New World's latest update is full of pleasant surprises. Read our Brimstone Sands review to discover them.
Our Spoiler-Free Brimstone Sands Review
For those of you who haven't been religiously following my tumultuous New World love affair, it's followed a similar track to most players'. I played New World in its beta form and was intrigued by its promise. At release, I was infatuated -- starstruck by graphics and a shiny new offering in my genre of choice. Then I fell out of love with it, and fell hard -- frustrated by the developer's lacklustre efforts to fix problems and the studio's lack of courage with big new ideas. In the end, we left it with my ultimatum -- that they'd have to change or they'd lose me forever.
Well, after months of the silent treatment, New World has just slipped into my DMs with a chill, "Hey boo. Brimstone Sands, you in?". And gosh damnit, I am in. Guess I'm just a sucker for an old flame. So, I've booted up New World again preparing to write a spoiler-free Brimstone Sands review, and I'm praying they've taken my words to heart.
Frankly, we'd like to have gotten this Brimstone Sands review to you sooner, but well...
In classic New World style, players were immediately searching for exploits to avoid these queues. The game client kicks you if you're idle. So players reportedly turned on auto-run and just bounced into walls of settlements rather than logging off and having to queue again. I actually tried this but got kicked anyway, so either these rumours are false or Amazon Games have managed to fix a bug in less than a few weeks which would be a promising and surprising sign.
Still, we won't hold player populations against them. Busy servers are a good sign. Be optimistic, Alex, everyone deserves a second chance.
We've broken down this spoiler-free Brimstone Sands review into its four major components: the Greatsword, the new Brimstone Sands region, the Ennead expedition, and Heartgems.
Brimstone Sands Review -- Aeternum's New Badlands
Getting to the sprawling endgame Brimstone Sands region is easy enough, you simply need to finish a faction-specific access-quest (none of which are particularly challenging). Arriving at the gates of Brimstone Sands is an impressive spectacle. It is a huge new area with a promise of great mystery hidden among the vast barren wastes. I really love the design -- it feels like you've stepped into Assassin's Creed Origins. New World is undeniably more traditionally attractive than any other MMORPG excluding BDO.
Colossal bronze statues and ancient ruins punctuate the parched earth. Huge structures blot the horizon from kilometres away. I hear my inner voice long-calling for equestrian mounts shifting to camelid ones during some of the long walks across the region, but there's plenty to look at (and New World mounts are finally confirmed). And it does make the locating of oases satisfying after trekking over endless dry dunes. For it's in these luscious palm-filled canyons where life finds a way to flourish.
It should be no surprise that the life which survives and thrives in the unforgiving Brimstone Sands gets a bit testier than palm trees though. Yep, finally -- new mobs! No more boring reskins. New foes range from little scorpions that can be stomped underfoot to ravaging draconic looking desert lizards and world bosses which only spawn at certain times of day.
While working out the best way to counter these creatures' new fighting mechanics, I realised something: I was having fun.
And it just kept getting better, the PvE quests had depth! No longer did I feel like I was on a conveyor belt of identical shallow quests thrown in to populate the world as an after-thought! There are platforming challenges, there's voice acting, there are cutscenes. Moreover, the quests feel like they have some flow and immersion to them. I was no longer a voyeur in the tale of Aeternum -- but a protagonist*.
*Disclaimer: I haven't played the "rebooted starting experience" so my impression of earlier quests may be tarred by my memories of the game-at-launch.
The Ennead is Brimstone Sands' level 65 expedition (dungeon). It's quick, it's attractive, and it's very challenging. Ennead is named after an Egyptian deity and takes place inside the Pyramid of Akhet -- the huge, capped pyramid with the inverted futuristic pyramid floating on top (see below).
I've enjoyed most of the New World expeditions so far, and Ennead is no exception. Running through it felt like traversing some bizarre alternative version of the temple of Luxor except that all the "ancient aliens" conspiracy theorists were right after all. There are mechanical charging scarabs and other metallic ancient guardians reminiscent of depictions of the gods in the Moon Knight series.
