New World’s PvP quests (or, for the unfamiliar, “player vs. player”) tend to lead players of different factions to the same area, so when our journals told my group member and I to go mine some ore in a valley with only one passageway, we immediately grew nervous. We crouched towards the entrance and, seeing no one deeper inside, made our way in. As we got to mining, a shot whizzed past us. We turned around and returned fire, seeing our attackers trying to close the ground between us. What ensued was a minutes-long ranged fight, both sides taking turns poking their heads out to fire off a round out of their single-shot muskets. After a few good minutes we had peppered the enemy faction members down to a point where they decided to retreat. We got back to mining and before long made it out with our haul and our lives.
Every now and then New World creates these tense moments for players, putting them in situations where sweating is all but inevitable. More often than not, however, Amazon’s new MMO seems content with offering the same few activities on repeat with little to no variation in their presentation. While some level of this is to be expected with any MMO, New World seems to suffer from them at an enhanced rate. It’s especially disappointing because when New World shines, it manages to create a striking experience that I’m hopeful will be recreated in future games.
For a game called “New World,” there’s not that many original concepts here. Every gameplay element seems to be borrowed from somewhere else. The easiest example to point to is the combat system, which feels like somebody read about “soulslikes” and tried to create one without actually playing one. There’s your swinging weapons, some magic as well as bows and muskets. For a singleplayer game, the system is pretty basic. But for an MMO, the real time combat felt novel and interesting enough to keep me wanting to learn new abilities. There wasn’t a time when fighting either enemies or players where my equipment felt clunky or out of place.
At the same time, I never felt like I learned an enemy’s pattern while fighting them. It always seemed easier to tank an enemy’s hit rather than dodge or block them, so that I could get off a few more swings and end the fight sooner. Without a good stagger or Iframes systems, encounters typically boil down to standing next to an enemy while you both deal damage to each other.
Outside of combat, the game’s main activity is gathering and crafting. There’s an assortment of different skills in each category, with higher levels allowing players to gather better materials or craft better items. While this system in itself isn’t revolutionary, it does provide something a bit unique to MMOs: something to do while you walk. Quests in New World will send you across the map to accomplish some fetch or culling quest and while these aren’t particularly interesting, walking to them often is.
It’s easy to set off towards a quest and end up with a full inventory of gathered materials on your way there. With a leveling system similar to RuneScape, it’s nearly always worth it to mine the iron vein or chop the particularly large tree on your way to a quest. I fell into a sort of rhythm, where I would take all the quests possible in a town and then head out and gather along my way. Back in town, I would turn in all of my quests for actual xp, then go do my rounds at crafting stations to level individual skills.
While this rhythm was fun for a while, there was no variation to it when I got to higher levels. Eventually you just start logging a higher level wood to refine higher level timber to craft a higher level axe, ad infinitum. I’m a big fan of games where the numbers just go up and I get to feel good about that, but I like them a lot more when they ask me to figure out a new way to increase the integers every now and then.
I was hopeful that the market system would inject some much needed motivation into gathering and crafting, but this wasn’t the case either. In New World, players can only buy and sell items with each other. No NPCs are involved. Each settlement has market stalls where players can place buy and sell orders for basically every item in the game. Player factions fight over these settlements, and when controlling them get to set sales tax rates and the like. A lot of this reeks of Eve Online, an MMO with a similar market system but a better grasp of economics.
In Eve, players generally can only buy and sell items with each other. Players are also at every stage of production for goods, from mining to shipping. As in real life, you’re never going to find an item for sale at a cheaper price than its materials cost. In New World, it seems to be just the opposite. The materials to make gunpowder were exponentially more expensive than the gunpowder itself. Why? Because earning the levels from crafting the gunpowder is far more useful than having actual gunpowder.
This weird flip of the standard way of thinking about buying and selling things may just be a result of the game’s launch, with every player throwing everything up on the market for any amount of pocket money. But it feels like it may be a more permanent issue. With players being able to switch weapons whenever they’d like, and able to access any material or crafting recipe with relative ease, there’s no real point in not doing everything on your own.
The game’s setting and story are sugar-free yogurt bland. The player is a crew member of a ship that was sailing towards a rumored “new world,” and crash landed in Aeternum, a realm where people seem to live forever. Of course, there’s some force that has been corrupting the land and it’s up to the players to fight it off. The game is also drenched in what can only be described as a pilgrim-core aesthetic. The whole setting seems like a thinly veiled attempt to make a fantasy MMO set in early-colonial America without having to acknowledge that the continents were widely inhabited before European settlers arrived.
New World’s story is in line with its setting. I managed to get pretty far into the main quest before I even realized that I was even doing it. Its content is the exact same as any of the multiple side quests available in towns, except that the main quest line involves a lot more walking. The quest revolves around you fighting back the corruption, but doesn’t really offer any outstanding player-specific cutscenes, events, or anything to make you feel important to it. It always just sort of felt like the main questline was the real side quests while I tackled an area’s quests to earn some real experience.
In a lot of ways, the New World resembles a decent frontpage Roblox game: full of other people’s ideas, well-polished, and lacking a story that sticks. Still, for all of its faults, it’s easy to lose track of time in the game. There’s a kind of meditative quality about hiking to a quest kilometers away, cutting a tree or two, hitting a couple of rocks and soaking in the scenery. Few games have made walking to objectives a worthwhile experience. But when these walks are more interesting than the objectives, there’s a problem.
New World was developed and published by Amazon Games. It is available for PC.
Nicolas Perez is a freelance writer who specializes in playing too many videogames. He’s rambling on Twitter Nic_Perez__.