WORLD-WEARY
PC Gamer US Edition|January 2022
NEW WORLD tries to do a lot of things, but stumbles frequently
Fraser Brown
New World feels like it’s been algorithmically designed to ensnare anyone craving a big MMO. It ticks all the boxes and, as a bonus, smartly takes advantage of the seemingly inexhaustible desire for new crafting and survival games. It ensorcells with its many progression systems and has this impressive ability to make chopping down 100 trees at 2am seem like a reasonable, even entertaining, prospect.

This is true of the early days, at least, when everything is new and the island of Aeternum stretches out before you, beckoning you to explore it. But this is a game of diminishing returns that obstinately refuses to evolve, and with the honeymoon period over, I’m looking for an exit.

With its beefy crafting system, open PvP, player-led wars, and dynamic economy, it does so much right on paper, but the reality is a lot less scintillating: hour after hour of running through forests you’ve long grown sick of seeing, facing the same enemies over and over for most of its 60 levels, praying for any kind of novelty to liberate the experience from the doldrums.

IDENTITY CRISIS

Even though so little has changed after hundreds of hours of grinding, I still can’t say I know New World. It is an MMO in desperate need of an identity. There’s a colonial aesthetic and old world pioneers exploring a magical island that looks like a big North American forest, but those themes and ideas aren’t really explored at all. It’s purely cosmetic.

And the PvE quests and quest-givers that normally do the crucial work of fleshing out an MMO setting do nothing of the sort.

New World’s quests are dire. It’s the same handful of mindless objectives and just as few enemy types repeated ad nauseam, with a structure that invites exasperation. Instead of popping into a settlement and grabbing loads of quests for a specific area, you’ll grab a couple, run all the way across the territory to kill ten bison, and then run all the way back. As a reward, you’ll be treated to another quest, sending you back to that area again.

With no mounts and a fast travel system that charges you currency with a fixed cap, you’ll be doing an absurd amount of running around. If Aeternum was the kind of place that inspired exploration, this might be less of a pain in the ass, but these journeys are devoid of interesting diversions. Aeternum is a pretty place, certainly, and for a long time I was happy to slowly saunter through its forests and swamps, admiring the natural world, and the occasional ruin, but there just isn’t much variety.

Combat is in a similar situation, where the choice to use an action-based system instead of rows of hotbars is initially very welcome, but quickly runs out of steam. Things do get a bit more challenging as you approach the endgame, encouraging you to engage with the system more, but for hundreds of hours you’ll see little growth. When you level up you get more points to put into your strength, dexterity and so on, but each weapon type also has an experience bar, as well as two progression trees with three abilities each. You’ll unlock all your weapon abilities very quickly, however, and if you find a pair of weapons you’re comfortable with—I stuck to rapiers and muskets for most of the game—you’re looking at hundreds of hours where you’re just getting the odd passive bonus and not much else.

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