There's some degree of path bifurcation increasing the enjoyability of replays via alternate routes. And while the dungeon is shorter than most in New World, it contains more bosses. There are 4 bosses in total, though only 3 boss fights.
The first of the bosses, Kephri is a great futuristic beast replete with sky lasers, stationary burning stack zones and a jumping slam attack that reminded me of Greundgul's second stage attacks in the Starstone Burrows expedition. My best advice? Keep moving.
The second boss is a Roman legionary whose main challenge is the ability to summon loads of ADDS (enemy reinforcements). And the final boss fight is against a pair of troublesome foes. We want to make sure this is a spoiler-free Brimstone Sands review, so we'll keep this brief but know that you'll need to use distinct strategies on each of them; one boss requires use of the arena to stagger and the other relies on the azoth staff.
This final fight takes a good deal of group cohesion and planning. It's not something you're going to stumble through on your first attempt. And that's a good thing.
New World Greatsword Review
I have been unenthused and unenthusiastic about the new weapons added to New World. But once again, I've found myself begrudgingly impressed by Brimstone Sands. The Greatsword is what you'd hope for, it's a huge weighted two-handed blade. Its standard attacks are slow, powerful, swipes and its heavy attack is a lurching overhead blow.
Its two branches are the aggressive Onslaught and the tanky Defiance. As well as the standard abilities and upgrades, each branch of the Greatsword introduces an automatic stance which can be set to activate following the use of abilities and more depending on your point-spend choices.
I don't normally opt for heavy weapons in RPGs. Previous to the Greatsword, I'd been using the rapier for quick dodges and rapid attacks. Yet I really enjoyed using the Greatsword to duke it out against enemies old and new. It's good fun to manage the timings of blocks and the Calamity Counter -- I found myself fondly reminiscing about Siegfried vs Nightmare Soul Calibre fights.
In a separate post, we've rated each of New World's Greatsword abilities based on Usefulness, Coolness, and Ease-of-Use.
Runeglass, Heartgems, Heartrunes
One of the factors we've been calling for in New World is incentivised exploration. With quests feeling all too repetitive and a complete dearth of secrets and hidden loot, there was very little reason to go out and just explore Aeternum. And that sense of adventure has always been one of the draws of an MMO for me; it's something that indie publishers like Visionary Realms understand to a much better degree that billionaire behemoths like Amazon. Well, we now have at least one incentive -- Heartrunes.
Discovering hidden Heartrunes grants you access to new features, chests, and the ability to craft runeglass. Runeglass is a new crafting component, like a hyper powerful gem. By combining pristine gems with a runeglass case, you can create powerful modifiers thus allowing for greater character customisation depth when added to weapons or armour as attack augments or wards, respectively.
In addition, Heartgem abilities are cool and fairly powerful new additions (we'd argue they could be more powerful). They include "Detonate" "Grasping Vines" "Stoneform" and our two personal favourites "Cannon Blast" (pull out a literal handcannon) and "Dark Ascent" (grow corrupted wings and smash into the ground).
We didn't dive too deep into Runeglass crafting (because our Crafting Skill wasn't strong enough), but here's a comprehensive Runeglass guide:
Final Thoughts on Brimstone Sands:
There is no denying it: Brimstone Sands is a great update. That's not to say it solves all of New Worlds' problems -- it doesn't. There's still a lot to do. Maybe it's partly that nostalgic thrill of giving an ex another chance knowing that history and heartbreak are bound to repeat themselves but, for the first time in a long time, there's hope.
There are signs that Amazon Games is now listening to the community. I enjoyed many of the other changes made to the game in recent months too - the musical instruments are fun, the economy seems more stable, and the quality of life changes are extremely welcome. Brimstone Sands and the Greatsword are both huge wins.
Brimstone Sands is clearly a step in the right direction even if there's a lot more to do. Regardless of issues that still need fixing, for a few evenings, I was reminded why I first fell for the game.