A topic that I found interesting was sparked by Belghast’s recent entries on trying the New World PTR testing for a massive, game-changing update that addresses a lot of the core concerns from last year’s launch, things that make the game in many ways sound and feel like a brand new product.
New World was an interesting game to me, in that I had no interest, then some, and then I got it on a whim and I played it a lot. Over a couple of weeks, around 100 hours went into the game just past the initial launch woes and before the deathknell woes the game was sounding in the early winter as folks began jumping ship from it. There were a ton of issues that became apparent as you got deeper into the experience – the fast travel costs, the clumsy inventory management, the slow rate of progression, the fast-increasing world content difficulty, the dungeon-type gameplay system needing keys that were crafted from ever harder to find materials, and the server merging system, designed to make the process of whittling down servers a breeze, actually also complicated the game’s intricate systems of PvP and factional control, ruining server populations and creating cascading sets of problems. Owning a home felt punishing, managing crafting past the early levels was extremely punishing, and the game collapsed under the weight of its own ambitions.
Except, of course, that isn’t quite what happened, at least not to that scale. New World very much lives, and while its best days to date are quite far behind us in the here and now, the new patch promises a lot of quality changes to address these core issues, bringing the game more in-line with a modern QoL while also taking the chance to spruce up townships and give the game more of a feeling of grandeur.
It makes me think – would I go back to New World? And the answer right now is that I don’t really know. I’m certainly at least a little tempted by some of what I’ve seen, as the answers to the issues that plagued the game as you started nearing the endgame are good for the most part, and there’s at least a gnawing sense of curiosity in my mind about them if nothing else. At the same time, I ended my time in New World at peace with the game – no social groups left behind, and with just over 100 hours of play time making the $50 gift card investment feel paltry for the fun I did derive from it. While I wrote about leaving New World behind in a series that included my decision to leave WoW behind, there was none of the social weight, none of the pressure, that leaving WoW carried for me (and still carries, for that matter). I enjoyed my time in New World overall and I’m content with it.
Yet at the same time, the thought occurs to me that a repeat cycle of play is how I got suckered into every MMO I’ve played for more than a cup of coffee. It took me 6 character rolls in WoW to finally find the combination of gameplay, aesthetic, and location that pulled me into Azeroth. It took me an on-again, off-again cycle of play for literal years with FFXIV to go from very casual observer of the game to actual fandom, and it took WoW falling off my list for it to get the attention it now does. It is absolutely a rite of passage for any MMO that gets onto my list to require multiple attempts at breaking through the game and getting into the groove of gameplay. Given all of that, I guess the question I find myself asking is “what would it take for New World to get that second look from me?”
Firstly, I think that my sensibilities lean on a sense of world and place – WoW’s bleak Orc, Troll, and Undead starting areas never quite hit, but the second I rolled a Night Elf – I knew it was for me (and boy what a double-edged sword that was for Blizzard!) Similarly for FFXIV, it was only the point at which I saw the Sea of Clouds that I was truly taken with the game – Mor Dhona was cool, parts of the rest of the ARR world were cool, but Sea of Clouds was that “oooh” moment that set the game in my brain, and the zones of Shadowbringers really locked that in. Some of the changes to New World, the efforts to make towns and settlements into actual places with fortifications and a sense of importance, would go a long way there for me. After a while, the towns of New World at launch felt very same-y, and it didn’t help that fun features like a ship as a building were a part of my early experience and nothing as unique as that popped up later.
Secondly, I need a really solid set of gameplay options to tear into. WoW and FFXIV hooked me with sense of place, but kept me with stuff to do that I found engaging. New World’s loop was fun to a point, but the currency systems around expeditions meant that any serious PvE engagement would be limited in scope, the Azoth cost of traveling between Fast Travel points was a pain, and the watermarking system for gear upgrades was an opaque and terrible Skinner Box not worth trying to open. All of these are tweaked, updated, or removed in this new New World, and so there’s something of an appeal there.
Lastly, I want a real sense of value from the reinvestment. There’s no subscription fee to pay and no cost of entry past that which I already paid, so that is good – but for me, the time value is crucial. If I bother to redownload and reinstall the large game that is New World, my hope is that it would give me at least a solid 15-20 hours of enjoyment. The problem with this as a metric is quite simple, which is that no one can really tell me if I would like it except for me, and finding that out means taking the chance on it. Right now, taking that chance requires juggling a sure thing on entertainment (the time I plug into FFXIV across two raid-ready characters) and moving it to a questionable choice in New World. I liked the core gameplay of New World well enough at launch, so maybe it wouldn’t be awful. I think there were some other gameplay improvements in terms of responsiveness and the floatiness of characters that I would like to see remedied, and those are things I’ve heard decidedly less about. So that makes this line item a gamble – maybe it works, but then again, maybe not!
Overall, I think the process of how people feel out and find if an MMO is right for them is fascinating. I know that my method isn’t special, but so many people have so many different ways to judge getting into one, and I find it even more fascinating the ways in which such games encourage a second chance (or a third/fourth/fifth/sixth and on). Will I reinstall New World?
Maybe. I think that’s the answer that Amazon wants, certainly. (If it isn’t an immediate yes, at least!)