New World is the first major title released by Amazon’s first party game studio; announced alongside Breakaway and Crucible back in 2016. Amazon Games looked to make a big imprint on the games industry; offering up some large undertakings for a fledgling studio consisting of developers from other, larger projects.
While Breakway and Crucible were ultimately canceled (the latter after it launched), New World actually came to fruition and released. It’s been two months since the game launched, and while it’s already received several fixes, it still mostly feels like a cobbled together mess.
Developer: Amazon Games
Publisher: Amazon Games
Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed)
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Price: $39.99 USD
Amazon’s New World takes place on a fictional island called Aeternum. I admittedly just had to look that up because it’s forgettable, much like most of the story. Right off the bat you’ll notice one big thing; it’s lush and extremely detailed visually, but clearly was not developed with a single player type of experience in mind.
Everything that would be catered to the player as an individual feels awkward. Even during the tutorial, something as basic as commands, feels weirdly forced and out of place. You fight a spectral Pirate for a few seconds, before you walk up a hill that introduces you to this vast new land. It’s like the intro to Jurassic Park, only without the cool helicopter but some pretty sky effects.
New World feels like a take on Rust, Valheim, or pretty much any other survival game; but at the last second was altered to be more friendly to new players. I think New World would have actually been more impactful if they simply dropped you out along the same guided path, and gently lead you through a tutorial.
Instead, they actually have hard stops to show you how to fight and engage things. Considering it stops caring about holding your hand after you get past the opening intro, I’m not really sure why they didn’t stick with it.
The idea of re-creating a Colonial America type vibe on a lush island sounds great on paper; and even better when you combine the ideas of adding magic into this world. However, it’s painfully out of place, and doesn’t really ever feel like it seamlessly blends in.
Since New World got bashed over the ideas of colonization, I decided I’d try and role play an actual colonizer. I chose a lesser known French colonizer by the name of Jean Nicolet. I was going to play him as a double pistol toting duelist, striking fear into the hearts of anyone who dared cross my path. But of course, you can only use two handed muskets, so that immediately died right out.
So, screw it, I decided I’d make him a classic French duelist and go with a rapier. For my offhand I’d try to embrace this supernatural element vibe, and try out the ice gauntlet.
Combat with the rapier was much faster than the lame ass sword and shield combo the game forces you to start with. The rapier made quick jabs and thrusts, and the occasional charge slash felt decent when you can stagger an opponent long enough to actually charge it to full power.
I started actively experimenting with the ice gauntlet, using it to pull long range, cast a freeze shot to slow enemies as they ran toward me, actively dodge their opening attacks, and essentially riposte. That didn’t work so well, because hitting someone with an ice blast is about on par with throwing a rock at them.
Using a power such as a channeled ice spike not only also doesn’t slow or freeze, it also only has a range of about three steps. This makes it fairly useless as a ranged attack. Eventually you gain the ability to cast a blizzard storm which does finally snare enemies, but it’s obnoxious to use, and ultimately useless unless you’re attacking an unsuspecting enemy.
At this point I could have just opted to roll different weapons, but that would have required respeccing. Since I was already geared for Intelligence, I decided to replace the ice gauntlet with a Fire Staff.
The fire staff felts a lot more interesting than the ice gauntlets did, doing consistent damage and used as a flamethrower. Since weapon skills are perks unlocked by using the weapon however, it means doing far less damage until you farm some kills, and level up your weapon mastery.
In truth, I found myself disliking the combat the more I fought. When we have a glove that shoots ice or a staff that can shoot fire, would we really ever bother with basic bows and arrows or muskets? There aren’t any classes in New World, so the fact that literally anyone can pick up a stick and shoot flames makes it even more ridiculous.
Once my summoned ice pillars didn’t do any damage (despite the tool tip saying they did DOT), I realized that combat is still a work in progress, and not quite balanced or fixed yet. I retreated, and decided I’d try to just make my living as an experienced woodsman; focusing on leveling up through harvesting and craftsmanship.
The first few times I chopped wood the animation was pretty cool, and I was impressed. Very quickly the sheen wore off, and I found myself bored waiting. Not every tree had the same gathering times, and I always seemed to find that one wolf in the vicinity who’d attack me while gathering when I was seemingly alone. In fact, alone was the majority of how I felt playing New World.
