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New World review: A gorgeous mountain with nothing on top

Two players fighting in New World.
New World
MSRP $40.00
“New World brings a lot of excellent MMO twists to the table, but its marred by bugs, stale quests, and a lack of endgame content.”
  • Engaging combat
  • Great customization
  • Useful faction system
  • Enthralling player-driven content
  • Boring narrative
  • Lackluster dungeons
  • Nonexistent endgame
  • Can potentially brick your computer

The best way to describe New World is to call it … a new world. It brings so many interesting and fresh ideas that are pretty simple — and sometimes obvious — to the MMO genre. Veterans and casual players alike will truly have a new experience with this game. However, as is often the case when setting out for uncharted territories, some people will be confused by many aspects of the game and may have a hollow feeling when they get to the top of the mountain.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games used to be the titans of gaming. Back in the days of old, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, and even Everquest were these giant watering holes that players would gather around to experience these virtual worlds together. However, that was then, and now the landscape of gaming is completely different. Coming out with an MMO — a completely new IP as well — during 2021 of the Gregorian calendar is somewhat of a risk. Amazon Games took this as a challenge, and it has genuinely crafted a unique experience with New World.

But what will that experience be like for players? Let’s use that mountain metaphor as the basis of this review and ask ourselves three simple questions. What is it like to start the climb? How is the journey to the top? What do we do when we get to the summit? You can obviously use these questions for practically any piece of media. However, using it as a metaphor for an MMO feels particularly apt as this genre is notorious for requiring a significant amount of time from the players. Is it worth climbing at all? That depends on what you want out of the journey.

The base of the mountain

Entering the world of Aeternum, the landmass where New World takes place, can be as simple as creating a character and hopping in, or it can be as difficult as trying to find a server that isn’t full, won’t crash, and will load all the proper assets and textures.

When I got through the opening cinematics, I found myself in a situation I was familiar with as an MMO player. I saw my character in an unfamiliar location, covered in rags, and with a weapon that is only slightly more effective than a tree branch. The game shifted into something new once I got through the combat tutorial — I soon discovered that this is an action RPG. There are no auto attacks that plague MMOs like World of Warcraft. Every attack must be done deliberately, as does every block, dodge, and spell. This isn’t new in MMOs, but action-style combat with modern sensibilities really freshens up your minute-to-minute gameplay. Grinding feels less like a chore as players will eagerly jump into a mob of enemies to work on damage combos.

Player hunting a bear.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Built-in classes are not featured in this game — instead, playstyle and weapon choice will determine the “class.” This allows a great sense of freedom as players can mix and match weapons to find a playstyle that suits their needs. Enemies in this game also have a variety of resistances that make some weapons less or more effective. This means players should bring a variety of weapons to certain quests and expeditions in order to properly prepare for anything that will come their way.

Grinding feels less like a chore as players will eagerly jump into a mob of enemies to work on damage combos.

When you’re not barreling into enemies, you’ll find yourself out in the vast world that is filled with various resources to collect: Trees, rocks, bushes, berries, and plenty more. These are vital to the crafting system in the game. Outside of quest rewards and expeditions, all gear must be crafted. This adds an extra layer of freedom and customization as players are free to wear what they want.

The combination of the action-styled combat and resource gathering really makes the beginning of the game engaging. The thrilling combat pushed me to try new weapons and attack combos, while the gathering presented a nice cooldown period that let me explore the strange land. It’s the right pace for our hike further up the mountain.

New world, old look

Looking at New World on a graphical level is somewhat of a mixed bag. Aeternum is actually gorgeous and looks incredibly vibrant compared to the empty and dull regions found in World of Warcraft. Forests are filled with trees and other dense flora while plains feel open and majestic. Spending time in the world is truly a treat and made me excited to see what I could find, even if it was just a nice little pond to fish in.

However, this magic fades away once you enter a settlement and start to interact with NPCs and other players. The human models in New World just don’t look terribly good. They are not some eldritch horrors masquerading in humanoid meat sacks; they’re just uninspired. Even the character creation options are not that expansive, and I couldn’t find a combination that I was particularly happy about.

The gear doesn’t make it much better, either. Many times, the armor or clothing looks cluttered and mashed together, making even the more flamboyant options feel messy. I truly cannot believe I am going to say this, but New World made me appreciate World of Warcraft’s choice of style. Even though much of the shoulder armor in World of Warcraft is unsightly, it at least creates a stark and interesting silhouette.

Worn mountain trails

After coming down from the high of the beginning of the game, New World levels out and settles into its basic loop. RPG fans will know this song well: Go to a town, get quests, do quests, get rewards, then travel to the next town. Unfortunately, this song got old over 15 years ago when World of Warcraft was doing the same thing. The quests are structured as the rote kill X, collect Y, and go to Z. You do these mindlessly, as the narrative surrounding them is not particularly interesting.

The main story isn’t really engaging, and frankly, I was spamming through dialogue very early in my playthrough — something I rarely ever do. I try my hardest to buy into the narrative of any game I play, but there really isn’t anything to latch onto here. A newly discovered landmass is filled with a strange magic that corrupts everything it interacts with. There are no notable twists on these tired tropes, and the game doesn’t have anything particularly profound to say.

