This New World 2022 review pulls no punches. New World devs, you're going to want to read this sitting down.
New World Review 2022 – The Not So Brave New World
When New World launched last year, the MMO fanfare across the world was loud and raucous. I structured my own New World review as a love letter to the game, asking whether it was the new MMORPG that I've been searching for throughout all these lonely years. Well, now it's mid-2022 and the honeymoon period is well and truly over.
Heartbroken and single once more, it's time to ask where did it all go wrong? In this New World Review 2022, we'll be exploring what the Amazon Games MMO got right, and what it absolutely did not. We present the case for three huge issues that seem to seal its fate:
- An Absence of Vision
- Glitches and Responses
- The PvE Elephant in the Room
The Rise and Fall of New World
Even before launch, New World was surpassing expectations. Its open beta featured in the most played games list on Steam which is in and of itself a remarkable achievement. Launch week issues of server queues and initial glitches hampered some, but with a million players on Day One, we couldn't begrudge them for busy servers.
Many gamers were caught up in the excitement of this new, shiny, populated, and seemingly polished MMORPG. And I was one of them. As pioneers reached new towns, the faction warfare and city-management element felt full of potential. Tropical villages and haunted gothic towns were expanding by the day as the devs desperately opened new servers to try to meet demand.
Little did we know that those bugs were a sign of what was to come. Like sailors on their way to Aeternum, we failed to heed the omens. Just twelve months later, those bustling villages and towns would fall to disrepair and abandonment, while the devs would be focussing on closing servers as their populations fell to single digits.
Mechanics seemingly as hollow as the bones of the undead sailors on its shores and your destiny all but written.
New World's Early Game to End Game Journey
The earliest days of playing New World are exciting. The continent is vast and mysterious. The weaponry is novel and easy to learn, and the world seems full of danger and potential. With a plethora of crafting and combat routes ahead of you, the idea of discovering your place in the world is intriguing.
By around Level 20, the core mechanics of the game begin to lose their mystery. Quests start feeling repetitive, and the grind becomes all too real. Factions seem arbitrary, you spend a lot of time running, and you learn that there is little point in pure exploration.
Then, at around Level 30, you unlock the Azoth staff and once more there are new activities to do, new evils to conquer, and a new tool with which to counter corruption. The game gets more exciting, or so you think. By the time you've reached Level 40, the magic has once again been replaced by method. The repetitive gameplay loops are unavoidable; you can visualise your entire journey to the endgame – from the items you'll have to craft over and over to the enemies you'll have to slay over and over.
With the mechanics seemingly as hollow as the bones of the undead sailors on its shores and your destiny all but written, it becomes increasingly difficult to get invested in the game. The endgame, sadly, offers no surprises either. There are a few fun new game modes unlocked for your troubles, and the PvP is at its best, but other than that, it's all just the same. Crafting, combat, missions, all of it a cloned copy of your early game experience with shinier armour and higher-level enemies.
Today, servers are in a death spiral. Once a crack appears in one a mass player exodus begins. Players find themselves using up their free server transfers and then find themselves being stuck in a server depopulating faster than a post-fart elevator.
What New World Does Get Right
If you weren't able to tell from the title, this is not a positive review. But that doesn't mean that they got it all wrong.
The New World graphics are stunning. I haven't played an MMORPG that can rival New World's beauty aside from Black Desert Online. When you see the sunlight flicker off gold-plated muskets underneath a shipwreck wedged in a waterfall, it's not difficult to imagine just why we all got so excited. Still, with Unreal Engine 5 about to transform MMORPG graphics forever, that won't count for much for long.
New World's setting is also exciting. The age of gunpowder and exploration is an exhilarating and iconic one for many who grew up in the West. Though it should be noted that the choice treads dangerously close to a romanticised and outdated exoticism.
Still, the two combine for a unique aesthetic which is made all the more atmospheric thanks to an excellent musical score.
In addition, the user interfaces are intuitive, simple, and polished. Crafting, while eventually repetitive, is at first very engaging and enjoyable, with nice animations and minimal barriers to entry.
Where Did New World Go Wrong?
There are many criticisms you can make of New World, from the unexceptional endgame content to the fact it didn't really add anything new to the genre. Still, having ploughed many hours into the game and following its journey carefully, we believe we have discovered the three fundamental reasons for New World's ongoing descent into insignificance.
1. Did New World Play it Too Safe?
While my previous New World review was glowing, it spelled out various areas that the devs would need to work on. It concluded that while New World had great foundations, for it to move from casual lover to soulmate, the developers would need to be brave.
