The brand new, conveniently timed MMO is finally here, and while I don’t have a shortage of things to say about the game, there are a few things I’m leaving off the table for sake of simplicity. I’m not going to say that New World is a bad game. I’m not going to say that New World doesn’t have something to offer new players. I’m definitely not going to say that New World doesn’t have anything to offer veteran players, either, since I will likely never find out for myself if that’s the case. I’m not going to give definitive opinions such as those because I ultimately feel as though New World can appeal to anyone who can craft their own stories and enjoy a little grinding into the game’s higher tiers of wealth and power. That is to say, I think the game fails at what it’s trying to do, but I also think other people are going to disagree very harshly, and that’s fine.
What I will say is that, despite the game’s best intentions and moderate charm, New World tries very, very hard to be a decent game, and most of the time struggles to grasp at the edges of the cliff of mediocrity. Make no mistake, the difference between New World being a decent game and New World being absolute trash is a thin, thin line. And the fall below is quite steep.
The Gameplay Mechanics and Story Progression
I wrote an article about Ark: Survival Evolved last year. In this article, I discussed the sloppy nature of Ark’s combat and how the poorly designed nature of it was carried into tolerable-hood thanks to the charm and strengths the rest of the game had. Well, New World is like that, but in reverse.
New World offers players a combat system that is actually fairly well polished. In fact, for an MMO with thousands of players running around at one time, the combat is as fluid as I’ve ever seen. It’s a marvel to see other players shooting, dueling, and dodging against others in PvE and PvP combat alike, all while being able to participate yourself and not have the experience be buggy and gross.
Like I said, the combat is smooth. Projectiles find their home and have weight upon hitting an opponent, strikes with melee weapons tag enemies as though you were actually smacking them instead of just registering hits via pillow fight. Dodging is effective and an integral part of PvP and PvE combat, of which there is a ton. Its good. Great, in some ways. The exact opposite of Ark, which has mostly bad combat which is barely passable.
And in keeping with being the opposite of Ark, New World has no other redeeming qualities. In Ark, players deal with the buggy combat because the rest of the game has a myriad of highly attractive qualities that make engaging in combat worthwhile. But New World offers nothing of comparable value even in its core design.
The story is bland and feels like an excuse to have factions just exist for the sake of their role in PvP, the weapon and armor upgrades might as well be imported straight from WoW, and the same can be said about the crafting system. The writing is downright cringe worthy at times, the voice acting is about on par with Sea of Thieves, and the quests… OhhhhhHHH fuck me, the quests!
How many iterations of MMO’s do we need to go through before developers realize that fetch quests marked with way points and needless exposition for story development is not what players want to spend their time on?
The formula is simple; make a very small number of very well developed, written, and voice acted (optional if you’re clientele is above the age of 8) quests to move the story along when needed, and scale the rest of the open world to be the source of EXP players use to progress forward in their characters. Let playing your game be its own reward. Take a look at Runescape’s method of questing. Everyone who doesn’t play Runescape thinks Runescape is a joke of an MMO, and yet none of them would even argue that it doesn’t have the best quest system in the history of MMO’s.
Almost every quest in RS3 / OSRS is well written, witty, and charming. Even in Oldschool Runescape, where people just use a quest guide and blaze through the story, can attest to the quality of the writing that they choose to skip over. The Runescape quests, once finished, can never be completed again (unless you feel like speedrunning it, in some cases), and unlock not just some EXP, but new area’s of the map, items, training methods, and more story.
Players use the new items and new map areas to level their character, and in Runescape, their character is THE story of the game. Everything else is a minor event happening at random chance, and everyone else is a minor character in their story. That’s the strategy Runescape has used to create narratives surrounding their players’ characters, and its the best in the business. WoW took the “faction” narratives that New World is trying to “borrow” from and dressed it up with community. Guilds were an integral extension to the “Horde vs Alliance” narrative that dictated everything from classes and races to starting areas for players. Talking to other people and grouping up was integral to the leveling experience, which meant that even though you were following one fetch quest after another, you still felt like you were part of something bigger which helped to push the gameplay forward in a fun way, in terms of narrative. Not to mention the fact that each class was unique to another class and could only function in certain ways. Warriors were objectively better at tanking than mages, for example.
All of these design choices from other games have their issues, but the bottom line is that they are miles better than what New World has to offer. New World has the same terrible fetch quests that WoW has, but with none of the unique gameplay WoW offered with its class system and 3rd person mechanics and single-enemy targeting system which makes combat clear and accurate. Not to mention the faction / guild system in WoW, even from day 1, was just miles better than New World’s.
New World has decent mechanics surrounding its combat system, as I’ve mentioned, but has nothing in the entire world its created worth going out for. All of the money and EXP, which can be earned naturally in the aforementioned Runescape, is going to be earned via questing in New World. You can find ore deposits and valuable gathering supplies that spawn in niche areas of the map, but ultimately nothing is going to be more valuable than busting out as many copy / paste quests as you can while simultaneously farming supplies that you happen to find along the laid out path for your character as you move from one way point to another.