Two players grouping together.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Expeditions, the dungeons of New World, also fall into this pit. Dungeons are meant for a group of players, usually three to five, to party up and fulfill specific roles to take down specific challenges, which usually ends up just being a tough boss at the end. They can be good to break up the normal questing as you fight something a little more challenging with the promise of better loot. That said, there is little that expeditions do to distinguish themselves from normal quests. All of the enemies in expeditions can be easily found throughout Aeternum, and they fight exactly the same. There isn’t anything dynamic to change them up — they are just mobs to burn down. Bosses are slightly harder and have some specific mechanics, but nothing really noteworthy to make them a memorable experience.

There are no notable twists on these tired tropes and the game doesn’t have anything particularly profound to say.

Fortunately for New World, it’s saved by the dynamic aspects of how players can change the world. Settlements, or towns, are not just a bunch of buildings and quest givers. They are controlled by the game’s faction mechanics. The Mauraders, the Syndicate, and the Covenant are all vying for control of Aeternum and for the loyalty of the players. Each territory is controlled by one of these factions and players can reap benefits by being part of the faction that is in control. Fast travel might be cheaper to use in your controlled territory or the taxes at the trading post might be less costly. There are actual impactful benefits to your game if you are in a territory that your faction controls.

New World even takes this a step further by allowing companies, or guilds, to have governing control of the territory. The governing company can establish the tax rate of the settlements found in the territory and can fill its pockets with that wealth. This incentivizes players to interact with their factions and companies, and it also encourages them to go to war with the other two factions.

New World players in War mode.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Territory control is not set in stone; players from other factions can disrupt the influence of the controlling faction until the land is primed for war. Waging war allows two companies to challenge each other for control of a territory in a 50-versus-50 PvP mode where the attackers must siege a fort while the defenders must protect it for a certain amount of time. These battles determine what faction controls the area and what company will govern it.

Beware the bugs

I would be remiss to not mention the plethora of technical challenges that New World seems to be infested with. I didn’t experience anything game- or computer-breaking in my playthrough, but there is a “buyer beware” warning needed here. There are plenty of people who run into many technical issues in the game. These range from game crashes and textures not loading to the apocalyptic damage to the power source of your computer. The infamous bricking seems to have lessened in frequency from the beta, but this is still something you need to consider when playing this game.

Even the gorgeous landscapes can be destroyed by poor frame rates, something that can vary depending on where you are. Again, besides an occasional frame hiccup, I personally did not experience any bugs that ruined my playtime. I am not alone in this, and we are perhaps the majority, but understand the risk that your computer may not be up to the task of running this game. These issues can obviously be solved with some patches, but after the Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco, where there are bugs that are still not fixed, you should be aware of the game that you are buying now instead of the game that it will be eventually.

Finally at the summit

Currently, New World’s level cap is 60, and by that time, you will have seen everything that the game has to offer. And I mean literally, because there really isn’t an endgame to speak of. There are no raids or special content that opens up to maxed-out players. You will be at the peak of the mountain and the only thing you will be able to see is what’s beneath you.

New World players in combat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So what do you do once you reach the top? You can complete quests in territories you haven’t traveled to, level up different weapons, or craft the gear that you have been putting off. These don’t feel like endgame activities — and they’re technically not. Much like the theme that keeps popping up in New World, the end game is the freedom to do what you want.

In other MMOs like World of Warcraft, the endgame is just a giant list of things to do. Players need to have a proper gear score, there are raids to run, you professions can be maxed out. New World doesn’t have that list of chores. Instead, players can just do what they want to do. Granted, many of these things will not feel satisfying compared to downing Ragnaros in Molten Core.

The real gem inside this clam is the conflict between factions and the interactions you have with other players.

My solution to this issue is to focus on player-driven content.  The player-driven content is the true backbone to New World, and it can really engage players. There isn’t really a way to avoid that content, either, as there are no NPC shops in this game. The entire marketplace is completely player-driven, similar to the auction house found in World of Warcraft. Investing yourself in the politics of the factions and creating a community within your company is what New World wants you to do.

Relying so much on players creating their own conflict or, more realistically, their own content is risky. However, there is enough here in New World that, with the right mindset, you can truly invest yourself into something rewarding and fun.

Our take

New World’s combat and crafting system breathes new life into the MMO genre and makes playing the first couple of hours incredibly enjoyable. However, with a dry narrative and boring content, it can feel bland the longer you play. The real gem inside this clam is the conflict between factions and the interactions you have with other players. This game is not for everyone, not even for many MMO veterans. If the idea of player-run settlements and massive PvP battles that decide the fate of the territories interest you, then this is the game for you.

Is there a better alternative?

Each MMO offers something unique and, in New World’s case, something very specific. Final Fantasy XIV has a stronger narrative, while World of Warcraft is overflowing with things to do. However, if large-scale PvP battles and player politics interest you, then this might be the MMO for you.

How long will it last?

It will probably take you about 40 hours to complete the main quest line and a little more to max out your character level. After that, it is up to you how long you wish to play it. MMOs have the tendency to have longer playtime than you expect.

Should I buy it?

Yes. If the factions, war, and player-driven economy interest you, then you’ll love what’s happening here. If that sounds daunting to you and you want an MMO with more curated content, then I would suggest something else.

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Andrew Zucosky
Andrew has been playing video games since he was a small boy, and he finally got good at them like a week ago. He has been in…
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