New World's first expansion arrived yesterday, and along with the addition of flails, the ability to turn into some kind of vengeful nature monster, a transformed zone and another expedition, it also solves one of my big launch bugbears: it's finally added mounts.
Customisable horses, dire wolves and lions can now join you on your adventures, with their arrival accompanied by a new riding skill that will eventually see you netting higher speeds and better buffs. At last.
Plenty of MMOs have launched without mounts, but their absence felt egregious in New World given the vast amount of backtracking its quests require, and the limited fast travel options. And while the world is rather pretty, it's also quite sparse when it comes to diversions, meaning that you have to spend a helluva long time legging it through forests and fields with nothing to do—unless you have a big crafting project that requires a gathering binge.
That's a problem of the past, thankfully, though only if you shell out for Rise of the Angry Earth. Everyone else will have to continue their mountless existence. Sorry.
Some players have expressed disappointment that they have to buy "$30 mount DLC", which is a touch unfair, given all the other additions, but I sympathise with the sentiment. I would have maybe considered returning to New World just to check out the mounts, but I'm not willing to part with that much cash for the privilege.
Despite this, the expansion has certainly reignited interest in the MMO, with the base game leaping up the Steam charts. Here in the UK it's sitting at #1, and globally it's only below Counter-Strike 2, while Rise of the Angry Earth has taken the #3 spot. Player numbers have also doubled, but they are still nowhere close to what we saw at launch. For most of the year New World has been sitting at around 20,000 peak players, but anticipation for the expansion saw that number jump to 50,000 over the last 30 days.
Honestly, though, I would have expected more. In November 2022, it had a huge spike, rising to nearly 140,000 peak players. That month saw it reduced by 50% in two separate sales, which helped, but right now it's also on sale for even less, with a 60% discount.
While the player numbers might not be vast, back at launch New World at least proved that there's still a big hunger for MMOs, despite how many have fallen by the wayside. A million people playing together, or at least at the same time, gave me some faith that new MMOs could still succeed. New World hasn't been able to maintain its popularity, but the genre is still in a decent place, with lots of MMOs still getting updates and expansions, and some interesting ones on the horizon, like Mainframe Industries' Pax Dei.