New World’s launch in 2021 was spectacular—a million concurrent players, millions more on Twitch, and thousands waiting in queue to get into the servers. Here it was: the MMO that was going to break the mold, and bring an end to the drought in the genre. The clouds broke, it poured, and then players quickly realised New World was not a finished game. As the game approaches its one year anniversary in September, those who’ve remained loyal to the game – and those who have followed its continued development with optimistic caution – are looking ahead to the Summer Medleyfaire update. Is it finally time to reinstall New World?
We spoke to the team behind New World and asked them this very question. Mike Willette, the world experience lead, tells me, “There have been many additions to New World since launch. New Endgame expeditions and mutations, new weapons, updates to elite areas to make the enemies and loot runs more rewarding, new modes like 3v3 PVP Arenas, a new PVP rewards track, new trade skills and events, like we see in the summer release with the Summer Medleyfaire and musical instruments. We’ve also made numerous quality of life fixes like the removal of expedition orbs, a reduction in time to level in player progression, and a loot and perk rebalance. We are continuing our efforts to build more and more content and improvements for New World.”
It’s an apt summary of the immensity of work that has gone into New World over the past few months. I would cut it down, but it’s only fair to include a complete list of all the changes the game has undergone. If New World had been released in this state in 2021, I’m certain that we would have seen a more consistent playerbase well into this year. Jumping back into the PTR, I was again bowled over by the game. It is still very pretty and has impeccable sound design, but it was the new musical instruments that stood out to me most. These instruments are the sort of player-based interactions and roleplaying that I always thought New World was missing, and Phil Bolus, the senior game design manager, told me that these RP elements “make sense in our designs for new features.” Here’s hoping. Alongside the musical instruments, the PvP Arena mode is what I’ve always wanted as a largely solo player with not as much time as I’d like to dedicate to an MMO these days.
PvP was always meant to be a flagship USP of New World. What we got at release was a watered-down version of the original design premise, but the faction wars and open-world PvP were still just fine. The summer update introduces Instanced Wars (at last, at last), and when I asked if any changes were coming for pushing influence during wars (something all long-time players recognise as a bit of a chore), creative director David Verfaille confirmed it is “something we are looking into, but it is a complex problem that will take some time to come up with and test a solution.”
In the meantime, Arena is destined to get more attention in the future, with Verfaille saying that “separate queues” are coming for solo and group players, gear score will be normalized to 600, and in the longer term, “matchmaking, more maps, and eventually a ranked mode.” These changes might be some way off, but to hear the team thinking in terms of eventualities is quite reassuring when you look at how far New World has already come since its launch.
I had to see for myself what New World was like in July 2022. My journey into the PTR was a lonely one, as although most of the new features of New World are available on the test server, it is on the actual live servers that a small but dedicated community still thrives. These are the players that have not and will not give up on the game, an average of around 15,000 according to Steam’s rolling player count.
I stopped a passing level 60 player, geared to the teeth. After a short interaction, they told me that they’d “played since launch”, but that “most of [my] friends have moved on, but there are about 15 people in our guild that still play daily.” The map control is balanced, there are two planned wars, Windsward is teeming with players like it did back in September, 2021, and the players I watch from on top of the well are all dressed in completely fantastical outfits.
My own character, level 60 as well, is geared just as I had left it some time ago. My perks will soon become useless, or at least, possibly not quite BiS. The Summer Medleyfaire update is introducing a much-needed perk overhaul that buffs many of the underutilized perks, with Verfaillie telling me that the team hopes “this creates a lot of new potential BiS items and opens up the combat meta a bit.” More variety is always good. I can recall the disappointment in my guild when we rolled anything other than the very best perks (Keen, mostly), stating that most of the perks were “filler.” Hopefully that won’t be the case for long.
The last thing I did on my reunion tour was check out some of the mutated expeditions – at least, I tried to. I had no Orbs in my inventory and didn’t know anyone who did. My gear wasn’t really up to scratch and I was rusty anyway, so no expeditions for me. In just a short while, this also hopefully won’t be a problem – Orbs are being removed from the game entirely. Willette told me that the team wants the players to have “a variety of options for endgame enjoyment” and that “more quality of life revisions” are on the way in the future. Removing that grind for orbs (essentially blocking off one of the major parts of the PvE endgame) feels like an excellent step forwards.
New World still has a ways to go, I believe, before it can pull in numbers anywhere near that of its launch. That being said, with the upcoming summer update and the following roadmap additions later this year, it’s in a much, much better place than it was a year ago. I enjoyed my brief time in the PTR and exploring the world of New World was as beautiful as it ever was. If you enjoyed the game at release even as half as much as I did, it might be worth reinstalling for the July update, just to see if Aeternum has anything else to offer you.
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