The last time I got some brief hands-on time with Amazon's upcoming MMO New World, I emerged from Aeternum feeling pretty positive about this new kid on the massively multiplayer block. Crafting, in particular, had me pretty excited. But having spent a big chunk of time in its open beta, I've come away feeling a bit, I don't know, bleh? If anything, I just wanted to go back to my beloved Final Fantasy XIV.
And that's my main issue with New World, really. As someone who's already invested in Final Fantasy XIV - another huge MMORPG - I never felt a pang to jump ship to New World. I don't want to drop FFXIV's incredibly nice community and rich, Moogle-filled universe for New World's Aeternum.
I get that, as someone who's already invested in FFXIV, I may have a strong bias. But still, if New World is going to succeed, surely it needs to reel in players like me who believe they've already found the MMO for them? It needs to go, "Hey, you over there. This right here, this is the good stuff, and you're missing out!" while gesturing coquettishly to its unique featuers and New World-y things.
Trouble is, these vague New World-y things the game gestures towards are largely in the PVP camp. Yes, it seems like New World does have a fair number of PVE quests - collecting bags of wheat for Barry Longlegs to earn EXP and level up and so on - but there's a sense that it's not as meaningful to the game as getting involved in PVP warfare.
Early on in New World you're able to join a faction: pirates, witches, or crusaders, basically. From the get-go, you can do quests for them to help increase their influence across Aeternum. If everyone in your faction pulls their weight and does loads of these tasks, you might open up the opportunity to declare war on an opposing faction. Win and you'll be able to control a certain territory's tax rates and make life for those who've bought property there a nicer affair. It seems to work a bit like the warfare of For Honor in this way, although Ubi's faction battler doesn't get real estate pricing involved.
There's definitely something exciting here if you're the sort of MMO player who enjoys PVP and joining a clan and organising group events and things. It's a mainstay of World Of Warcraft, after all. But as someone who is (and I realise there's a contradition in this) a rather solitary MMO player who doesn't really care for PVP, I can't see myself persevering with New World when it fully launches.
I know, I know. Who do I think I am, eh? Someone who doesn't like PVP in MMOs?! Preposterous. We've got EVE, Guild Wars, Planetside 2, and even World Of Warcraft out here pushing people to interact with other people. Heck, EVE generates its storylines solely through player interaction. Those tales of citadels being smashed to pieces, or billions of dollars worth of space cargo being stolen by space bandits all stem from players, not a questline.
But, that's not how I like to play my MMOs. Final Fantasy XIV occasionally pushes you to interact with others, but you can play it as a single-player RPG if you'd like. I almost treat the MMO side as a nice bonus, where the hustle and bustle of other players takes on the same role as comforting radio chatter on a long drive. Hey, some MMOs like the upcoming Book Of Travels are leaning fully into the solitary experience, where multiplayer interactions are minimal, but feel more natural and less intrusive as a consequence.
New World certainly doesn't seem like it's truly invested in the solitary MMO experience. I think that's mostly down to a fear of missing out, or FOMO, as the kids call it. New World thrusts PVP in your face. Though you don't need to take part in PVP quests, I couldn't help but feel that PVP is where the real stories lie. Wander about in New World and you might see folks huddled in a circle, clearly planning a PVP raid of some sort. The chat's awash with folks recruiting for their respective armies. Enter a major city and it'll tell you which faction is in control. These are all constant reminders, implicit and explicit, that there's a big, big part of the game you're not getting involved in if you're not involved in the PVP. And as you go about your other quests, maybe even helping your faction by gathering wheat for Barry Longlegs, you can't help but feel that you're just keeping busy while everyone else has a blast.
I'd liken my time with New World's open beta to being that guy nursing a half pint of moonshine in the corner of the tavern, while warriors clank tankards and chortle as they recount tales of valor on the battlefield. "Remember when Gemma quickscoped that swordsman?! Gemma you are so crazy hahaha. Weeyyyyy, Gemma! Chug! Chug! Chug!"
I can't judge New World's early quests too harshly. After all, it might be that Aeternum's storyline picks up and makes you totally forget about PVP later on. But still, those early hours I spent with the game didn't introduce me to characters brimming with personality, or intrigue. That's something FFXIV does so well, I think. No matter what menial task you might be doing early on, those characters are interesting, funny, or provide a deeper commentary on the state of Eorzea. Here, dialogue is rather minimal.
If you're into PVP - great! If you're a solitary PVE-fiend like me, then New World may not be for you. Maybe it's just me, though. Maybe I need to just get involved in PVP next time and maybe I'll enjoy it. Thing is, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything in Final Fantasy XIV.