New World Forward

The New World closed beta has concluded, and nobody seems to think there will be a further beta phase before it launches, the date of which currently shows on Steam as August 31. I will be playing it at that time.

I’m sure that the “new & shiny” factor is part of it, but I found myself preferring play of New World over ESO, the MMORPG that I am currently subscribed to. Although for the record I did play some ESO as well, as the current Pan-Elsweyr event is something I’ve been enjoying (and I love the Northern Elsweyr zone). But even so, I sunk more of my limited gaming hours into New World this week, even fully aware that progress would be wiped at the end. I did a runthrough of a couple more zones than I’d already seen, and tried to see more of the Azoth Staff questline, but I didn’t finish it. I think I closed it out at level 22.

New World is going for a weird niche; it rests on three pillars: a PvP gankfest, a PvE themepark and a survival sandbox, but it does not fully commit to any of them, and none are fully fleshed out. It remains to be seen whether this balance will appeal to audiences in either the short or long term, but I definitely found it compelling for the beta. What’s there is very clean and works well, but there’s a lot of room to expand, and I think a need to deepen all three aspects. Overall I think New World is as strong a start as I’ve seen in MMORPGs in some years, but it needs to further develop its strengths as it grows.

A reasonable concern, I think, is that noisy PvP advocates will overwhelm voices enjoying other aspects of the game. But then, New World already went through an alpha phase in which it was an always-on, full loot PvP game and the consensus of players and devs was that it sucked, which is why the current game is not in that place. I am very happy with the current opt-in mechanism but I question whether the rest of the game has enough depth to support long-term play while leaving out one of those three pillars. I suspect that it does not, but Amazon has a plan for the title moving forward, and it’s possible they’ll stay ahead of the curve. I’m very curious to see what the forward-facing model is for New World, but we likely won’t know for at least a matter of months.

There are many obvious places where expansion could happen; current weapons could get additional spec trees, and new weapons could be added. (For those who haven’t played it, the various weapons are basically New World’s equivalent of classes.) New tiers of crafting could be added, although I would urge caution, lest we see the same kind of power treadmill that we’ve seen in so many other titles. Maybe there’s room for more tradeskills, but the current selection of 17, divided into harvesting, refinement and production skills is very robust and I’m not sure there are many gaps in it aside from creating some new whole-cloth thing like WoW’s glyphs. Obviously new zones could be added (you can see these now, at the edges of the map, concealed by the mists). What would be nice to see is additional housing out in the world as opposed to in settlements, but that could run up against hard architecture limits. The thing that a lot of folks are currently talking about is mounts, which the game could definitely use; the world is more than large enough to accommodate them. My hunch is that mounts will be bundled with some kind of major expansion.

Another potential “expansion” area is the New World cash shop. This is in the game already, but in the beta it was a limited selection of cosmetic items, which I think everyone is perfectly fine with. At the moment the buy-to-play model is completely amenable, but if we start to see so-called “convenience” items that are backdoor pay-to-win, then we will see justified complaints. Now, maybe we won’t – Amazon has deep enough pockets to fund ongoing revenue via actual content delivery, but no publisher seems to have actually made that work without subscriptions. Let’s see if Amazon can pull it off.

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