Venturing into the MMORPG genre is a tall order for a studio. Particularly one like Amazon Games, which is relatively new to the scene and had a bit of a shaky start. But after a few delays, it is stepping up to the plate with New World. The launch is well-timed with many MMO fans, me included, looking for something new to sink their teeth, time, and money into. So, let’s review it and see if you should dive into New World, or watch the ship sail by and wait for the next one.
Note: Our review of New World now covers the entire leveling process and the endgame activities.
Welcome to Aeternum
New World is set on an island that’s lost in time. Once you arrive, there’s no leaving. Magical storms wreck any ship that sails the nearby waters. One of two things happens to people on the island: you either become immortal or you become one of the Withered. The Withered are basically mindless undead. As for the immortals, like your character, if you die, the island brings you back. And I like that the respawn system is baked into the lore of the game.
The whole “curse that raises people from the dead” thing isn’t new, but it’s done in a way that hints at mysteries to uncover. I’m eager to learn more, although the 60 hours I’ve played so far have been uninspired. There’s a lack of tangible tension. Your character is happy to help everyone, and they seem to have no ambitions of their own. There’s no inner turmoil or passion that drives them. New World needs an injection of emotion to drive the narrative. I’m still hoping to meet a character that I can bond with, like an Illidan Stormrage or Jaina Proudmoore.
While the story hasn’t gripped me, the gameplay certainly has. It’s engaging and a lot of fun. The sheer number of tasks for you to undertake is staggering. Even if the story turns out to be unrewarding, you won’t be bored in New World.
The world is gorgeous. It’s refreshing to play an MMORPG that doesn’t have visuals from the early 2000s. And with all the players running around completing quests, gathering materials, and fighting for control of the land, it feels alive. The game’s audio design helps with this, too. The constant sound of people chopping down trees, mining ore, and firing muskets in the distance is one of the most immersive features in New World.
At the beginning of the game, you wash up on the shores of Aeternum in one of four starting locations. These areas are where you’ll learn the basics of combat, collecting, and crafting. The early stages of New World are beginner friendly, and allow you the freedom to try all the different weapons available in the game. Each weapon has unique skills that you can unlock by wielding them in battle. Your weapons combined with your attributes are what define your playstyle. They are essentially your class in New World, so you’ll want to try them all. The system is similar to The Elder Scrolls Online but with some tweaks that make it more flexible.
Up until level 20, you can swap your attributes for free. And you never lose the progress you make on various weapon trees. So you can try diving into strength and wielding heavy two-handed weapons, like the great axe and hammer, or you can invest in intelligence and take on the role of mage. I particularly enjoyed this early freedom to explore my options. And I liked many of them, with the rapier and spear ending up as my favorites. (Although, early on I loved the sword and shield.) After level 20, it costs gold to change your attributes, but it still isn’t overly expensive. I’ve already done it three times.
I thoroughly enjoy theorycrafting new builds in New World. They’re not overly complex, so it’s not inconceivable for a casual player to create their own builds. You don’t need to look up and follow meta builds, in other words. Anything will work just fine. Some builds are better, but you’ll quickly be able to tell if your build works well or not. There is no wrong way to play New World, and I can’t stress that enough. It’s very comforting to know that anything you do to your character that impacts gameplay can be undone or changed.
The battle rages
Your first major milestone is choosing one of three factions fighting for control of the island: Marauders, Covenant, and Syndicate. The map is divided into zones, and the factions can literally control them. A Company, which is New World’s guilds, will claim the zone for the faction and then get to run it like a land baron. They can set taxes, upgrade the towns, and declare war when the time comes. You can undertake faction missions to undermine enemy-held territories or bolster your own. It’s a dynamic system that adds another element to the liveliness of the game.
New World has a strong focus on PvP; it wants you to get sucked into the battle for the island. However, if you prefer to leave your PvP turned off and simply want to enjoy the PvE elements of the game, you can do so. You really don’t need to get involved in the island-wide battle until you’re ready. I enjoyed the PvP, and often leave town with it enabled. It makes questing and exploring more exciting, because at any moment I may be fighting another player for my life. Although, doing it alone is dangerous. I’ve been slaughtered a few times by a group of roaming Syndicate and Covenant. I have far more success when I team up with friends or other Marauders, my chosen faction.
