Have you ever felt insecure about not liking a popular videogame genre? For me, that's MMOs. There are plenty of genres that I generally don't play but can at least see the appeal of, but until recently I never understood why anyone would want to play an MMO.
I promise, I've tried to be friends with MMOs. I started and stopped WoW three times, bounced off Final Fantasy 14 after a week (despite cute chocobos), wasted an afternoon in Elder Scrolls Online, and even played DC Universe Online on my PS3 a decade ago. All the grinding for levels, lethargic slapping of number keys and waiting for cooldowns, the overwhelming UI—my MMO-diehard friends seem to love all of the stuff I hate.
But I don't hate New World, Amazon's first successful videogame. I'm 34 hours deep with a level 22 character to show for it, which if I understand MMO culture correctly, means I haven't actually played it at all. I've spent a lot of that time experimenting with different weapons, running marathon sprints across the dense world, fishing in random ponds in search of an elusive snail, and yes, I've also waited in a few server queues.
New World has the same unadventurous quest design of other MMOs I've tried, but it's also the first time I've actually liked doing them. I've made a dozen epic journeys to *checks notes* "slay and skin 10 turkeys," and I wouldn't mind another. I think it's because New World really nailed the basics. I'm used to MMO fighting where buff warriors stand still and swing swords at the air in front of them while 12 wizards shoot witch bolts from afar. There's obviously tons of depth, but I need a little more action and a lot less cerebral cooldown management in my RPGs. In Aeternum, swinging a sword is fun! Skeleton pirates recoil at the clang of my warhammer and, amazingly, I can dodgeroll away from attacks like I would in an honest-to-god action RPG. I can even point a musket at a zombie 40 meters away and score an instant headshot. Nice.
I went into New World expecting to be a casual, so its organic class progression has been hitting just right. Classes are mostly dictated by whatever weapon you're holding at the moment, meaning you can go from an effective DPS build to a makeshift party healer just by swapping out some gear.
It's easy to see how a free-flowing class system can cheapen specialities in the long-run (I guess you could eventually be a god of all weapons and professions on a single character, which is kinda boring), but as someone who still can't decide if he likes the rapier more than the spear, I'd hate to be locked into a single playstyle already.
And jeez, the sounds! You've probably heard about how good they are. Trees cracking to timber in the distance, pickaxes piercing iron veins, fishing poles reeling in a bite—it's a pleasant soundscape that's even nicer because I know it's not a pre-recorded background track on repeat giving an illusion of hustle and bustle. Those are actual players (or in some cases, actual bots) out there living their own virtual lives.
New World's first week will probably always be my favorite time playing it. Server queues were a headache, but those earliest days were also weird and honest. Hundreds of people at a time would crowd around town stations to see how they work. You could spot 60-person-long trains running the same path to turn in the same quests, everyone on the server was plopping down their first campfire on the same spot outside town just to finish the tutorial—call it a clunky start, but I found it charming.
Had New World already been an established MMO when I started playing it, I doubt I'd be having such a good time. There's an isolating feeling to diving straight into a player base full of people who already know every optimal build, have mastered every dungeon, and want you to know it. For a short while, it felt cool to be on a level playing field with thousands of servermates sharing an island. Heck, in those first few days I was practically New World hip! I was showing people my favorite fishing spots, making a small fortune from selling all the crafting crap I don't care about, and even helping the war effort in Everfall (go green!).
And when I run into some age-old MMO jargon that I've never seen before, the dedicated Help chat channel is surprisingly… well, helpful. I now know when someone links an item in chat and says they "WTS" a cool sword, they want to sell it and are not saying "what the shit, look at this cool sword I found."
It also helps that New World isn't, and will probably never be, my "main" game. I dip in once or twice a week to complete a few quests and learn a new Rapier skill. I hope every MMO eventually ditches the monthly subscription—I'd hate to have to worry about playing a certain number of hours each month or feel like I've wasted money. I've heard that variety is a major problem in later levels (including in our own review), so I'm glad to be taking New World slow. I'd recommend that others do the same and not worry about the level 60 grind, but telling millions of seasoned MMO players to stop playing MMOs the way they have for 20 years is as pointless as telling me to hold right-click to aim in shooters.
My slow pace is also why New World's recent troubles with gold duping bugs, invincibility glitches, and resource-hogging bots (while very interesting to watch unfold) haven't bothered me much. I already have more gold than I need, and I'm not sure what I'd spend it on if I had a lot more. As I write this, I'm pretty sure I'm not even allowed to sell or buy stuff while Amazon Games works out some bugs. Hopefully the store comes back soon. I have a lot of fish I'm not eating.
I've also heard that, if I like New World's combat, I should try Black Desert Online. A few friends love it and apparently there are some character classes with pretty actiony movesets. It's on my list, though I think I only have room for one massively multiplayer online videogame at a time. What am I anyway, an MMO fan?
Wait… am I?