Way back in 2016, according to the reckonin’, I “expressed interest” in Amazon’s New World. It was only a vague announcement, a promise that Big Evil’s new games studio would be making a Moomorpigger, which was around the time, give or take, that we started getting announcements on other MMOs in development like Crowfall and Camelot Unchained. Word on the street was that New World would toe the line of these “Nu-MMOs” and would focus on PvP and large-scale territorial control. As “expressing interest” through Amazon didn’t lock me down financially, I threw my hat in the ring and then mostly forgot about it until they started ramping up with alpha invites, then beta invites, and eventually open beta weekends. I only participated in one early phase and then decided that I liked it enough to seriously consider upgrading my “expressed interest” to a “will buy”.
That was before my Great Gaming Burn-Out of 2021. so my about-face on the game wasn’t New World’s fault in any way; I liked it so much during the early alpha period that I stopped playing so I wouldn’t ruin the eventual live experience later on. But then I found myself gaming less and less, and spending less on games than I had been, and it became easier than ever to decide that despite the fact that I enjoyed New World’s early tests, I would allow it pass me by.
The Universe, however, doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and I received a plain-text email in my inbox just a day before the game launched in which was enclosed a Steam key. Uh-oh, I thought, and went to Amazon to see what they charged me for because the email said “digital deluxe edition” which is about $60USD.
Odd thing was, I didn’t see any charge. There was a cryptic notice that a “payment source ending in XXXX” (real numbers, not actual “X”) and an “Amazon gift certificate” applied. I didn’t have any certs on file with Big Evil at the time the game released, and I certainly don’t remember actually paying for the game in any way at any time in the past.
Well, never look a gift MMO in the mouth. The game is apparently free (to me) and free to play, so why the hell not?
Needless to say, the Universe was right. New World is enjoyable. I initially rolled on Findlas (sp?) server, but switched to Minda as more folks I knew were over there. As New World is a “classless” system, I stuck with the initial sword-n-board for only as long as I had to, at which time I took up the life staff (not a euphemism) and began my journey as a full-on healer. I hadn’t run as a strict healer since RIFT, but I figured that while DPS are always $0.10 per dozen, healers are always in demand.
Boy was I right. I’ve never seen so many healers in a single game before. It’s easy to figure out who’s rocking which spec because a character’s — I’d say class, but it’s really more like a focus — is weapon-based, meaning we can switch up as we see fit; since we can set up two different weapon sets, it makes sense to have a close quarters and a ranged attack. Not me, though. I make a character choice and stick with it even when it’s probably not a good idea, so it’s life staff all the way, baby!
There’s a lot to like about New World, not the least of which is that they seemed to have toned down their PvP-first focus. It’s still there, and still important for territorial control, setting taxes, and so on, but at least early in the game this is a PvE paradise. We’ve got a lot of the same old quests to kill and collect stuff, but we get XP for finding new locations, for killing stuff, completing quests, reading notes found throughout the world, and so on. Most mobs of equal level are fairly easy to take on, though swarms can get overwhelming. Occasionally there are boss NPCs in the world to take down, although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other incentive to group up aside from the fact that tagging a necessary target seems to be using some form of “highest damage claims the kill” algorithm.
I really enjoyed the aesthetic of the game when I played in alpha, and it hasn’t changed much in retail. Aeternum is supposed to be a “real world agnostic” location in order to avoid messy associations with colonialism, despite taking place during that very time period and sporting overt touchstones of the same. The world itself is extremely pretty, and I keep thinking that, like Secret World Legends, it’s a game best played right about now, especially by people who live along the same latitude as I do: Autumn, when the leaves of the forests are changing and the light filters differently through the foliage.
