IGN

New World Review in Progress #5

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Update #5 – November 1, 2021 – The Last One? About 185 hours in, it finally dawned on me just how empty Amazon’s New World is – particularly in its latter half. What I thought was going to be the penultimate review in progress update (which is now several weeks old) turned out to be an intermission; I found myself needing to take a serious break. And, when I came back, I then discovered that I’d need to grind at least eight hours per day, several days in a row, to catch up in a reasonable amount of time. But the problem with that is there simply isn’t that much to fill those hours aside from deeply repetitive tasks and overly punishing action combat that still manages to become stale unless you decide to drastically change your loadout. So, with all that out of the way, here’s my latest – and I’m fairly certain final – review in progress update on New World, reflecting how it stands after the end of its first month.

I’m only just shy of level 54 now, and I’ve come to realize how thin all of this Aeternum business really is. It’s especially aggravating that I never really get the sense of being able to rest, since I’m constantly on the move from one massive distance gap to another – something that often occurs because quests, faction missions, and Town Projects are so infuriatingly spread apart from one another. Fast travelling costs Azoth, a resource that’s difficult to find at higher levels and caps out at a measly 1000 units – meaning you can collect no more after that point. Aside from a few sparsely located fast-travel shrines which cost potentially hundreds of Azoth to use each way, we’re never given any speedier mode of transportation than our own two feet. And, for some reason, some of these quests even require you to complete objectives in one zone, only to turn around and ask you to travel halfway across the world to turn the quest in upon completion. Why this makes sense to anybody, I have no clue. The most likely explanation is that NPC placements got shuffled around at some point and quests simply weren’t reassigned to the proper NPCs – which seems reasonable, given how thoughtless New World’s main story already was. Either that, or Amazon is intentionally padding things out with tedious running.

In the past month I’ve watched Amazon Games wrangle with everything from a global market collapse to a whole slew of players breaking one another’s games by adding malicious code into the chatbox to a bug that deletes trading stall sales – and the gold coins spent on them – when purchasing from characters who are logged off, and several other widespread issues. For all of its initial popularity, this combination of meager high-level content and technical issues has left New World in a state of disarray.

This combination of meager high-level content and technical issues has left New World in a state of disarray.

Most of the territories on my server (Minda) have been at a standstill for weeks, with the Syndicate comfortably owning the top half of the map and Marauders comfortably owning the bottom half. The Covenant’s only just taken Weaver’s Fen, but its hold is tentative at best. It’s also the Covenant’s only territory thanks to, apparently, a single player who tricked that faction’s entire population into some sort of pyramid scheme and drove most of them off the server. I don’t know the specifics, but what I do know is that New World’s whole system of player-driven interdependence – which it wholly depends on, since there are no NPCs to buy your goods from you or sell you resources – breaks down without active populations in each faction on each server.

In theory, the Outpost Rush mode for level 60 characters (which has been newly reinstated since my last update) is meant to add an inflow of gold from the top, but that’s hardly useful when the price of goods hasn’t stabilized, or when that gold doesn’t appear to be flooding into the market stalls as it should. It’s also simply inaccessible for mid-level or relatively lower-level characters (like myself), who all need to spend gold just to repair their gear – let alone craft their items, pay property tax, or even put items for sale on the trading stall in the first place. Yet again, Trickle-Down Economics is proven to be a bad idea.

What’s left in the absence of player-driven factions actively competing with one another to drive up demand on products (and enough active players spending gold to keep the wheels turning on New World’s Colonial-era profiteering machine) is a shell of a game that simply never evolves past its opening. The graphics are pretty but the story is practically nonexistent, the quests are hyper-repetitive, and the combat – while initially interesting – just gets boring after so many hours without significant evolution. Why am I cutting down so many trees and mining so many boulders? Why am I killing so many wolves for leather? Even without the molasses-slow uptick of XP handed out per action – or maybe because of it – none of it feels satisfying anymore.

In my initial previews, I wagered New World would be a far more compact game than it appeared to be when it finally came out. But now I’m starting to agree with everyone who dragged me for the line I previously made about “dungeons in droves,” which you can find in my Amrine Excavation preview from back in May. It made sense to me at the time – I was comparing New World to Destiny 2 in my head – but now, having spent 185 hours in Aeternum, I think it’s time for me to walk that sentiment back and call it a lesson learned. New World asks for the same quantity of time investment as any other traditional-style MMO, which means it desperately needs far, far more content to fill the gaps in its massive, unremarkable world. That, or it needs to give us a far more compelling reason to keep its faction PVP systems and player-driven economies alive. It currently fails on both counts.

