New World, Vanilla Experience
It isn’t every day a brand new Western-developed AAA MMO lands on the scene. The last one, I think, was WildStar and that was released in 2014. Not that I have anything against Eastern-developed releases- I’m still bitterly disappointed that Lost Ark isn’t landing in NZ and Aus and Black Desert Online might be my favourite MMO for many years in either direction of its launch.
New World hasn’t done anything to dislodge BDO from that position either. In fact- if it wasn’t for just how rare a Western-developed MMO release is I’d go so far as to say there would be nothing special about New World at all.
Which, I hasten to add, is not to say it’s bad.
I quite enjoy learn-by-doing RPG systems and such a system lies at the heart of almost everything you do in New World. It contributes toward a rather satisfying sense of progression when even the most mundane activities, such as cutting down a tree — backed by wonderful tree falling animations, I might add — can add that little dopamine hit of seeing numbers go up.
Like Bhagpuss said in a comment, it is clear that the development force behind New World knew what they were doing. What systems the game has have been competently crafted and meshed together into the vision of the game released to us now.
So I’m not surprised people are enjoying it.
But I’m also not surprised that others aren’t enjoying it. The problem for me is that while these systems are pretty good, the world design is also pretty good, and the combat is… pretty OK, sure… For whatever reason these parts never quite gel enough to rise above the sum of the parts, to come together to form a compelling whole.
Perhaps the weakest link in my book is the quest design. A constant flow of travel to z to kill x, or, if you’re particularly unlucky — to loot y things from chests. If you have been especially offensive to your deity of choice that day, you might have a single quest that asks you to do all three.
Only rarely is this formula ever deviated from.
And sure — these things and things like it are the bread and butter of the MMO questing experience. I get that. What can make or break the experience for me is a lot to do with how well the game covers over these jagged edges with story, or perhaps variation in presentation. New World didn’t hit either of these notes quite right for me. And? If I see another zombie or wolf again in my lifetime, it will be too soon.
I’m going to though. Because as much as this is all true for me, I’m not yet done with the game. I still have friends actively playing and enjoying themself, which is enough to improve almost any gaming experience.
All said and done, the most interesting thing to me about New World is where it goes next. How quickly will they shed down the team size from ‘in development MMO’ to ‘live service team’? What will the content release cadence look like? What will that content look like?
The last months of beta demonstrated just how quickly they could add in things, ranging from entirely new weapon styles through to full new zones to entire dungeon experiences. Now, the foundation that the New World team have laid for the game is really solid. So it is my fervent hope that the team isn’t cut down in size too much, too rapidly. That the team is given the time needed to take this foundation and the spark it holds, and nurture it to a roaring flame.