They would have to transform Aeternum into a living world full of mystery and secrets that begged to be explored. A game that, a la Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, rewards players for curiosity. It would have to reimagine the MMORPG for today's world with new quest types, more dynamic enemies, and less of the traditional grind.
Did they do it? Did they hell! Instead, we have an island whose lifelessness is all too apparent thanks to the empty servers. We have predictable releases of new weapons and skills. Instead of dynamic new content, we have updates that made the game even more grindy and quests that are painfully repetitive. The big transformative update? 3v3 PvP. It's all just MMO by numbers. Hey Amazon Games, where's all the madness of Lost Ark?
For a game full of sorcery, New World really lacks magic.
2. Twas It Glitches What Killed The Beast?
You knew we were going to talk glitches. New World has had approximately 20 billion of them. There have been various invulnerability glitches wherein you can never die if you drag Windows or crouch heal. There is clipping galore, even on expensive skins. There have been auction house glitches that meant players weren't paid for their sales if they were offline. There have been HTML-based pranks wherein players troll the Global Chat with giant sausages and game-crashing code.
Then there are the glitches that actually enhanced the game. For example, when players worked-out they could glide at crazy speeds around the map, they were just grateful they could get around. Similarly, when players exposed a great-axe bug that made the weapon super-overpowered, it just balanced the odds against the pre-existing super-powered hatchet glitch. The two glitches led into some genuinely epic hyper-hatchet vs greatest-axe PvP showdowns.
Now, to be fair, there is a good portion of any MMORPG community who is only there to work out how they can screw with a game and undermine it. So, the devs can be forgiven for some of these glitches, but can they be forgiven for the way they dealt with them?
Since the very beginning, Amazon Games have seemingly been less-than honest on topics like whether their servers are client-side authoritative and whether they have bots auto-banning people. The latter was instantly disproved by Reddit who worked out they could just auto-eliminate the generals of opposing factions, pre-skirmish, by mass reporting them.
After a series of coin duplication glitches led to rampant deflation, the devs intervened heavy-handedly, and rampant inflation followed. There have been server rollbacks, ridiculously over-generous paybacks for missing coins, and enough economic missteps to make Rishi Sunak blush.
And to make things worse, when a glitch was found, it spread like wildfire. Even the honest well-meaning players (who wouldn't go straight to Reddit) would accidentally spread it via New World's official bug-reporting system – which, for reasons that will forever be a mystery, was entirely public. It essentially became a step-by-step guidebook for how to cheat at the game.
By now, you can barely blame players for cheating. What else are they going to do when you design a game that a nine-year-old could cheat on and then make it grindier than a sausage factory.
3. The PvElephant in the Room
You could argue, however, that it's not fair to blame it on the developers. That much like the game's character progression, the game's fate was already written. Instead of the devs then, the game's downfall lies at the feet of some pre-release focus group. New World had a vision once, a vision for a hardcore full-loot PvP game.
At some point following early testing, this vision was abandoned. You can almost picture it, "Our charts show that gamers don't want that." says some Amazon exec in a suit while the development team quietly sobs in the corner, their vision in pieces.
And so, Amazon Games chickened out, made PvP opt-in, and switched the entire nature of the game to a more PvE focus. Opt-in PvP was the worst of all solutions, RuneScape figured out the compromise 20-years-ago…PvP zones.
And, of course, it was far too late to fundamentally shift to a PvE focus. The PvE in New World is frankly pretty awful. Combat is slow and undynamic, enemies are all far too similar to one another, and every enemy's combat style is hit-stagger-repeat.
Look, we get it. We raised the exact same fears about hardcore full-loot PvP not having mass appeal with Henrik Nystrom, CEO of "the most hardcore MMO" Mortal Online 2. And hey, maybe the focus group was right, players weren't asking for hardcore PvP, but perhaps a studio with the financial backing of mega-corporation Amazon could have made a game good enough to create that demand.
What would be the worst that could happen? They lose nine tenths of their players and get blasted by brutal 2,000 word reviews… oh wait.
My last review was a love story, but it looks like we're breaking up. You broke my heart, New World. Ashes of Creation, hit me up baby, let's talk.
New World is in deep, deep trouble. They have less players than in their beta. And they need to make some radical changes. You won't be surprised to hear that we have some strong opinions on what those changes should be. Stay tuned to MMO Games to find out what they are.
With thanks to the excellent content creator Josh Strife Hayes whose content was helpful in the creation of this piece.