I think it’s time for me to walk that sentiment back and call it a lesson learned.

On the upside, I did have at least two interesting moments between my previous update and today. (That’s not super impressive, for those who are wondering, given the amount of time that’s passed.) For one, I managed to participate in one of the conceptually interesting Invasions, wherein I joined a team of 49 other people to defend the Restless Shore fortress from an onslaught of Corrupted. What’s interesting here is that there are real stakes to these events: they only happen every so often, and if the defending team fails to defend the central objective – a tower located inside the fortress’s walls – the resulting loss can cause crafting stations to downgrade by one tier. That’s important because high-tier crafting stations are a necessity to craft high-tier items, and they attract high-tier crafters who spend money to produce their goods, which in turn keeps the settlement alive, and so on.

Since I joined the Invasion defense force as a level 50 character, which is a bit weak in comparison to the majority of my level 60 teammates, my role was to stand atop the battlements and rain down cannon shells on the invading forces while the rest of my party stood and fought on the front lines. During the battle I was engaged with my server’s Discord community and met some of the prolific company leaders in my faction, which itself was pretty cool. Amazon would do well to encourage more of this type of interaction for all players, well before they reach level 50. PVP missions and Town Projects are supposed to fill that need, in theory, by making each person’s contributions count toward a broader goal. For example, completing PVP missions keeps your faction in control of a region, while completing a Town Project keeps the local settlement alive. But each of these singular activities is disjointed, time-consuming, and rarely rewards you well for the time spent. Invasions are far cooler by comparison, but they arrive too late and give you too little in the way of equipment, gold, or XP.

Amazon would do well to encourage more of this type of interaction for all players.

Then there was the extremely rare moment where – while I was running a PVP faction mission in the high-level Edengrove zone – I found myself chased by several musket-wielding Marauders. Usually, I’m able to turn off PVP protection and claim the accompanying 10% XP bonus without running across other members of opposite factions who also have their PVP protections turned off, but this time was a bit trickier. My “fight or flight” brain snapped on as soon as a hail of bullets started raining down on me from quite a distance, which is possible since New World apparently treats projectiles the same way any first-person shooter would. This made the chase far more treacherous as I ran these imposing enemy players through several groups of PVE monsters, natural obstacles, and eventually over the side of a waterfall leading directly into the next zone.

But that was it as far as interesting moments go. The rest of my time in New World has begun to feel like an endless series of chores. I’ve yet to reach 60 and wrap it all up, which I’m still dedicated to doing before the very end – but I’m planning to do so within the next week, meaning that this series of reviews is finally coming to its (true) close. Keep your eye on this space for the final review, along with its video component, due out sometime next week!

Update #4 – October 23, 2021: Does time actually pass on New World’s island of Aeternum? Who knows, but if my sand-crusted pocket watch is accurate, it’s now the end of the third week since New World’s maiden voyage into Aeternum’s now rather well-charted seas. The once prolific lag and server queues, which previously plagued Amazon’s slightly-less-than-new MMO, haven’t impeded me nearly as much during the last week and a half as they did for the first two weeks; which probably means that the tradewinds are fair enough to allow you to play in comfort for long periods of time, if you want to.

Meanwhile, I’m only just passing through the latter half of my character’s 40s, and… not much has changed in the last 15 levels. My time has been chock full of just as much of the same gathering, crafting, questing, and fighting undead monsters for loot as every other part thus far, for better or worse. However, I’m close enough to the end game now to see that it looks quite barren from a distance.

Amazon has seemingly shut down an entire game mode – Outpost Rush, which we previewed back in July – and beyond that, it sounds like there’s nothing much to do besides engage with the continuing faction war system, clear the same rotation of corrupted portals, and repeat the same two level 65+ expeditions. Making matters worse, it sounds like faction wars are coming to a standstill on servers that have experienced severe population imbalance between factions.

New World’s crafting, refining, and gathering systems have continued to be fun.

