MMORPGs are always a hit or miss. You either have a free-to-play game with insane pay-to-win mechanics and feature creeps—or expensive pay-per-month subscriptions to get decent game content and progression. Notable examples of free MMOs are Runescape, Path of Exile, and MapleStory, while popular subscription-based MMOs are World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. Both models seem to have issues balancing a steady player base and quality content, so Amazon decided to settle in the middle with New World. New World’s price model is a one-time payment of $40 with no pay-to-win content other than cosmetics.
The game opens up with a cinematic sequence to set the narrative and setting for the game. You and your pirate-themed ship of sailors have crashed ashore on a new land, with no survivors but yourself. This land, known as Aeternum, is a mysterious place that is cursed by The Corrupted It is up to you to form legions with other players in order to survive and stake your territory.
The first half an hour to an hour of the game is a decently put together tutorial of the surface level fundamentals of the game, teaching you basic combat, crafting, and gathering. However, after your completion of the tutorial, you discover there’s still a rabbit hole of mechanics and gameplay elements to learn.
After the tutorial, you are given the choice to join one of three factions. These factions generally play no role aside from different-looking armor sets unless, you get invested in the PvP elements of the game. Depending on the server that you play on, a different faction might be dominating the majority of the land. Thankfully, you are not required to partake in PvP if you do not wish to do so. PVP can be toggled within a town but some faction missions require you to turn it on. Turning on PvP does grant extra experience points, so it might be a good idea to do so from time to time.
There is the concept of armor and weapon durability in New World, and it is the only thing that is lost upon death. You do not lose any of your equipment or gold if you are to fall in battle to another or enemy. You can also join “companies,” or clans, in your chosen faction to form cooperative groups for raids and dungeons. Huge PvP faction battles, or wars, can also occur in order to gain control of a particular settlement or town. These fights are exhilarating and fun, but unfortunately staggers the performance on PC.
New World recommends a setup with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and an Intel i7. I am running the game with a GTX 1070 and an i7, and performance is mediocre at best. In areas that aren’t populated by other people, I fluctuate between 45–60 FPS. When in town or partaking in PvP wars, my FPS drops significantly to 20–30 FPS. This is after toggling all of the visual settings to medium and low. Simply put, this game is either poorly optimized or the recommended computer specifications are highly inaccurate.
Let’s be honest here, it’s probably rare for someone to play an MMORPG for the narrative. Main quests in New World are lackluster and repetitive, often cycling through a short list of objectives such as collecting said items, defeating said enemies, or traveling to said locations. Side quests come in the form of town boards, faction boards, and actual missions from random NPCs. These quests more or less repeat the same aforementioned formula as well. Completing town board quests grant you familiarity with the town that you are in. Leveling up town familiarity allows you unlock special perks, such as reduced crafting requirements, more experience gained in this area, and upgraded storage space. Completing faction quests allow you to climb the ranks of your chosen faction and acquire faction tokens that you can then use to purchase faction specific armor and gear. Side quests from NPCs generally revolve around some unimportant narrative regarding the specific person you spoke to.
The biggest gripe that I have with New World is the amount of time wasted traversing the world. Yes, the world of Aeternum is exquisitely beautiful, from the flowing streams of rivers and luscious green forests to the dreary boglands and haunted graveyards. Walking around would be more enjoyable if there was actual rewarding exploration to do, but New World doesn’t do any of that. Sure, you can cut down trees to level up your woodcutting and collect plants to level up your harvesting on your journey from one town to another. But it just gets tiring and tedious after a while.
There’s a blatant absence of mounts in New World as it’s even justified in the lore documents as to why horses and other animals have not been brought to Aeternum: “NO beasts of burden on Aeternum. No horse or donkey will pull your cart, carry your pack, or tolerate a rider. All efforts to domesticate or re-domesticate these animals have led only to injury and a lot of swearing.” There are fast travel options available but they charge you a variable fee each time depending on how far away you are and how much item load you have. You have a free fast travel once every hour to the inn that you checked into last. The lands of Aeternum are pretty to look at, but running around repetitively to get to my destination made it so that even the most charming visuals couldn't justify my time that felt wasted.
Customization is exceptionally well done, with an array of different armor types to try on and weapons to experiment with. You have slots for headwear, handwear, chestwear, legwear, footwear, and even ring and necklace slots to fill up later on. There are 11 different types of weapons, ranging from one-handed rapiers and two-handed great hammers to range-based muskets and fire staffs. Armor comes in light, medium, and heavy variations which affect your overall equipment load. Light allows you to perform a dodge roll while heavy slows you down to a small side step. There’s also optional dye options and cosmetics available for you to purchase so you can really change up how you want to dress up your character. New World contains some really sick-looking armor sets, but as expected, they are locked behind the end game grind or purchased with real money.