There’s open chat channels, but they were full of people continually shouting stupid things, or acting like they’d been banned from whatever abuse-filled multiplayer game is the flavor of the week. I’d ask questions and get told to stop sucking or use Google, which kind of defeated the purpose of even bothering to ask.
You’d think the $40 USD price of entry would limit the amount of those kinds of people that showed up; but they’re just as prevalent here as they would be in a free-to-play title. Occasionally, you’ll find someone who’s actually nice and will send you a PM to help you out – but it’s easy to miss when people are babbling on about God only knows what in the Global channel. You can mute the Global channel if you’d like, but it’s not recommended for fear that something actually useful might eventually pop across.
Seemingly the only fun to actually be found in New World comes with having multiple friends who are playing, and help to break up the monotony. I have a few friends who play, but of course their servers were full on launch day.
Even so, there’s no way for me to get onto their servers, nor were they willing to start over on a server that I could get on. This impeded my interest, as this game definitely does not lend anything to those who’d rather play mostly alone.
This really put the MMORPG aspect into question, when each server was capped at 2000 players. It’s not a huge game world, and it takes forever to run anywhere- especially as there aren’t any mounts. As such, it could take a good little while before you find someone else outside of a city.
That’s kind of depressing, since the Fast Travel statues are fairly far apart and can take a while to discover. You can always make a campfire that can be recalled to for a more centralized point, but it often feels like more of a gimmick than a useful tool. Not only that, but there are already multiple gold spammers taking up some of those precious server slots; making the whole experience even more sour.
In truth, while initially impressed by the graphics, there’s not really anything that’s all that special to look at. The areas look as you’d expect; lush jungles full of deep green trees, plains that roll with brown, blonde stalks of wild grass and wheat, farm houses with broken pieces of cobblestone archways. The environments are pretty much as by-the-book as you’d expect.
The sea areas contain spectral pirates, so the waves crash and the skies are swirling grey and dark; like the clouds are to piss like a racehorse on Derby day. While it does a decent job of what I’d assume they were going for in photo-realism, it doesn’t look any better than other survival games like ARK. I’d actually argue that New World looks like a HD texture pack for Valheim.
In fact, I think the worst issue New World faces is that aside from the UI, nothing makes it look unique. The corruption stuff is a cool touch, but you can find that same look in Horizon: Zero Dawn. New World is as forgettable to look at as it is to play.
The more I ran around and gathered things trying to build my skills up, the more I continually found myself annoyed at how easily I was encumbered. This meant lots of trips back to town just drop off flint and logs. That stuff is super heavy, and my seemingly super strong colonizer- who can apparently carry 250lbs- seems like he’s overloaded rather quickly.
This really just re-enforced my hate for crafting materials bearing weight, which is a resource a lot of games have scrapped due to how unfun it is. Ultimately, after hours of uninteresting attempts at twitch-style third person combat, chopping down trees, collecting herbs, and crafting useless trinkets for a few levels; I found myself less and less interested in returning.
I eventually just opted to stop crafting, and buy things to complete the missions on the town board for a while to get some easy exp, Even that didn’t help solve the problem. I was alone and bored with objectives on the map that I couldn’t possibly care about going to do.
While I think there’s some interesting concepts in New World that may eventually flesh out; it feels like it’s literally nothing but the basic framework of whatever it wants to be, in Early Access. Early Access that people got scammed into paying $40 USD for.
Perhaps the PVP is the game-changer that makes New World go from a resounding “meh” to an enthusiastic “hooray.” If it does, perhaps the game should incorporate PVP earlier than level 25. After 25 hours of gameplay, I’m sitting at level 19, and completely disinterested in putting any more time into it.
If I wanted to pay money for an MMORPG that has boring combat and terrible crafting, I’d just go back to playing The Elder Scrolls Online, since that at least has some sort of a semblance of an interesting story. If Amazon would just focus on updating this game to a decent state instead of constantly pushing their real money transactions, I think New World might have a shot at turning into something decent.
Nonetheless, I’ve got a feeling New World will chum along as a free-to-play in less than six months. It’ll likely be a free key via Amazon Prime within the next few, and shuttered by this time next year, unless their cash shop is selling like gangbusters. Which I highly doubt.
New World might be the first ever MMORPG in my two decades of playing these titles that made me hit a wall and go “Yeah – this isn’t fun, I’m out.” That’s saying something, considering I’ve reviewed both TERA and Bless Unleashed.
New World was reviewed on Windows PC using a copy provided by Amazon Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.