It’s great, however, that New World’s crafting, refining, and gathering systems have continued to be fun – even though I’ve found myself grinding at certain points. For example, it’s a hassle to mine boulders or cull mature trees until you reach rank 100 in mining or logging, respectively. 100 is the bare minimum skill level needed to gather from starmetal nodes or chop down wyrdwood trees – both of which are far more valuable and useful at higher levels. But you get XP each time you gather something, and that still presents a nice alternative to grinding monsters until you reach the next level. Moreover, hauling a huge load of raw materials back to town and refining them into their compact counterparts can often give you a steady tick of XP.

And it’s also neat that Town Projects, randomized repeatable quests that show up in every settlement (with a Town Project assigned), can continue to provide the most consistent source of XP at any level, even if you’re a higher-level player who prefers to hang out in starting zones. More importantly to hoarders like myself, they can also randomly call for items of any tier. Consequently, any resource or crafting material can be turned into XP and Territory Standing points, and everything can hold potential value to other players as well.

But these intertwining trade skill systems and player-driven economies are nowhere near harmonious. If you’ve been paying attention to the news surrounding New World lately, you may have heard all about its currency deflation issues. Coin is extremely hard to find, which is due to there being no NPCs that you can directly sell your wares to – which would be the normal, sustainable way to generate currency in other MMOs. As a result, Trading Stalls – local marketplaces where you can post your items up for sale to other players – have experienced wildly fluctuating prices across all settlements on all servers, making it increasingly difficult to sell things since nobody knows what a “reasonable price” for anything even is.

You may have heard all about the currency deflation issues.

This isn’t a huge issue for me personally, since I don’t own a lot of expensive island-side property, which means I’m able to keep my outgoing expenses minimized in general. In fact, this is one economic crisis that’s actually benefited me: I’ve been able to purchase rare items and ingredients – like precious lodestones, potion ingredients, and fish oil – at low prices and in great quantities, taking advantage of the violently inconsistent prices between market stalls across my server.

Marketplace-manipulation antics aside, I’ve spent much of the past few weeks focusing on New World’s quests and PVE content, eking out whatever hidden truths the previous denizens of Aeternum may have left behind. But it seems that there isn’t all that much. I’ve finished each of the main quests up to the level 50 main quest titled Race for the Box, and unless something changes between levels 50-60, it’s reasonable to assume that I now have a strong grasp on the body of New World’s overall main storyline. And I’m confident saying that it’s about as drab as any other average MMO.

In short summary, after the mysterious Corruption crash-lands your pirate ship on Aeternum along with the rest of your crew, you become something called a “Soulwarden”, which grants you the power to use an Azoth staff – the tool that’s also required to enter expeditions and close corrupted portals. With your newfound power, you resolve to take the fight to the Corruption itself, and then you spend at least the first 50 levels trying (and failing) to do that.

But without spoiling a tiny handful of important events, that’s generally as far as the story has gone. I never felt a connection to any of these characters, and the main quest line has only truly served to move me around the map and prompt me to poke my head into different settlements and zones – aside from intermittently upgrading my Azoth staff and giving me a reasonable XP payout, which is always nice.

The first half of New World’s expeditions have also each had their own backstory, but it’s all barebones. At least I found myself significantly challenged in Starstone Barrows, which makes clever use of some instant-kill laser grids mixed with a bit of platforming to add tension to the whole experience. It can be downright frustrating at a few early points – I struggled to get past the first few laser grids I encountered – but it was still rather novel in comparison to the rest of New World’s PVE content, which up to that point had been totally brainless.

But at the end of the day, this all means that I’m steadily approaching the end. It’s unclear exactly what state I’ll be in once I reach level 60, settle each of my many rivalries, and log out one last time (for the foreseeable future) at the base of the Shattered Mountain. I’m just hoping I get to play a few rounds of Outpost Rush before then.

Update #3 – October 12, 2021: New World has been out for about two weeks as of today, and the crowds have finally settled down quite a bit. As a result, there are no longer any queues! When you want to play New World, you can actually play New World! Imagine that. Even the lag issues I’d seen earlier have now disappeared altogether – I haven’t seen anything like the rubberbanding that plagued me in the early days since this past Sunday. Since then, I’ve enjoyed two whole days of smooth sailing and absolutely no queues, and my experience thereafter was markedly improved.

To be fair, it’s worth noting that I’d followed real-world friends onto Minda – an East Coast server – even though I’m a West Coast player. In my experience in other MMOs, especially FFXIV (where I have a lot of very recent experience), this is rarely an issue – I can reliably make that sort of leap without connection issues, so it was strange to see issues in New World. But it’s great that all of those woes seem to be gone now, because New World is far more predictable – and enjoyable – when you’re able to play it without any interruptions.

