“I landed on an island and it’s a New World. Familiar, sure, but different too. I got a thousand problems but corruption ain’t one. I have no idea who anyone is but I’m having fun. Mining ore and being mauled by bears. My musket shots echo loud like the wolves’ howls. Let me gather all these things and stuff the storage shed full. Turn up the day after to find the tax rates have gone up. I guess that means I’ll be going broke trying to craft my mid-tier gear. 50 hours in and I’m finding things rough. It’s the damn bears, please stop hurting me so much.”
Amazon’s New World is all too familiar. A brand new MMO that doesn’t break much in the way of new ground. Its story and characters are so dull and predictable they are practically invisible. Its quest design is utterly forgettable; nothing you haven’t seen in a hundred other games. The environments are perhaps a little too realistic and lacking the crafted feel that often makes game worlds stand out. And despite all that, I’ve enjoyed playing it. There’s a clear foundation upon which the development team at Amazon Game Studios can and should build. However, it will likely be a while before the fruits of such labour are ripe enough for players to enjoy.
The crafting system works pretty well. I have always felt like I am making progress towards the next tier of items I will need. Levelling up each aspect, whether that’s harvesting, mining, stone cutting etc., doing so is a great way for it to work, save for a few frustrating bottlenecks. Some items can’t really be crafted; they need to be looted from chests, which means they are far more limited than the other raw materials. Would you believe that there are far less chests around than trees to chop down in the forests of Aeternum? It’s rude, quite frankly.
Having a Weapon Mastery system instead of locking players into character classes at the point of creation is a smart move. Players are free to experiment with different weapons and, assuming they’ve sufficiently used the appropriate weapons, can adjust their loadouts to complement whatever group they happen to be joining. It’s flexible and fun. I myself have mained a Spear and Musket combo for devastating damage at any range. It’s a good mix. Although the texture clipping from the two being crossed over when on your back is mildly infuriating from an aesthetics point of view. Playing solo, I also started to dabble with healing magic and the Life Staff. It’s a life-saver… literally, especially once I crossed the level 20-25 mark. Enemies started throwing in more dodges and stronger attacks that could quickly prove fatal if I was careless. Bears in particular have proven to be my most feared nemeses with their speed and knockdown attacks.
As much as I like the combat system’s design philosophy, I did encounter problems. The hit detection in particular could be a bit temperamental at times. Most frustrating of all though was the inconsistency of the range at which enemies would “retreat” from battle. When an enemy retreats they would immediately get their health back. Annoyingly, their proximity to you has no bearing on when it happens. I’ve had more than my fair share of difficult enemies down to the last few pixels of health only to watch them run off and instantly heal themselves because they’d knocked me 3 steps (a wild guess on my part) outside of the invisible, arbitrary and all-too-small zone in which they are to stay. All the while I’m left ragged, annoyed and a few health potions lighter.
50 plus hours in and I am a little over halfway to the level cap of 60 and I’m hitting the solo player wall. It was inevitable, I suppose; MMO’s are all about partying up and joining what New World call ‘Companies’ (i.e. guilds). If you want to take part in the most challenging, and rewarding, elements of the game you will need some buddies. I, however, don’t have any; none that are playing the game anyway. To be honest, I just don’t have any interest in finding a Company to join on my server either. Having revealed that, the next paragraph is going to sound rather contradictory.
New World’s future lies in leaning into the PvP element of the game. The story and characters aren’t interesting but there’s infinite potential interest in fostering (good-natured) player grudges and animosity between factions. Competition, supporting your team and sticking it to a rival who inconvenienced you previously is compelling and fertile ground. There would be plenty of motivation then for players who are more focused or interested in support and crafting roles to keep pace with their battling brethren. Step one on that path would be fixing the Outpost Rush 20 vs 20 player mode that has been disabled since a queueing bug rendered it unplayable the other week. Melding together the PvP and territory control, on one hand, with the PvE and crafting, on the other, will keep the game afloat; providing it can hold on to a community big enough to sustain it while the developers make the necessary changes.
As I was writing this article I happened across a post in the r/Games subreddit which links to an article from PlayerAuctions about the game’s economy (read it here) and the prognosis at the moment is not good. Players can’t earn coins fast enough to replace the ones they are using to craft items or make trades in the in-game market. Settlement upgrades that are paid for with the taxes levied from players aren’t cheap either. So, if they are destroyed in an invasion that’s a lot of valuable money going up in smoke. It is somewhat ironic that the famously, or infamously, tax shy Amazon have created a game where the tax burden on players is essentially sucking the life out of the game’s economy. Sorting this out will be key to ensuring the game has a future; as I am sure the developers are keenly aware.
I would encourage Amazon Game Studios to look to EVE Online and how player interactions and competitions drive that entire game forward. Look at how the game’s systems and those built by the community support and sustain the epic battles and stories that pop up in gaming media on a regular basis. EVE Online is an old, old game, yet it still has a vibrant and committed player-base. If Amazon would like New World to last half as long, they could do worse than look there for ideas and lessons.
All in all, Amazon’s brand new MMO isn’t quite the finished article but then they never are. Will players stick around long enough for the developers to pivot towards and build on what their game does well? Only time will tell. The excitement and novelty of the first, big, new MMO in years won’t last forever. I’m interested to see what remains when the dust settles.
If you want to read more about New World’s end game, or lack of it, check out Fraser Brown’s Review-in-Progress for PC Gamer here. His views on the game generally, chime with mine and, unlike me, he’s reached the level cap. So his thoughts are worth a read.
Should you play it? I would wait for a few more months.
Why… It needs time to iron out the kinks.
But… With a group of friends, there is plenty to enjoy.
Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
Developer/Publisher: Amazon Game Studios/Amazon
Playable on: PC
Released: 28th September 2021
*Our thanks to Amazon Game Studios for providing a review code*