New World Review: New World, Old Comforts
It feels like a lifetime ago that I dove headfirst into the open Beta of Amazon Games’ New World. In reality, it’s only been a little over a month—however, given how prone to growth and change MMORPGs are, a month might as well be a lifetime in some instances. While it’s arguable that just about every point during an MMO’s existence can be called “critical,” I’d argue that the very beginning months of an MMO are particularly paramount. Fortunately, the first month seems to have gone well for New World. For the most part, anyway.
There are a million different ways to play an MMO simply due to the way that they’re set up. Because of that, I’m not going to pretend that my experience is a reflection of everyone’s—perhaps not even that of the “standard player” (if there really is such a thing in an MMO). What I can say, however, is that my time with New World thus far has been fun, friendly, and, overall, comfortable—and, so long as you’re having fun, that’s probably the most important thing… Probably.
Dead On Arrival (Sort of)
Putting an ironic twist on the concept of “living out a new life in an MMO,” New World‘s story follows you, the player, after you shipwreck and subsequently die upon the shores of the mysterious island of Aeternum. Don’t worry, though, you don’t stay dead for long (it probably wouldn’t be a very good MMO if you did). You see, Aeternum is a pretty magical place—magical enough, in fact, to bring you back to life! …Unfortunately, you’re also kind of magically tethered to the island, too. But don’t fret! There’s plenty to see, do, and experience within the confines of Aeternum—and it’s up to you to eke out a new living while experiencing “life” to the fullest.
MMOs are kind of funny in that they usually have a lot of effort put into lore and world-building, but said effort is looked over by a lot of players who favor diving headfirst into gameplay. And, while I can’t really say what other players do in terms of paying attention to the story, I can at least attest to the fact that New World has put a considerable amount of time building up its own world. The concept of being immortal (sort of) is a great premise for the genre, and the story, overall, is enjoyable and easy to get into. On top of this, the game does some cool things when it comes to worldcrafting, like switching around certain NPC characters seemingly based on which server you choose, which really helps things to feel more unique.
A Jack of All Trades
One of the biggest pulls of the modern-day MMO, in most cases, is the ability to level up just about anything, and New World, by no means, is an exception to this case. While there are plenty of opportunities to quite literally cracking skulls from the get-go, chances are pretty good that you’re going to put at least a little bit of time into upgrading your non-combat skills… And, if you’re anything like me, “putting a little bit of time” into upgrading them will eventually turn into “putting a lot of time” into upgrading them.
Mechanically speaking, New World‘s skill-building loop is easy and fun to get into, and hard to escape once you get started. New World seems to have taken a somewhat extreme approach to the leveling of non-combat skills, known in-game as “Trade Skills,” essentially creating a three-tiered process when it comes to item creation, made up of Gathering, Refining, and Crafting. While I’m not new to this process as a whole, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a game specifically create a skill level for every single part of the crafting process (or at least not to this degree), and it, quite honestly, had me a little worried. Fortunately, that worrying was largely in vain, as the leveling process for each individual skill is strung together quite nicely. On top of that, you can even split up the work among players if you have people to play with, creating a sort of micro-economy of item acquisition and creation. Just make sure that you actually take time to explore every so often—crafting is surprisingly addicting.
The Dance of Death
Endlessly gathering resources to make items that you’ll immediately either sell or destroy upon creation is fun and all (for real, though), but, eventually, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to go out and kill some monsters (some of which can also be harvested for resources). Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that in New World—and, like crafting, it’s a lot of fun!
New World isn’t the first MMO that I’ve played with an extreme focus on action-oriented, real-time combat, but it’s definitely one of the smoothest experiences that I’ve had. Rather than just mindlessly having players mash buttons, New World includes a surprising amount of nuance when it comes to combat. A larger-than-normal emphasis is placed upon defensive actions—such as blocking or dodging—and, perhaps due to the fact that the game doesn’t have a class system, players are only given a handful of skills per weapon. Because of this, fights become less about simply overpowering your enemies (although that definitely still works in some cases) and more about fighting skillfully—something that I’ve found to be rather refreshing.
The only real complaint that I have with combat, at least in terms of PvE, is how the game deals with ranged weapons. Rather than letting players have any kind of vantage point while using a bow or gun, New World basically forces players to be on even ground with their foes due to the fact that the game’s bountiful baddies seem to be able to enter a “Retreating” status at will. This status, when activated, not only forces the enemy to go back to its spawn point, but also immediately fills up its HP while doing so. The issue? Enemies retreat as soon as you gain even the tiniest bit of height advantage. I get that New World might not want players camping risk-free while farming, but the fact that you can’t ever gain an advantage over enemies by climbing to a higher area is more than a little frustrating.
Gathering the Masses
Ranged weapons aside, there’s really only one other issue that I have with New World—its approach to PvP. Now, before getting any further, I’ll be completely honest with you; I’m not a huge PvP guy. I enjoy PvE much, much more. But that doesn’t mean that I never dabble in it. Fortunately, however, this seems to be a good thing in this case, as New World‘s current PvP climate seems to be a bit of a mess as of the writing of this review.
New World divides its player base into three different factions—Syndicate, Covenant, and Mauraders. Story-wise, each of these factions have their own goals and ideals, with each vying for control over Aeternum’s different territories. Gameplay-wise, however, it’s basically just a more detailed version of Pokemon GO‘s Teams Instinct, Mystic, and Valor. And, yes, you basically have to join one, lest the game locks you out of a bunch of cool opportunities. Not surprisingly, things get fairly lopsided quite quickly, especially considering that there’s no process to even out the number of players joining factions (although I don’t think that you could do that fairly, anyway). Still, I’d be fine with it if it just stopped there—but it doesn’t.
As I’ve said before, Amazon Games made New World. Amazon also happens to own Twitch. Because of this, there are a ton of incentives to mix the two. Again, in most cases, I’m not bothered by this. The thing that does bother me, however, is that a single Twitch streamer could (and assumingly has) turn the tides just because of their viewership. I’m all for high-level players having more control over the game, but I feel like giving a streamer power in a game (and encouraging it) just because they have a large built-in viewer base is rather disingenuous. I understand completely why things have been built this way, and I don’t necessarily blame anyone for setting them up as such—but I’m still not terribly fond of it. Fortunately, this only seems to be certain PvP aspects that are affected by this; PvE-focused players are basically still free to do as they’d like.
Growing Up, Growing Out
I’m not going to pretend for a minute that I’m unaware of the fact that some people aren’t exactly happy with New World‘s current state, nor will I pretend that I disagree with everything. The game isn’t perfect, and it absolutely has some growing to do. I’m not going to pretend that I dislike the game, either, however. New World is a fun, solid MMORPG packed with plenty of enjoyable content that will keep players busy for a long, long time. Sure, it might have some imperfections, but I’m hopeful that the game will address all of those as it continues to grow—and I look forward to being a part of its community while it does.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Amazon Games; Developer: Amazon Games; Players: A Lot; Released: September 28, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.