However, being able to play smoothly hasn’t addressed my underlying complaints: every task is still just as mindlessly grindy, and the story has yet to pick up – and I’m now over the halfway point, at level 35. With only 25 levels left to go, I don’t foresee it growing into much more than a thinly veiled excuse to prod me to continue logging, mining, and harvesting my way across Aeternum.

It was roughly comparable to any early dungeon from The Elder Scrolls Online.

Since last week’s updates, I’ve begun to dig into New World’s dungeons – or expeditions – which are just fine for a distraction away from the ultimately much more interconnected gathering and crafting. I have to say, when I previewed the Amrine Excavation back in May, I had no clue how short the whole thing would be if I’d brought along a party who knew how to play their role. When I did, my party completed the whole thing (without anybody dying) in about 23 minutes, and it was roughly comparable to any early dungeon from The Elder Scrolls Online: fun and easy enough to get through with a little bit of communication, but not challenging enough to get the juices flowing or stick out as a memorable conquest. I previously commented on how novel it was that the penultimate boss, Foreman Nakashima, uses bullet hell-style attacks; that seemed like a curveball at the time, but they’re far easier to anticipate now that I’ve spent tens of hours playing with my tank character, whose mechanics I’m used to.

I’ve also settled into the housing system. It’s great that owning a house in First Light lets me recall there every four hours – quicker, if I’m willing to spend a little Azoth, which has actually become much easier to obtain (by following main quests and side stories) than I first thought it’d be – but I wish the houses themselves were more visually interesting and spacious. I don’t feel all that compelled to decorate my house, but it’s cool that I can add in special trophies that give me a global bonus to certain stats. As long as my faction – the Syndicate – holds ownership over the First Light settlement, I can also get a few added benefits, like finding rare items more frequently in common resource nodes, which is a great motivator to support my faction as we vie for control over that particular region.

That’s all that’s new for this week. I’ll be playing all the way to the max level (60), complete the main questline, participate in some of the Faction War events, and go through each of these six expeditions at least once before I’m ready to reach a verdict. But for all the time I’ve spent with it thus far, I already feel comfortable saying that it’s a relaxing experience (for better or worse) – when it works.

Update #2 – October 5, 2021: It’s now been a full week since New World’s launch, and conditions are only just beginning to improve. If you’ve been following updates, you might have heard all kinds of stories about server login queues backed up for several hours at a time. I’m here to tell you that, at least in my experience, virtually none of them have been exaggerated. I’ve run into several instances where I’d sit in a queue for four hours and get in, only to have New World crash-to-desktop. Then it’s back to the end of the four-hour-long queue before I could get back in once more. So, if you’re wondering why this review isn’t done yet, that’s a big part of the reason. The other part is that this is a big MMORPG!

On top of that, I experienced far worse cases of lag and rubberbanding this past weekend than I’d experienced during the week prior. There was a point where, while fighting a group of enemies, New World rubberbanded so hard that I completely missed the fight; the next frame I saw was the death screen. “Frustrating” doesn’t even begin to describe what that experience was like, given that when it’s working correctly New World’s quests can be gleefully inconvenient at times, forcing you to travel to distant parts of the map without the assistance of mounts. On that note, at least it’s cool that you can build campfires practically anywhere, giving you a mobile respawn point if you remember to set them up.

When I’m actually able to play New World unimpeded and make consistent progress – which has only been the case for the last day or so – it’s only because queue times have significantly improved on my server. I’m still finding enjoyment in each of its crafting and harvesting systems. New World’s entirely player-run economy is especially interesting when you start to get a feel for how it plays into the always-on faction PVP conquests between the Marauders, Covenant, and Syndicate – each of whom are constantly vying for control over Aeternum’s 11 claimable territories.

I’m still finding enjoyment in each of its crafting and harvesting systems.

The crux of this system is that you get serious benefits when trading and crafting in a town owned and operated by your faction. This, in turn, pads your wallet faster, allowing you to afford to craft better stuff and purchase a bigger and better house – translating to a more powerful character overall. There are other salient benefits too, like sharply decreased fast travel costs and accelerated harvesting speeds. It’s an inconvenience not to own as many territories as you can.