Grab every quest you can in the city your in, follow all way points to satisfy your quest objective while occasionally mining for ore that’s along your path or gathering some plants, return to quest giver to get EXP / gold reward and get another set of quests. Repeat. That’s the whole game for 90% of players.
For the other 10% of players, that is the whole game, but with some extras thrown in. This top 10% gets rewarded for playing all day everyday by being able to own cities within the game using their company, which is the “guild” mechanic from WoW, but New World-ish. These companies can set tax rates in their respective cities and reap the rewards for it. These same players are often high leveled and have a large group of players to play with, which means they can enable PvP and run with groups of 10 or more and delete anyone unfortunate enough to try completing a PvP faction quest alone. They can also lead wars towards other cities for their faction / company and try to grab more land, of which there is not much, with only 14 territories between 2000+ players.
To be completely fair, the novel idea of players owning territories like this is cool, but its been implemented in a way that only makes it a point of interest for the hardcore players with large companies. And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with such massive content being aimed at high-tiered players, but when everything else that New World has to offer is so bland in comparison, can I really justify the hundreds of hours of dedicated grinding it will take to experience that kind gameplay?
No, I absolutely cannot. New World, I believe, is hanging on by a thin lifeline at the moment. That lifeline, as so many other would-be MMO’s have learned, is the rush of a temporarily large player base. You feel encouraged to play it because other people are playing it, but if you took that player base away tomorrow, would anyone in their right mind would want to play the game solo?
Despite all of WoW’s problems (I’m not even getting into Blizzard’s problems today), you can play the game solo if not but for the experience of learning all of the different races, classes, and professions the game has to offer. If OSRS or RS shut their servers down, but released the game files to be played through single player, you could absolutely enjoy it for years to come with no one else their to play with. Hell, that’s a whole game mode, btw.
But if someone tells you they could play New World by themselves without the community behind it to pull the game’s ‘new’ energy up, they either have zero clue what other MMO’s have to offer or they are lying to you.
I Digress in This Next Part
But I digress, because I need to wrap this article up. The combat is very fluid and a case study for how to do target-less combat right in an MMO. It’s also lacks depth, isn’t unique from player to player, and somehow feels like a worse Sea of Thieves combat system despite its fluidity. Maybe that’s because of the nature of an MMO and how combat should feel, but make of that what you will.
The questing is poor. It’s just poor. Poor writing, poor creativity, poor. It’s poor. And I am $40 poorer because of it.
The crafting is fine, but its also ripped straight off from WoW so that’s to be expected. There’s nothing innovative about the crafting system. The items used in crafting are entering the game at too fast a rate, and I imagine this is going to cause some horrific issues in the game’s economies across all servers, if players decide to stick around for that long, which I don’t think they will. The crafting system is poor, alright?
The story is boring. I don’t know what the story is, I don’t care. The developers don’t care. There is a team of writers who probably have a lot of talent who are being shafted by the game designers because nobody wants to sit and pay attention to the story to figure out just what’s happening because the payoff will never be worth it, because the game isn’t worth it. The story is an excuse for Factions to exist (did I mention the faction’s “identities” are trash, yet?)
The faction’s “identities” are trash. Poorly written and unimaginative . You’ve got the science nerds, the magic religious zealots, and the warrior jock dumbasses who look like vikings on T.V., ya dig? There might have been one other faction in there, but I can’t remember, for obvious reasons. The factions are poor and have next to no effect on how you play the game or how your character progresses.
The Map design is actually not bad. I like the long distances between cities and towns that make your journey on quests feel like an actual journey. The issues is that you can’t actually just enjoy the world for what it is because you’re constantly back tracking to go return your dumbass quest so that you can level up to get more quests and it goes on, and on, and on. Awful gameplay loop. And because of that, the map design suffers and goes from “not bad” to “actually kind of trash.” Poor.
Now, look. I said I wouldn’t call this game bad, and I haven’t. There are aspects of it that are good which I have yet to mention which help to redeem it, and aspects that are at least “neat” which really don’t change the core issues the game suffers from to be worth talking about. For instance, there are random in-game events that spawn powerful NPC’s for your and your friends to take down. Ain’t that something? Ain’t that just something in the face of every other problem the game suffers from?
Here’s another radical bite to enjoy from the New World soggy pizza: me and my friend tried playing together and were met with the surprise that we couldn’t choose our starting areas, which meant we had to spend over two hours of gameplay, gameplay we didn’t know we were committing to for coop, before the game took some of its strict leash off and let us play together. That’s pretty cool, right? Hey, I don’t value my own time, why should New World? Just tell me where to go and I’ll do it, I’m a dog! Really, I spent $40 on this game, I AM a dog.
And lest I forget, I should mention how cool it was when I hit level 20 and finally quit the game. That’s a pretty cool part of the experience, I feel. It was a bit like being sick, only to wake up and find a new appreciation for not feeling like death. If you disagree with me on any of this, try pulling the plug on your computer and taking a 15 minute walk outside in the Old World to think about how you define what a “good” game is and then you’ll thank me for yanking you out of the Matrix hell that is New World.
I want MMO’s to be revived in a grand way that only a new IP can do, but New World is not the title that’s going to do it. Time to move on, comrades and friends.