Like any other role playing game, combat plays a huge role in New World, and it’s with a lot of disappointment to say the combat is unpolished, janky, and straight up broken sometimes. Combat is done in real time, and each weapon has a unique skill tree that you can allocate points into as you gain proficiency in them. These skill trees also contain active abilities that you can trigger with each weapon, such as an area-of-effect hammer slam or a shield bash. You can equip up to two weapons at once so you can switch between the other on the fly during fighting encounters. First off, there’s no lock on button, so you can very much miss your entire attack if you angled the directional input a fraction of a frame off. Second off, hitboxes are sometimes non-existent at times. A measly wolf was standing literally in front of me and neither my normal hammer swings nor special ability hammer slams did any damage to it. Conversely, this wolf was slowly chipping away at my health while the game just didn’t register my hits to it.
Aside from the aforementioned grievances, combat overall just feels unpolished because there’s a slight input delay on everything. I would press the dodge or block button in anticipation of an enemy attack only for the input to not be registered. I would need to prematurely stop my own attack to give a bigger window for the dodge or block input to go through if I wanted to successfully defend myself.
Not only is combat unpolished, it’s also fairly inconsistent. There’s a weird pattern of stun animations. Sometimes my attacks would visually stunlock the enemy, but sometimes they don’t, and they swing back unexpectedly and stunlock me instead. Because of all of this, combat generally requires no skill other than mashing the attack button and pressing my weapon skills when they are off cooldown. This becomes even more prominent when you are dealing with multiple enemies at once in addition to a group of allies. The screen becomes a visual mess. All you can do is pray you’re doing something useful.
Spawn rates and aggro distance are also insanely high. The frequent spawn rate can be seen as a positive thing if you plan to farm a particular enemy for drops. But for the most part, before you can even take a breather after taking down a slew of enemies, the first ones you killed have already been reborn.
This brings me to my next topic, and that’s aggro distance. You instantly aggro enemies that you come close to, regardless of your level. Oftentimes, if you’re trying to get from point A to point B, you might have a whole colony of skeletons running behind you. It’s quite funny to see in hindsight but it’s extremely annoying during gameplay. Oh, did I mention enemy types are reused extensively? You’ll be seeing the same wolves and skeletons all the way until the level 60 cap.
As you progress, you embark on these missions called expeditions, which are more or less akin to your typical dungeon raids. You must have a “dungeon seal” in order to enter it and there’s a minimum player requirement, meaning you can’t do it solo. The seal gets consumed after you enter the dungeon so subsequent runs require you spend rare materials to craft it again. I understand that this is an MMORPG, but this is a huge crutch for solo players. Granted you can ask random players in the world if they want to join you on your expedition, but if you don't have a community player base, you are locked out of raids. These expeditions are a great source of loot drop but boil down to killing a sequence of enemies, solving some simple puzzles, and a culminating boss fight at the end.
Surprisingly, there is an entire player-driven economy that changes on a day-to-day basis based on supply and demand, much like a real-world economy. Often, players that specialize in a particular aspect of the game, such as cooking or crafting, can sell their crafts on the player market for a high price. If you don’t want to spend the time to gather required items, you have the option to buy it off the market. Every town has a dedicated tax imposed on it as well, put there by the player faction that owns it. The game also allows you to purchase a house, which is also subject to property tax, that serves as a fast travel point as well as a place for you to deck out with personalized furniture and in-game trophies.
Aeternum is a literal sandbox, allowing you to travel as high as you can climb and as far as you can see. Almost everything is harvestable, and almost everything is craftable. New World definitely ticks all the boxes of a traditional MMO. You got your tree cutting, vegetable gathering, ore mining, fishing, cooking, and even animal skinning. Clothes, armor, potions, and other gear can be crafted or bought via the player trade market. Every crafting category also has a level associated with it, and higher tiers of said category are locked behind a higher level. For example, you must get your mining level to 45 before you can mine gold ore. No matter what you gather or harvest, you are progressing your level towards something.
Cooperative play and looting are the main redeeming factors of New World that keep me trudging towards the end game. It’s no news that grinding and MMOs go hand in hand, and New World is no different. Going through repeated expedition runs with a group of friends on voice chat brought me back to the days of PKing in Runescape. Looting is plentiful and worthwhile, especially towards the end game with rare legendary drops. One of the main reasons why I enjoy MMORPGs is that I get to look cool. I love dressing up in a set of slick new armor wielding an awesome sword and shield.
Don't get me wrong, New World is a very fun game. Even cutting trees and mining boulders for hours on end can be therapeutic at times. There’s a lot going for it right now, perhaps a little too much. Amazon has done a great job laying down the foundation of what can be an amazing MMORPG. The grievances that I have with the game can all be tweaked and fixed with future updates and patches. The game is rough but completely enjoyable and playable in its current state. With the addition of mounts, polished combat, and more content, New World can very well be at the forefront of the MMORPG market.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.