Now at level 27, I’ve discovered that there’s a deeply satisfying element of strategy that goes into drawing up your own personal supply lines and planning your Territory Rewards to give you the maximum benefit in certain zones. For instance, you can specialize in maximizing your harvesting speed in First Light and minimizing your trading fees in Windsward, which is especially handy if your faction owns both territories, since personal and faction-wide benefits stack on top of one another. I already feel myself getting into faction rivalries for this reason, and this is simply a much more interesting story than whatever is happening in the main quest.

Speaking of the main quest, thus far it’s the least-inspired part of my entire experience. I’m led to believe that I’m trying to become something called a “Soulwarden,” which is meant to be important in the context of all of Aeternum’s Corruption business, but the main process of doing so is traveling to far reaches of the map and picking some treasure out of a cave or fighting some skeletons. At its best, it’s a lazy series of fetch quests. At its worst, it’s an obvious coverup for what was originally meant to be a purely colonial-themed MMO that (rightfully) recharted its course in a hurry.

There seem to be very few NPCs out in the world to make Aeternum feel populated.

Another thing that’s been throwing me off is that there seem to be very few NPCs out in the world to make Aeternum feel populated. If it weren’t for all the harvestable materials and random enemies (and other players) popping up everywhere, these massive swaths of land would be empty. Admittedly, Aeternum’s natural resources are also what make it so pretty to look at, but it doesn’t help that each “unique” point of interest is just another cave or farm, without much more than a little tidbit of lore to differentiate it from the last one.

At least the emergent PVP-centric story that’s bubbling up between players on my server is more than entertaining enough to fill the void. The Marauders are slowly taking over our (Syndicate’s) claim in the upper-middle section of the map – loosening our grip on Everfall, Brightwood, and Weaver’s Fen – and that fills me with more anxiety than I anticipated it would, even though I’m too underleveled to do much beyond the stray scouting mission or two for the moment. For now, though, it’s time to don my pirate boots once more – I have a wheelbarrow full of potion ingredients that need carting to the next town, and (due to the strange lack of domesticable animals) they won’t be carting themselves anytime soon. Keep your eye on this space for more updates!

Update #1 – October 1, 2021: Amazon’s New World has been out for little over half a week, but its still-overpopulated server queues have shown no sign of waning. After several days of multiple-hour-long queues, I’ve finally managed to scratch together a level 20 sword-and-shield-wielder on the Minda server – Syndicate, if you’re curious – and I’m having a pretty good time overall, despite some laggy moments here and there. In my journey from level one to level 20, I’ve already witnessed everything from a full-blown hostile takeover of my starting zone (First Light, which was apparently grabbed out of the Syndicate’s hands by the troublesome green-tinted Marauders) to the threat of an upcoming invasion by the encroaching Corrupted horde.

I haven’t yet been directly participating in these large-scale battles for the fate of Aeternum, which are reserved for level 50 characters and above. Instead I’ve spent most of my time running around the map, filling my inventory with whatever isn’t nailed down, and turning in a series of repeatable but often drab Town Projects for XP and Territory Standing rewards. But even without getting my hands dirty (dirtier, given that I was already a pirate), I already get a strong feeling of camaraderie among my faction members. The world chat channel is constantly full of chatter from opposite faction members openly antagonizing one another, which definitely gives the impression that New World is already stoking plenty of long-term rivalries even in its early state. It reminds me a bit of 2002-era Battle.net chat rooms – whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how competitive you are. If you don’t want to engage with it at all, it’s great that you can simply filter the chat out entirely.

All that said, I’m still in the early game. I’ve unlocked the ability to buy a house and obtain my first Azoth staff (which is key to closing those very ominous-looking Corrupted breaches that pop up everywhere), but I haven’t made it to the point where I’m able to actually afford a house, and I’m a bit too behind in my main quests – which so far seem quite basic and forgettable – to have actually earned an Azoth staff for myself. Until that happens, I’m effectively locked out of the bigger group challenges like Corrupted breaches and Expeditions, which from past experiences playing pre-launch I can already anticipate I’ll enjoy running my own custom-built character through. Fortunately, I still have a grace window – those things truly become accessible around level 25, which means I still have a little time to continue exploring this gorgeous map and hoarding everything I see between bouts of PVE combat, which has largely only occurred because I tried to make a beeline through a farm and accidentally stumbled into a swarm of identical red and gray zombies.

