s premium currency, Marks of Fortune, are available at familiar rates for anybody who’s played a game with a system like this before (so, y’know, everybody) – and can be spent on cosmetic items like weapon and armor skins, furniture for in-game housing, and emblems for player-created Companies (guilds). I spent $5 on a pack of crests for our guild (Knights of Rangoon, soon to be top 1 NA), which seems pretty unbalanced when it comes to the amount of money you could be spending on furniture and weapon skins. I’m sure this system will flesh itself out more, but for now it’s a comfortably forgettable part of the game. There were more than a few “AMAZON IZ EVIL SO DIS GAME GON B PAY 2 WIN” takes online before this game’s release, so it’s nice to know that the premium shop is largely unobtrusive.
A Breath of Fresh Air
There’s tons more to cover for New World. Faction Wars (and PvP in general), the endgame, the story as a whole, you name it – but this should give you a pretty clear idea of what the game is all about, and how it’s currently shaping up. All in all, New World is a bargain at $40 to get going with, and is probably one of – if not the best bang for your buck when it comes to MMOs. Amazon Games’ debut title is a breath of fresh air for the genre, and I can tell they’re just getting started.
The Good: With its crisp, vibrant landscapes, and incredible sound design – Aeturnum is awash with stylish and refreshing colonial fantasy swagger.
The Meh: New World’s voice acting is flat at best, and boring at worst, and its variety of NPCs is seriously lacking.
The Bad: More than a few annoying bugs to be chalked up as growing pains, and a lack of enemy variety in the first 20 levels may struggle to hook some players into staying for the long haul on Aeturnum.