New World Review: "Skip Over Until A Few Content Updates Have Been Released"
The buzz around the release of a new MMO is always a special time. Hundreds of thousands of players, all filled with excitement, coming together to explore and experience a new place and time. There’s this palpable wonder as everyone logs in to fill the world - rushing the tutorial to get knee-deep into the questing and farming, then making class and faction decisions that lays the foundation for the next hundred hours of their in-game lives. This time the game in question is Amazon’s New World and despite the initial awe and excitement entering into the world brings, it’s eventually brought down by teething issues, a lack of content and half-baked ideas never given the attention they need.
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The Age of Discovery
New World is set in an alternate version of our real world, during the Age of Discovery. In our real world the empires of Europe sought new land to conquer and colonise and so found the Americas, but in the lore of New World they came across a continent in the middle of the Atlantic instead, named Aeternum. Surrounded by thick fog and strange phenomena, anyone caught too close to Aeternum is shipwrecked and left to the whims of the island and its eternal inhabitants.
The game begins with a cinematic that introduces the captain of your ship receiving a magical box from a hooded man who claims to have survived Aeternum and made it back. The box appears to allow safe passage through the fog and as the island comes into view, we cut to below deck to meet our player and begin the character creation process. It’s fairly barebones with a simple selection of skin tones, hair styles, scars and some tattoos to adorn your character with. There is also the fact that the only playable race are humans, which limits it further and makes the already small selection of changes feel smaller.
After this, the game really begins. A cinematic plays as the ship is destroyed and you wake to find yourself on a beach as the only surviving member of the crew. The tutorial is a fairly straightforward affair and you’re introduced to the movement and combat mechanics, before fighting a corrupted version of your captain as the first boss fight. After this point you are teleported out of the tutorial area and taken to a new beach - this time full of other players! This serves as part two of the tutorial, where you are briefly introduced to lore pages and caches, gathering and basic crafting, and the corruption that infects many of Aeternum’s creatures. It also introduces you to the weapons systems and how levelling works.
All Skill, No Class
As New World has no strict classes, your player can use any weapon type from the get-go and continued use of your selected weapon will increase your ability with it, allowing you to spec into skill trees that unlock new abilities and passives. As a design decision it helps to make your roles feel very fluid as they can change with the weapon you are using and the situation you are in. From a perspective of player agency it also allows you to really make the key decisions that define the role you will play over the course of the game; this differs from other similar titles, where picking your class as one of the first choices forces you into certain roles that don’t change for much of the experience.
Another aspect of the game that excels are the trade skills which relate to non-combat. For example harvesting hemp with a sickle is part of gathering, using a spool to weave that into linen is refining and finally turning that all into a linen shirt is crafting.
- Our best New World weapons guide can help you pick which tool of destruction to use
They are all extremely mechanically simple and don’t require anything outside of a button press to do, but it’s strangely engaging running through a field to gather hemp and watch your harvesting skill tick up each time. They also throw in new content with certain levels. For example, as you get better at mining you can begin to track certain ores (which are shown on the compass), start mining better ores like platinum and starmetal, and increase your time at performing the tasks. There’s an infectious rhythm to finding the optimal routes to farm materials, then looping back toward your settlement to refine it all and craft something as a reward for your hard work.
New World, Same Quests
Questing is an aspect of New World that massively lets the whole experience down. It seems like a completely underdeveloped afterthought in its current state and is almost at the point of pernicious laziness. Each quest over the first 40 hours or so has been a reskinned version of either: talk to someone, kill something or collect something. For example, one sends you to the Hilltop Encampment area of First Light (one of the starting zones), four different times across four different quests to search caches for intel - and this was only in the first few hours.
It’s the most basic level of MMO quest design Amazon could have gone for, a vapid collection of stuff to do for the sake of having stuff to do but without any meaningful element. The closest the quests get to intersecting with the world itself, is when you do faction quests that increase your faction score and allow you to rise to new ranks within, but even that system feels very thin as there’s no reward except for better items to buy in their shop. The faction quests also claim to make an impact on the region you’re in by reducing or increasing control. This is never successfully communicated in the moment though and doesn’t make you feel like part of a larger whole warring for control over the region you’re in.
The main questline also doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the other types of quests on offer. It follows much of the same formula the rest of the side quests and faction quests do, except it’s given this veneer of importance that is never backed up. It deals with the increased numbers of corrupted popping up around the continent and how all the factions need to collaborate to defeat them. It’s all very generic fantasy, which would be fine if the main quest attempted to set itself apart from the rest of the game mechanically.
Violence Is Forever
Combat is worth noting as you will spend a lot of time in New World, fighting a range of different mobs from basic wolves and boars to zombie pirates and corrupted demons. Compared to many MMO’s it’s quite hands-on, with basic light and heavy attacks, dodges and blocks, and a total of six macro abilities that can be used across both weapon slots. More along the lines of a Dark Souls game than something like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. The end result lacks the finesse of the former though, with it often devolving into left-click spam whilst trying to parry enemies' poorly telegraphed attacks.
The combat works better in PvP where you can fight other players, as they can formulate actual strategies which force you to respond with the tools in your kit. The only problem being the majority of PvP content isn’t attainable until much higher levels where attacking and defending forts comes into play. There are early-game systems where you can do faction quests with PvP enabled, but I wouldn’t recommend it for solo players as you can happen upon an unfair fight too easily.
Wait For More Content
It’s fair to say New World hasn’t been a total failure so far for Amazon. The servers are constantly full and nearly one million concurrent Steam players is a mark of success for any game. However, on a mechanical level there are many things lacking, that detract from the whole experience. A lack of any meaningful quest content, combat that isn’t fun for over half the game and an apparent drought of endgame content make it a game that might be worth skipping over until a few content updates or expansions. Plus when the most fun aspect of your game is picking flowers as opposed to slaying beasts or completing quests, maybe some of the game needs a rework.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.