Until that happens, I’m effectively locked out of the bigger group challenges like Corrupted breaches and Expeditions.

Each of these enjoyable but mentally passive activities have amounted to around 14 hours spent in Aeternum with this specific character thus far – plenty of time to drink apple cider and catch up on podcasts. For now, it’s time to jump back into the queue so I can get ahead of the Friday night crowd, which I’m certainly afraid of falling behind, given my poor experiences attempting to log in at a reasonable hour this past week. As I mentioned before, you can find me on the Minda server under the uncreative name Gabrielmosspdx, so be sure to send me a shout – or a taunt, if you’re one of those filthy Marauders or Covenant – as my journey into Aeternum unravels ever further.

September 28, 2021: Amazon’s New World is finally available in our world (which is now technically the old world, I guess?) and its servers are so packed on day one that I haven’t been able to get in yet. However, I’ve spent the past week running around a finalized version of this colonial-era MMO, albeit without nearly the same player count or queue times that many are currently experiencing. Note that, since I’m also responsible for a large chunk of IGN’s official wiki guide, almost all of that time was spent running around as a pre-made level 60 character and poking various Corrupted bee hives to see what I could shake out of them so that you don’t have to. But that has given me some time to get the lay of the land and get a sense of how everything works, so here are my initial impressions of this long-awaited MMORPG.

The premise of New World is pretty simple: You’re a member of a pirate ship crew that’s gone out searching for a mystical island called Aeternum, which is rumored to be full of treasures. You land yourself in the middle of a storm that’s been infused with the island’s dark energy, called Corruption, and then you end up beached on the shore with nothing but the rags on your back and must contend with creatures and the rest of the island’s human inhabitants (survivors from past shipwrecks). Basically, it’s kinda like a Pirates of the Caribbean MMO with some high fantasy elements thrown in. This is perfectly fine as an original setting, and it’s great that Amazon Games seems to be taking expert consultation in crafting the real-world cultures and influences that it depicts. At least, that’s what it claims on the splash screen. However, I’ve yet to dig into its main story quests – meaning that it’s too early to say whether it’s compelling enough to drive me through what will certainly be a long journey.

It’s worth noting early on that this all looks downright gorgeous on Amazon’s Lumberyard engine (based on CryTek’s CryEngine), which does a great job of rendering real-time volumetric lighting and handling a large number of characters and effects at the same time. Not only are the draw distances quite impressive for an MMO, trees and grass all sway in the wind and cast accurate-looking shadows on max settings. In its favor, I get strong Witcher 3 vibes from New World’s overall look. Take note that my machine is pretty souped up – I’m running an RTX 2080 Super on a Ryzen 3900X with a whopping 32GB of high-speed RAM.

All of this looks downright gorgeous on Amazon’s Lumberyard engine.

As in other MMOs, you’ll start off by creating your character – though New World has a relatively modest sum of different faces and hair styles – then you’ll choose your name and you’re off to go. It doesn’t get any deeper or more complex than that, and there are no additional races or classes to choose from at the beginning. If you like to keep things simple, this is just fine – but it certainly doesn’t offer nearly the bevy of customization options that fans of Final Fantasy 14 or Black Desert Online might be familiar with.

As soon as you get to the island you’re introduced to combat and basic questing. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking in either case. When you speak to an NPC who has a quest for you, you’ll get a page of dialogue and a preview of the quest’s reward, which in practice feels about as deep as any interaction you might have in World of Warcraft or Destiny 2. But at least these conversations are decently voice-acted.

I haven’t decided yet whether I think New World’s combat can hold up over the long haul. It’s not all that different from other hack n’ slash RPGs, although it does often make you block, dodge, and break your opponents’ defenses in order to be effective. Enemies, especially the Dryads which you encounter later on, are also a bit more fierce than standard foes in other action MMOs – they’re more clever, and don’t simply stand around while you take swings at them. They’ll dodge and sidestep your attacks, making fights more dynamic than I’m used to. On our end, weapons feel good to swing around – your position and timing have a major impact on your efficacy in combat, though you’re locked into an animation once you activate an ability. This can make combat feel stiff if you aren’t timing your attacks, dodges, and blocks at the right moment.

Enemies are a bit more fierce than standard foes in other action MMOs.

