One of the best things about massively multiplayer online role-playing games is that everyone gets to play their own way, using their personal experience to create a story that is uniquely their own. Right now, in Amazon’s New World, my character’s story is all about finding a steady source of salt so I can craft delicious sausage with creamed corn.
This is my character in all his sexy, kohl-eyed glory, a product of New World’s relatively basic character creation system. There are two body types, male and female, each with 20 or so pre-created faces to choose from. There’s no tweaking of facial features, or sliders for manipulating weight or height. The main (mane?) source of variety in character creation comes in the 40 different hairstyles and 30 facial hair varieties, all shared between both body types. I picked wavy purple locks, a long grey beard, and the oldest-looking face available. I named him Michael Fahey, because Jeff Bezos wasn’t available.
New World is set on Aeternum, a mysterious island where the rules of life and death do not apply. Stories and rumours of the Eternal Isle have circulated for centuries, and as the game begins you find yourself shipwrecked in this legendary land. As the New World website describes it, “Shipwrecked, with no supplies or allies, you’ll need to make your way in a dangerous world.”
“No supplies or allies” is a bit of a stretch. For one, it’s hard to sell the idea of being alone in a strange new land when there are thousands of players running about willy-nilly, creating prime-time login queues in the quadruple digits. Maybe it will change once the launch-week crowding calms, but I’ve not gone a minute anywhere on Aeternum Island without having another player run by.
As for “no supplies,” that’s bullshit. There are supplies all over the damn place. Nearly every tree and bush can be harvested for wood. Stone is in ample supply. Every waterway is flush with fish. Every couple of hundred yards there’s an enemy settlement filled with crops like corn, strawberries, carrots, and squash. And despite these settlements being populated mostly by savage undead-looking creatures that attack you on sight, they’ve also got domesticated animals like cows and pigs, ready for the slaughter. Aeternum Island is like 75 per cent “supplies.”
That’s one of the reasons my main focus in New World for the past few days has been harvesting and crafting. Every nook and cranny of this world is filled with stuff to mine, chop wood, harvest, or just pluck right out of the ground. As I run through the game’s gorgeous forests and lush fields I am assaulted by prompts to gather everything from hemp to animal hides. Turkeys and rabbits are everywhere, dying in one blast from my magical ice gauntlet or swing of my sword. Skinning their corpses yields meat and leather.
Every body of water I come across prompts me to fish, and I almost can’t help but oblige that prompt. No matter what urgent quest I might be trekking across the land to complete, it’s nothing that can’t be set aside for the sake of catching a trout, a salmon, or a random treasure chest with my fishing rod.
From a survival perspective, Aeternum Island is the best place anyone could ever hope to be shipwrecked. There’s just so much stuff to gather and create using New World’s extensive crafting system. The only problem for me is, as with many crafting-heavy MMOs, the more complex the recipe the harder it gets to find the right ingredients.
Take cooking, my current obsession. Making items like basic field rations, which help heal my character’s health and mana while adventuring, is simple. All it takes is some hunted meat or harvested veggies. As my cooking skill grows, recipes start to require more exotic items. Many advanced recipes require salt. You cannot simply buy salt from a vendor; you have to go out and find it. In my specific case, I wound up having to Google “How to get salt in New World.” Fortunately, I found a guide detailing the few places that staple of food preparation and preservation could be found.
I have never been so happy to find salt. Sure, I had to jog slowly through the wilderness for 10 minutes to gather it from random provision boxes deep in an enemy camp. Yes, there were only around four dashes of salt per box. And yeah, I nearly got murdered by a horde of withered undead due to my own enthusiasm. But dammit, I finally made sausage with creamed corn.
Along with crafting, I’ve also spent the past two days building up reputation with my chosen faction. Each player in New World aligns themselves with one of three: the militaristic Marauders, the faith-based Covenant, and the secretive intelligence organisation known as The Syndicate. I chose The Syndicate because its colour is purple, and I have a thing for purple.
The struggle between these three factions forms the core of New World’s player-versus-player combat system, which has PvP-minded players battle for control of the various regions of Aeternum Island. The faction organisation (or guild) in control of an area gets to set tax rates and initiate projects players can donate resources to in order to unlock perks, like higher-tier crafting stations in settlements and the like.
My main contribution to The Syndicate’s domination of my server’s Windsward region is contributing items I’ve gathered to the cause. I have yet to toggle on PvP and rush out to defend the Windsward fort from attacks from the Marauders or Covenant, but I do enjoy watching how battle evolves through in-game chat. The more competitive players in my faction seem to be having a hell of a time. Good for them.
While I am not engaging in combat with other players, I am putting my sword, shield, and ice gauntlet to good use. New World’s combat, while relatively basic, is pretty enjoyable. With my sword and shield, I block, parry, and dodge incoming attacks from undead creatures and wild animals. With my ice gauntlet, one of the game’s magical weapons, I snipe from afar, causing localised blizzards and summoning a chill wind to push back my foes.
Fighting is action-based, which means that instead of pushing hotkeys while my character faces the enemy I need to actively block, dodge, and strike. My aim must be true. It’s a bit more skill-based than most MMORPG combat, which I appreciate. The more control I have, the more like a badass I feel.
My past couple of days in-game have been mostly spent on fighting, foraging, forestry, and food-tasting. There’s also been a great deal of walking, as the game has no mounts and a very limited fast-travel system. You can tell the game has no mounts because as soon as you get into an area with general chat there are a dozen people complaining about not having mounts at any given time. As someone who has lost the ability to walk in real life, I don’t mind trudging through the forest so much, but I can see how a 10- to 15-minute walk to a far-off quest objective might rub some people the wrong way.
I’ve just hit level 21, and New World is telling me that I need to complete the game’s first raid dungeon, the Amrine Excavation, in order to progress the story. While I’m not finding myself very invested in the plot, which involves rifts of some sort and an evil something-or-another, I am looking forward to seeing how playing in a group works. Maybe my purple-haired adventurer will find some friends in this harsh “no supplies or allies” environment. Maybe they’ll want some sausage with creamed corn.