22 Oct 2021 5:05 PM +00:00 UTC

New World Review - Setting Sail in Troubled Waters

The logo for New World.

It’s a strange time for MMORPG players . World of Warcraft, the genre's previous titan and erstwhile standard by which all new MMOs were judged, is in a bit of a slump - at least, in the eyes of many fans. This has allowed competitors to make a name for themselves, and New World is no exception.

Amazon’s third attempt at making waves in the video game industry has been in the hands of eager MMO players, including myself, for a few weeks now. How well this effort holds up depends on what you want from it, as New World is an uneven experience unless you're only in it for the PvP.

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Coming Out Guns Blazing

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The first impression New World sets is exceptional. You’re thrust right into the action following a short introduction to the island of Aeternum. This action and the combat system that makes up the core of New World’s gameplay is the MMO's best quality.

New World pulls away from the typical combat of its peers, opting for an action-based approach instead. You're swinging around basic attacks and special abilities freely, which leads to a welcome emphasis on spacing, movement. and planning around cooldown timers.

There’s a lot of space to experiment and find your own favourite approach to fighting. New World has 12 weapon options, each with their own distinct combat style that drastically affects how your adventure unfolds. I fell in love with the War Hammer in particular, with its wide swings and long, heavy attacks that provide a sense of weight that's always present in the best action games.

A player aiming their musket at a charging enemy.
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Leveling Listlessness

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It’s a good thing the action is so engaging, as the leveling experience through the game is often middling at the best of times. There’s a lack of diversity in quest objectives that really drags out the journey to max level. You go to an area, be it a pirate ship or an ancient ruin, and kill a set amount of enemies while picking up items while you’re there.

In fairness, this is not a fault unique to New World. Leveling in even the best MMORPGs can be dire at times, but there’s a deeper problem that makes the lack of diversity in questing more noticeable: the story.

You arrive at the Island of Aeternum, a mysterious land from whence no one has ever returned, in a shipwreck and must help other stranded people survive while discovering the secret behind the corruption and nefarious powers all around you.

That’s all well and good, but without characters that leave any kind of impression or seeing drastic consequences from your work, it doesn’t feel like you’re making much of a mark on the world. You’re just killing rabbits and gathering ragged cloaks from soulless buccaneers so some guy can make a hammock - not really the epic tale of discovery I was hyped for.

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Professional Power

Whenever questing left me unfulfilled, trade skills were just the thing to get my head back into the game. There's a staggering variety of skills you can, and should, work on , split into gathering, processing, and crafting skills that often weave into each other. I found a lot of enjoyment from gathering in particular, exploring through the many regions of Aeternum in search of rarer resources I could refine into valuable assets.

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It reminds me most of games like RuneScape in terms of the relevance and importance non-combat skills have across all forms of gameplay.

I was surprised you have to craft special items in order to complete a variety of PvE content, such as using a special staff to close the Corrupted Rifts that spawn randomly across the world. even Expeditions, New World’s version of the traditional MMORPG dungeon, requires a crafted item called a tuning orb to enter.

PvP players don’t escape this either. Gathering plays a crucial part of Outpost Rush, the end-game game mode that pits 20 player teams against each other. It’s clear that the creators of New World didn’t want crafters and traders to be just the weird folk who make potions and food ahead of a raid night with the lads. They wanted them to act as a cornerstone to the whole experience, and I love that.

A player fishing in a small lake, by a small pier.
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Fun With Factions

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With how good the combat is, it’s no wonder that the most enjoyment I’ve gotten out of New World is the PvP. In my eyes, it's far better than New World's current PvE experience, thanks in large part to the faction system.

You can pick between the Marauders, Syndicate, and Covenant, but once you pick, you’re locked in for 120 days and are stuck repping the colours of your chosen team.

This affects open world PvP, as you’d assume, but New World also comes with a territory control system that allows players from the different factions to fight over ownership of the regions of Aeternum. Once a faction owns a region, players in that faction get buffs and a company of players can manage the settlement there.

If you've played games like Guild Wars 2 or Planetside 2, you already know this, but fighting over territory in MMOs is an incredible source of fun. Seeing my company lay out plans to take over a region, contributing my own time and money, and seeing us claim a chunk of the world as our own really helps raise the stakes and makes it feel like what you're doing matters. It also adds a powerful faction dynamic to every server, with each having their own epic war stories.

The New World faction mission board, with lots of missions available.
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The Verdict: Is New World Good?

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With all that said, Is New World good? It depends on what you want.

For those with a taste for PvP battles, Amazon's MMO seems like a safe bet. You'll still be biting at each other's ankles long after you've hit max level. There's also value for those who want a game to find some new friends in, maybe while they’re cutting down a few trees or fishing by the coast.

The crowd who’ll be left out in the cold with New World are those looking for a rich narrative adventure akin to your typical MMO. That’s not really here right now, and it's unclear what plans Amazon has in store for it. Maybe in the future, with ongoing updates, New World can evolve into something truly special.

Score 3.5/5

The publisher provided the PC copy of New World used for this review