However, New World’s combat isn’t without issues. For me, those started when a swarm of enemies ran up and spammed their attacks in unison, making it hard to get enough shots in before they stunlocked me to death. I’m taking into consideration the fact that I’ve thus far played entirely solo and these encounters may be suited to groups of players, but still, these swarms are pockmarked all over the map, including in the middle of roads that I needed to travel through to get to the next zone. That doesn’t bode well for anyone who was planning to venture out alone.

The rest of my issues with New World’s combat stem directly from its lacklustre character customization system. The classless approach is fine enough – building up your character is a matter of choosing what interests you and focusing on those specific skills, much like in The Elder Scrolls Online. On paper, there’s a decent pool of weapons skills to pick from. But this stalled progress for me when I realized you can’t meaningfully mix and match several skills at the exact same time. It makes sense that you can’t use Hatchet skills with a Rapier, but it’s disappointing there are no interstitial skills or spells outside of those lines. You don’t get to have a weapon in one hand and a bomb or fireball spell in the other. It’s not like there are any passive skill trees or armor skill trees that help you in all situations either – if you’re developing a weapon skill, you’re playing within that exact skill tree with absolutely no interplay between that weapon and anything else.

It’s just fine, then, that you can quickly switch between two weapons in the middle of combat. For example, if you want to lure your enemies into close range with a bow, then take them out with a giant axe, you can theoretically make that happen… but you may not want to.

This is because New World’s character customization – and subsequently, its combat – is held back by its limited attributes system. It shoehorns you into using only a small, carefully selected pool of weapon types per build. For instance, the Focus attribute is completely useless for anybody other than a Life Staff wielder – putting your points into Focus is a huge opportunity cost that pulls you away from putting points into Strength, an attribute which would be useful if you wanted to use a War Hammer but, like Focus, is completely useless for anybody holding a Bow or a Musket. But since you muddy your build by attempting to split your points between the two, your options are remarkably limited if you want to be effective. It’s an irritating limitation on what seems like it should be a flexible system that’d allow for all kinds of builds. Mercifully, you can respec your entire attribute build whenever you’d like – even in the middle of dungeons – for just a few coins.

Mercifully, you can respec your entire attribute build whenever you like.

Weapon skills and their associated abilities are a separate issue entirely. You still need to grind these individual skills, like the Sword and Shield skill or the Bow skill, in order to build them up, and even then, there are a tiny number of attacks you can queue up on your hotbar. You’re stuck with only three special moves or spells on your hotbar at any given time (by comparison, The Elder Scrolls Online gives you six, and other MMOs basically have no limit). And the ones you do get to play with are tied directly to the weapon you’re holding, which means that playing with a specific weapon type almost always feels exactly the same, with the only variation being two distinct skill lines that you can follow within each weapon skill tree.

But if you want to be the best tank, for instance, you will always play with a sword and shield and you will always dive into the exact same shield-focused skill line. My level 60 sword and shield-wielder (again, a pre-made character I was using before launch) didn’t feel all that different from when I’d created a first-level character.

New World’s other major focus is its player-based economy, which is heavily centered around its crafting and survival elements. If you’re not into survival and crafting elements ala games like Minecraft or Don’t Starve, you may be very quickly turned off by New World’s absolute reliance on these things. Practically every item you need must be plucked off of bushes or mined out of boulders, then refined or crafted at trade skill stations in town.

The kicker is that there are no NPC vendors whatsoever in New World.

The kicker is that there are no NPC vendors whatsoever in New World. If you can’t find an item being sold by another player at the local trading post, which is specific to whichever settlement you’re currently standing in, you’ll need to go out and craft it or find it yourself. This is cool, if you’re into that sort of thing, because it gives you a tangible reason to build up your trade skills. But again, New World’s economy isn’t a fun side-activity that you simply dip your toes into between quests if you feel like it – it’s your lifeblood as you trek across this gorgeous haunted island.

Harkening back to older MMOs, New World is also a much tougher game to move across. There are currently no mounts whatsoever, making it something of a slog to get across each zone – especially when encounters on the road can absolutely kill you and send you back to your original starting point if no other settlements are nearby. Fast travel exists, but is heavily restricted by the scarce resource called Azoth, which is difficult to acquire (but not so unreasonably difficult that fast travel is useless).

Regardless, as soon as the server queues allow it I’ll be jumping in to begin playing New World with a fresh character from scratch one. Be sure to stick around and keep up with my adventure as it unfolds, and let us know what you think of New World so far in the comments.


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