Shipwrecked and damp, I arrive in Amazon's New World with a clear goal: acquire a nifty hat, and then put that hat on my head. Some MMOs like to force you into fashion crimes before they let you get to the good stuff, but New World is pretty liberal with its stylish threads. With my hideous face covered by a wide-brimmed hat, I find myself scrambling for a new raison d'etre, my next Everest—or really any kind of activity that doesn't involve stabbing an endless parade of zombies and wolves.
Happening across a waterlogged chest, I find my inspiration. Inside, I come across a musket—my first gun. The moment I pick up this oversized and incredibly slow firearm I know I'll be a musket guy forever—or at least until the end of the closed beta. If I have to kill nothing but bottom-of-the-barrel RPG enemies, I might as well do it from a safe distance. But a problem immediately rears its head: guns require ammo, and my meagre supply only lasts for a few fights.
"It's OK," I think to myself. "This is a crafting MMO, so I'll just make some bullets." I'm a genius. Lamentably, I find no bullets at all as I browse my crafting options by the campfire. I find arrows, but even they're out of reach, as I'll first need to murder some turkeys for their precious feathers. Besides, I don't want to use a bow; I want to use the big gun. I do kill some turkeys anyway—I'm peckish—but I don't turn their feathers into arrows, out of respect for my currently useless musket.
After some faffing around in the wilderness, I hit my first town, where New World tells me to continue a main quest filled with busywork, forgettable characters and one offensively bad Scottish accent. The quests are a real who's who of bad MMO tropes, featuring old favourites like travelling massive distances to talk to some arsehole only to be told to come right back, and hoofing it all over the map to check off crap on someone's shopping list.
The narrative thread connecting all of these chores together is a fantasy template that someone forgot to fill out. The supernatural threat poised to ruin everyone's day is called The Corrupted, and that really sets the tone for the whole thing. The very least it could do is be an excuse to set up some cool fights, but the lacklustre assortment of enemies wandering around outside the towns don't inspire much confidence. The biggest threat is really the vast number of wolves that inhabit the island of Aeternum. You can't skip through the woods for more than a minute without at least one of them leaping out of the shadows to shit all over your day.
With my quest log filling up, my need for bullets also grows. Thankfully, there's a trading post in town where I can browse all the wares players are attempting to shift. This includes, naturally, many bullets. Judging by the number of times I've already seen people asking about them, I know bullets are in extremely high demand, yet the prices for the most part appear to be what the game suggests. Nobody is taking advantage of this great need for small, deadly projectiles. A plan forms.
I will not, I decide, splash out on any store-bought bullets. Instead I'll continue to look for a way to craft them myself, filling my own inventory and then selling the rest for a bargain price, undercutting the competition and lining my pockets. I shall be New World's Bullet Baron.
This is all well and good, but I still don't actually know how to make bullets. Thankfully, the town is full of crafting stations, and after a bit of exploring I find the workbench that will finally let me create my own ammo. Things are never that simple, of course. I have plenty of iron thanks to an earlier quest, but I still need lots of linen, a resource I've yet to encounter. With some assistance from fellow players, I discover that I'll need to harvest hemp first, which I am told is pretty common around these parts.
New World's crafting is dense, with a list of projects that runs the gamut from magical rapiers to chairs for your house. When you're crafting weapons and armour, you can also throw crafting mods into the mix, or enhance it with the magic resource known as azoth, giving it new properties. Before heading off to search for hemp, I make myself a magical rapier that connects enemies together so both of them take damage. The effect isn't particularly powerful, but compared to my plain iron sword it feels like a legendary artefact.
Though the crafting is straightforward, the order that some recipes unlock is pretty strange. There are recipes that you'll get access to when you hit level 20 in smelting, for instance, that can't be used until you unlock another recipe at level 30, and you'll learn to craft some items two at a time long before you learn to craft them individually. It's more confusing than it should be, but after very little effort I have a flashy new sword. I'm ready to begin my quest… for linen.
After a long, long search through primeval forests and rolling fields, its length extended by some side quests, I am still light on linen. Extremely light. In fact, I have no linen at all. Am I in the wrong place? Are players just getting to the hemp before me? When will I finally be able to fire my gun again? These questions race through my mind as I'm attacked by yet another pack of wolves. At least I'm collecting a lot of leather. Mountains of it. Maybe I should ditch this whole Bullet Baron thing and become the Leather Lord? I'm not married to the name. But no, I've got to stay the course.
I hit up a different area, and then another, and then one more before I find the spot. I finally see the distinctive plant in front of me, just over a wall and through a field. It's all coming together. My bullet empire is almost within reach. That's when I freeze. I can't move at all. A lag warning appears at the top of the screen, I hold my breath, and then I disconnect. Bollocks.
When I return, the hemp is still there, thankfully, but New World immediately stalls. I have to force-quit, but it doesn't take too long to get back in, where—incredibly!—the hemp remains standing. And that's when another player runs out in front of me and starts harvesting it.
"Please, no," I plead with them, but to no avail. The hemp is gone. And so are my dreams. I don't know what to do, so I lie in the dirt and sulk. It's been a trying day. I deserve a rest. Maybe I should just give up and stick with my rapier. Rapiers are pretty cool. And I've been using it for so long now that I've earned lots of mastery points, allowing me to unlock new skills and upgrades. I can do a fancy wee flurry, I can make people bleed—all the tricks. But I'm struggling to gel with New World's fights.
