After a week on the island of Aeternum, we've seen enough of Amazon Game Studios' MMO to tell you about it.
Last year I visited the fictional island of Aeternum as part of an early playtest, to explore the world of the Depraved for the first time and became acquainted with the characteristics of New World. Thanks to the game's PvP-centred nature, the MMO already managed to convince some of its players, but at the same time the demand for PvE content increased, which was one of the reasons why Amazon Game Studios had to delay the game for a whole year. We were able to sink a good amount of hours into the game's contents, so let's find out what kind of game New World ultimately became.
The players get stranded on the mysterious island of Aeternum and then pursue the basic goals of every MMO: You have to hone your craftsmanship skills, fight your way through plenty of dungeons, defeat countless increasingly more challenging opponents along the way and make yourself a living with a character that looks very stylish thanks to the equipment you'll find on your journeys. In New World, exploration is rewarded with a substance called Azoth, which allows you to fast travel quickly and refine your items (among other things). This resource gives the island its magical properties and ensures that the dead won't stay dead, but getting resurrected instead - often in the form of hideous monsters. We encounter different types of opponents with an equally large arsenal of weapons, and that can only be surpassed by the amount of craftsmanship skills in terms of scope.
The craftsmanship is divided into the several categories of Manufacturing (Armoring, Cooking, Jewelcrafting), Refining (Smeltering, Leatherworking, Weaving) and Collecting (Woodworking, Harvesting, Fishing). This creates a total of 17 different skills that have to be levelled up well beyond level 100 in order to be able to access all resources and game contents. The game's weaponry offers a total of eleven different weapons and is supported by a classless system. That means that you can switch between different weapons types freely and don't have to commit yourself to anything. Rather unconventional weapons, such as muskets, axes or spears, are among my personal favourites, but regardless of whether it is a musket or fire staff, the action-heavy gameplay always feels powerful thanks to the game's audio-visual presentation. The fighting style of any given weapon can be further adjusted with two available skill trees that are unique to each weapon type but have to be levelled individually.
As an RPG fan and a rather casual MMO player, I was particularly attracted by the universe, the colonial setting, and the magnificent design of the New World. However, most of the game's themes are nothing more than an explanation as to why certain things work the way they do. The Azoth element for example is the reason why players and monsters are getting resurrected. The dangers of Aeternum and the almost deserted world are only a narrative solution to give the player-driven economy its own place. Ultimately, the narrative became one of the more uninteresting factors of New World. Quests that are designed like standardised errands, with a few exceptions, again underline that point.
Nevertheless, these missions do offer an incentive to explore the many places on the island. Especially at the beginning of your journey, these tasks are designed as an interactive guide that explains the various PvE and PvP elements to the players. Choosing your faction - the most important decision for all those, who want to enjoy themselves in the PvP activities - takes place via one of the first quests you receive. You can choose between the Syndicate, the Marauders, and the Alliance who are in perpetual conflict over Aeternum as they argue over how they should use the Azoth.
One level below the factions you will find the guild system, which allows players within their chosen faction to create or join different groups of people. Each area will sooner or later be taken over by a faction (and an associated guild) after they conquered that area. The guild leaders rule over a local area and it is their task to upgrade the crafting tables, to set the level of taxes for both their own party and the enemy factions, as well as to ensure that the influence of the other factions remain within a certain level in said area. If a faction gains too much influence in an opposing territory, a War will start. The outcome of this PvP-based 50v50 battle determines whether the area remains in the guild's possession or whether a hostile takeover takes place.
Even as a single player without the backing of a guild, a certain team spirit is quickly awakened by these systems. You will be encouraged to do plenty of quests in hostile areas, in order to ultimately start a War (and thus the takeover). In addition to ruling the market on which items are offered and sold by the players, Amazon is giving the communities additional power over the world of New World with the area control, too. However, this also means that ultimately the guilds and their leaders determine which players get the chance to access one of the greatest features - the 50v50 Wars.
That's a rather daring approach for the player base, since it can quickly lead to players outside of the guilds in question being left out. When personal relationships set the tone, casual players might not get what they were looking for in New World. When my faction, the Syndicate, started a War against the Marauders on the weekend, I immediately registered for it and continued to hone my skills with spear, axe and musket for the next few hours. In the end I was unfortunately not called in and the second attempt was ruined by an eternally long server queue.
Even if you can't participate in these activities, you will still find a few things to do. I for example love the incentive to build my own place in a player-driven society. I would never have thought that mining and recycling raw materials for several hours in a row could be so much fun, not even after hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Quite a few days went by in a flash when fishing, collecting regional plants or crafting furniture for your own four walls. You can buy a place of your own in all socialised areas of the game if you are interested in something like this.
So far, my time with New World has been without major bugs and performance drops, but the waiting queues of up to three hours to get on the server at all is still a problem even a week after the release. In addition to the 50v50 Wars, Expeditions (New Worlds variant of PvE dungeons) and Outpost Rush (a mode in which two teams of 20 players fight over controlling fortresses and valuable resources) offer some variety. Then there are Invasions, the PvE version of factional warfare, in which an area is overrun by the Corrupted and must be defended. You see, New World's range of PvP and PvE content is quite substantial.
Even if modes like Outpost Rush or Invasions comes with high level requirements that demand a lot of preparatory work and grind from the players, these activities offer long-term motivation that hopefully will cover most of the players' preferences. So far, I've had a lot of fun developing my crafting skills and getting hold of stylish clothes found in Expeditions. Soon I will be able to compete against the highest-ranking opponents that Aeternum has to offer, too, but for now I am enjoying myself in own little house in Monarch's Bluffs, planning my routes to collect as much iron as possible for the furniture I wanted to make.
I am curious to see which updates Amazon Game Studios is preparing for the players' future and whether or not they take the feedback from their community into account. In the long run New World could easily drift into troublesome areas thanks to its strong focus on grind and guild-led Wars but that's not the case right now. Amazon Game Studios starts with New World on solid foundations that offer a lot of stability, but is not entirely without flaws. In the end, the development studio kept its promise and expanded the game in a meaningful way, with both PvP elements and PvE activities, such as crafting, the Expeditions and the Housing system. Additionally, they created one of the most beautiful MMO environments out there which is beautiful to look at. The soundscape as well as the visual effects make every area a spectacle of its own, too. With New World's final release, I didn't get the MMO I was expecting, but my journey through Aeternum is still far from over.
8 / 10
Even the unusual weapons have a solid feel to them. Craftsmanship skills motivate despite their strong grinding. Good selection of PvE and PvP contents.
Long queues times thanks to overloaded game servers. Guild-controlled Wars might support personal favours and nepotism (there is a risk of excluding certain groups of players).