Go about your business
As I mentioned, there is a lot for you to do in New World. Aside from the main quests, you can help your faction or individual towns, battle corruptions that spawn randomly around the map, delve into dungeons (called Expeditions), and master the numerous arts of the crafting system. You can even purchase houses in the towns, which you can kit out however you like. Houses also provide a few benefits like fast travel and storage.
The town and faction missions are things you’ll always have going on in the background. They are a bit repetitive, but you do them as you get sent to certain areas for the game’s main and sidequests. So, it’s not something that bothered me. The sidequests in the four starting zones are too similar, though. More variety would have helped distinguish the zones from one another. I think Amazon missed an opportunity to create some iconic locations and standout characters here. You’ll also notice a lot of reused assets for buildings and caves around the map. It’s not jarringly bad, but it’s a little disappointing when you notice.
The early dungeons are not particularly challenging. If you meet the level requirements and have a decent healer, you’ll be able to hack and slash your way through them without much thought. I’d like to be confronted by tougher mechanics that require individual ability and teamwork. Maybe the higher-level dungeons will be more engaging.
As for the crafting system, it is detailed, but not overly complex. I love it. There’s an abundance of resources to gather out in the world, and I often struggle to stop gathering. I haven’t used much of the gear I have crafted, but I do find the potions and food incredibly useful.
Getting to the endgame
New World starts to lose its shine as you approach level 60. I enjoy working towards a goal, but the journey needs to be fulfilling. The level grind in New World felt like a slog from about level 50 on. The story that I kept hoping would get interesting simply never gripped me. The only thing keeping me going was the idea that once I hit level 60, there would be more enjoyable activities for me to do. So, without a narrative to eagerly follow, I kind of just wandered around looking for quests I could complete and running dungeons.
The enemy distribution and balance went out the window at this point too. I suddenly struggled to get to the heart of named locations because respawn rates were too quick. And if I tried to run through without fighting, I got slammed by a whole group of baddies who didn’t stop hitting me until I was whimpering on the floor.
Another issue that makes it tough to keep going to level 60 is that all areas and enemies are too similar. The game suffers from a copy and paste problem. I killed way too many skeletons and ghosts in my time in New World. And sometimes I forgot which town I was in because the layout was almost identical. Some additional town planners and architects would go a long way to making the world feel more diverse.
Having said that, the dungeons do get better later in the game. The Depths was the first real challenge with two bosses that require you to know mechanics and play with a decent level of skill. You also need to build a proper party with a dedicated tank and proper healer. I thoroughly enjoyed this more engaging gameplay.
You made it
When you finally get to level 60, it does feel like you suddenly have a lot more to do. In a good way, because you can forget about the narrative and set your sights on the most iconic MMO carrot: upgrading your gear. Your goal is the current max gear score of 600. Part of this will be maxing out your weapon skills and building the legendary weapons associated with each weapon. Right now, it does feel like your main reason to acquire this gear score is to be prepared for future content, which is not the most inspiring cause.
However, as your gear gets better, you’ll be more impactful in New World’s numerous PvP endgame activities. Suddenly, you’ll be chosen for wars and invasions. You will contribute a lot more to the endgame Expeditions and elite zones. Elite zones are probably the best way to upgrade your gear. These high-level zones are essentially open-world dungeons and they have an Elite Chest that can be opened every 24 hours. As with all New World, there just aren’t enough of them right now. So, it’s going to get repetitive.
The battle for control of Aeternum is one of the endgame activities you can partake in. It’s a matter of pride and convenience to own territories. I like the concept and enjoyed the constant shifts and wars playing out as I leveled. But when it was my turn to complete repetitive quests to throw a territory into war, I wasn’t interested. It’s tedious to pick up three quests in town, run to three locations, run back to town, and repeat. The territory and war system are wonderful ideas, but badly executed right now.
Outpost Rush is a promising endgame activity. I just wish Amazon Games would weave it into the world a bit more – allow it to take place in the various zones and have the battle impact the standing of the zone. I haven’t been able to try Outpost Rush since I hit 60 because the mode is constantly disabled. One day.
Should you board the ship to the new world?
Overall, I enjoyed the game. But as my friends fell by the wayside, it became tougher and tougher to log in every day. And the reasons they quit will be the same reason you and your friends will slowly grow tired of New World. But all the breakups with Amazon’s MMO have been amicable. They’re all willing to come back because the beginning is fun.
The potential is there. The gameplay is fun. New World just needs a lot more content, a better narrative with more interesting characters, and variety. Aliens need to land on the island or something because I can’t kill another undead skeleton or corrupted zombie.