I've had my fill of memorising ability rotations and hammering hotkeys like a drone, so New World's action-based combat system is one of its most appealing features, but there's just something a bit off. Picking the rapier, with its long combat animations, probably didn't help, but the action in general feels pretty stiff, with a rhythm that I've found really hard to read. Enemy attacks are always obviously telegraphed, but I still mess up my timing a lot because I can't get into the groove. Even when I get the timing down, and I'm cutting through enemies, it never quite reaches the point where it feels fluid.
Realising I can't stay in the dirt all day long, as attractive as that prospect is, I dust myself off and find myself confronted by a miracle: loads and loads of hemp, basically right next to me. The plants tower over me and, honestly, nothing has ever looked so beautiful. Things are, at long last, starting to look up.
I'm so overjoyed that I risk taking a quick snap before harvesting the bud.
Bag full of hemp, I rush back to town to turn it into linen at the loom, and then go back to the workbench to turn my linen and lead into bullets. Bullets! But I've forgotten about the most important ingredient: the bit that goes bang. I still need gunpowder.
It turns out that gunpowder requires another resource that I'm yet to encounter: saltpetre. It's found in caves, I'm informed, and I just have to trust that this is true, as I've not seen any in the ones I've ventured inside. Looks like I've been wasting my time in the wrong caves, the shit caves, when I should have been hanging out in the bullet caves.
Since I'm going to be spelunking and fighting cave-dwelling critters, I decide to at least upgrade my clothes, crafting some new clobber at the outfitter's crafting station. After all, I have a truckload of leather to use. But I have clearly pissed off someone at Amazon, because all the leather items I want to craft also require linen, which I am saving for my bullets. I shout at the screen for five minutes and then go for a walk outside. It doesn't help.
In the third wolf cave I realise that it's starting to get light outside. In the real world. I have not found any saltpetre. I remember when I just wanted to fire my musket at some stuff. Before my dream of a bullet monopoly. Before I set these arbitrary rules. But I'm too invested now. I can't just buy some bullets. People will buy bullets from me. I consider taking a break to pin pictures of bullets to a board to help me visualise my goal, but I don't need another crafting project right now.
Rumours about a cave full of saltpetre give me hope, but it's the sort of place that would tear me apart in seconds at my level. If I want some guaranteed saltpetre, if I want to be the Bullet Baron, I'll need to do some dumb quests. Unfortunately, I've hit a roadblock. I need to reach a specific level to continue the main quest, and the only nearby activities appropriate for my limited skillset are the repeatable faction quests. And that's why I'm hunting sheep and not making bullets.
It doesn't get much lower for a hero—or bullet entrepreneur—than hunting livestock. It's rock bottom, for sure. And made much worse by the fact that sheep are not nearly as common as wolves, which as I may have mentioned are absolutely everywhere. And while the quest does not specify a specific breed of sheep, I don't think anyone will be surprised to find that it does have a preference. And that it's the hardest one to find. It's just evil.
Desperate, I adopt a new strategy.
People get the wrong idea.
When I finally find the sheep, I no longer care. I am a husk. But I'm a husk who's making progress. Back on the main quest, baby! This, of course, means it's time to start travelling all over the place again. I've been looking forward to visiting some new regions, though, so it's not all bad. Unfortunately, though there's some changes in tone, lighting and colour palette, none of these places feel particularly distinctive. It's just a big ol' forest, isn't it? It's often incredibly striking, and the autumnal hues of Everfall are especially inviting, but compared to the wild diversity of most MMOs New World is extremely restrained.
An invasion is also happening, apparently. There's always something kicking off, like factions fighting over fortresses or The Corrupted being a nuisance. I'm definitely not ready for PvP, but maybe defending a town from some monsters will be just what I need to get some zest for the MMO life again. There's a board where I can sign up for the upcoming brawl, but it's blank. The map confirms I can still sign up, but the board is adamant that I cannot.
Back to the bullets, I guess.
I was expecting some kind of fanfare. There are no trumpets or fireworks or lightning bolts. I just walk into a random cave in the middle of nowhere that I've already visited a couple of times, and there it is: loads of saltpetre. I'm ready for my heart to be broken by another obstacle, but with the final piece of the puzzle in my pockets, I leg it back to the crafting stations to work my magic.
With all the ingredients assembled, I craft my very first bullets. I imagine this is exactly like having a kid. I get 250 bullets out of what's been gathering in my inventory; certainly enough so that I can finally start using this weapon that I have been lugging around for days and barely using. There was that time I found 20 bullets in a boar, though. Naturally, using the gun whenever I want doesn't live up to my lofty expectations. It's fine. I can overcharge my gun and set zombies on fire. It probably wasn't worth the existential crisis.
As for my empire, well… I might have underestimated the volatility of the market. After making even more bullets, I hit the trading post, and discover that the value of my precious projectiles has taken a nosedive. To stand out in the crowded market and still make a wad of cash I'd need to shift mountains of bullets. The work would never end. I'd have to live in a saltpetre mine. Selling every single bullet I own at just 0.02 gold less than the default price nets me a whopping 150 gold—if someone buys it within a week. That vast fortune could also be earned by completing two quests.
I have some regrets about how I have spent the last couple of days.
So far, New World is an awkward MMO but a confident crafting game. I can't say I enjoyed my attempt to become a bullet billionaire, but it was when I was getting lost in the woods and trying to be a rugged survivalist that it came closest to clicking for me. The cookie-cutter quests and threadbare narrative do little to propel the game forward, but my dreams of wealth and success gave me something to hold onto during the long treks between rote tasks.
You can start your own doomed business ventures in New World when it launches on August 31.