I’m not usually very good at “action RPGs” that run in first or third person as I spaz out too much to keep the damn reticle on the target, but I’m doing OK in this case. The life staff doesn’t actually do much more out of the box than attack targets at range; it’s not until we put a point into the weapon’s abilities that we can choose either the pure healer route, or the defensive support route. I went with the former, so I’m armed with a single person heal or an AoE ground target heal that can affect anyone standing inside of it. I like the way that New World does it’s healing, with the single target option locking on to a member of your party if you have one, or automatically to you if not. The reticle can be unlocked and moved around to target anyone, but I suspect it’ll get difficult to be accurate if there’s a big furball going on and someone in the group needs heals.
I will briefly mention crafting, because otherwise we’ll be here forever. Common resources are plentiful, especially wood, flint, and stone. We still need harvesting tools to collect items, but they are granted early as a way to get us started. Thankfully, bashing a boulder for stone can yield 12, 28, 24, or maybe more units per completion, so obtaining these materials is never going to be an issue. Later, there are higher level resources to be had, but they seem to be just uncommon enough to be valuable and common enough that resources don’t become a massive roadblock to crafting (unlike some other recent PvP-centric games I could mention).
The act of crafting is simple, and while I’m usually not a fan of push-button crafting, I actually haven’t minded it here. With the right materials and the right bench, we can make more advanced mats from simple mats, and build up towards an item that we want to make. It’s also not locked down to a choice we have to make; everyone can make everything. I made a nice upgrade to my staff early on, which made a significant enough difference that it wasn’t a wasted effort.
It’s not perfect, of course. There were a massive number of servers available at launch, but there were massive queues on some servers that put people somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000+, generating wait times measured in hours. Amazon threw more servers at the issue, and today the queues during the day were lesser or non-existant, leading us to believe that they capped them tight and are expanding them over time. I want to give a shout out to their network and server teams, though, because the queues were the only complaints I’ve heard about; there were no crashes, no downtimes, and (so far) no launch-day hotfixes.
There’s no way to vendor trash. The market is 100% player-based, and right now the economy is getting on it’s feet so no one is getting rich. Instead, we can salvage items from inventory which provide us with about $0.25 and maybe a “repair item” which can be turned around to keep the rest of our gear in tip-top shape.
Also, there is a cash shop, but it’s selling cosmetics and convenience, same as pretty much every Western F2P MMO these days, so the “pay to win” crowd can stuff it before they even begin.
And then there’s the Twitch integration, which might be some people’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine. That Amazon owns and operates both means synergy! in that we’ve already been promised in-game cosmetics if we watch certain cherry-picked streamers for (checks notes) 20 cumulative hours. The basic strategy for us non-Twitch-watching folks has been to keep the window as small as possible, as muted as possible, and check in now and then to claim the completed tier items so the next tier can begin. I fully expect this to keep going for the lifetime of the game, but it’s paying off: there are currently 612 thousand viewers of New World streams, which is the most of any game title on Twitch’s homepage today.
I can’t really put my finger on it, but New World seems very well put together; like, almost frighteningly so for a company who has never really made games before. Sure, they have “industry veterans” on the team, but there’s been turmoil, and other companies who have veteran talent have crashed and burned in the past 10 years. There are some things which aren’t explained much (like gear score vs. armor values, or how to apply a cosmetic skin), but other things just work so well that I don’t think I could ever accept anything less from a game in the future. Things like how we have a right-click menu for inventory which lists keybinds in the menu options, or how not-overwhelming our weapon skill-trees are, or how it’s easy to get materials, or how we can set up mini-spawn points in the wilderness so we won’t have to haul ass to the other side of the continent if we die. There’s like a thousand small conveniences that probably never got consideration in games of the past because it was just assumed that everyone playing an MMO spoke MMO and didn’t need the have any shortcuts, any explanation, or any lightening of the load that the genre had grown to include. The PvE side of New World, at least in the early days, isn’t trying to push us to the endgame, the game doesn’t “begin at the cap” or any bullshit like that, and it doesn’t care that it’s less of a chest-thumping, insular experience than MMOs had become. New World is proud of it’s…new world…and it wants us to enjoy the journey as much as we’ve been forced to thirst for the destination in games of the past.