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New World review: the most fun MMO in years

New World is an ambitious MMO that stands on a solid foundation

new world
(Image: © Amazon)

Our Verdict

New World offers players — even MMO veterans — a satisfying mix of combat, character growth and discovery.

For

  • Genuinely fun gameplay loop
  • Players aren’t locked into classes or jobs
  • Satisfying, reactive combat
  • Silky smooth performance

Against

  • No mounts, coupled with slow travel speed
  • Occasionally lengthy queues

Tom's Guide Verdict

New World offers players — even MMO veterans — a satisfying mix of combat, character growth and discovery.

Pros

  • + Genuinely fun gameplay loop
  • + Players aren’t locked into classes or jobs
  • + Satisfying, reactive combat
  • + Silky smooth performance

Cons

  • - No mounts, coupled with slow travel speed
  • - Occasionally lengthy queues

New World is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that feels like your favorite third-person title — only with hordes of other people running around. It doesn't ask players to confine themselves to classes, only to one of three factions. Instead of a Western fantasy setting, New World feels ripped straight out of the pages of an alternate history book about the 1700s. You can challenge other players, but you'll probably want to focus more on clearing the world of Corrupted Breaches: blood-red clouds that billow around you and spawn creatures that can make short work of your character. 

Although it stubbornly clings to genre conventions by asking you to spend hours grinding for levels and resources, New World also flouts some of the more frustrating MMO mechanics. It doesn't force players to band together for raids, or funnel them into arbitrary jobs or sub-classes. Instead, New World offers a large, unique sandbox, ripe for traveling on foot (a good thing, since there are no mounts), and a gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more. 

For Amazon's first major game release (if we don't count the ill-fated Crucible), New World feels more like a title from a more experienced studio. It's comfortable in all the ways you'd expect an MMO like Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft to be, but it even surpasses those mainstays in certain ways. Granted, New World can be similarly frustrating at times, but the excitement that washes over you when you level up or uncover a new area washes those annoyances away in a moment. 

New World truly does feel like exploring an untamed land, from top to bottom, despite retaining much of the same kind of content we typically see in other MMOs. Read on for our full New World review.

New World review: Specs

Platforms: PC

Price: $40

Release Date: September 28, 2021

Genre: MMORPG 

New World review: Story  

new world

(Image credit: Amazon)

New World is set in a supernatural, alternate version of 18th-century North America. It's the Age of Exploration, and explore you will, as you find yourself washed ashore on a fictional island called Aeternum. Tasked with colonizing this wild, cursed area, you must discover what's behind the corruption that's eked into every part of the island. You've also got a chance to make a name for yourself in this uninhabited wilderness as you (and others) work to raise new villages and landmarks. It's fairly typical MMO fare, but it does lay the groundwork for some fun RPG elements, if you're interested in really diving in deep.  

New World review: Gameplay 

new world

(Image credit: Amazon)

If you've ever played a survival game, where you need to collect food and gear to survive each night, then you'll feel right at home in New World. Right after creating your character (and choosing from some of the worst hairstyle options I've ever seen in a game), you're free to explore. That means gathering wood, flint, and other goods you'll need to make it in this austere environment. 

New World is all about making your own way, from crafting your first rickety wooden sword, to scavenging torn clothing from enemies as you journey onward toward civilization. You'll also duke it out with foes across a variety of meadows, forests, villages, shipwrecks, cliffsides, riverbeds and just about any sort of landscape you can think of. Repeating these tasks feels like a well-balanced waltz: crafting, attacking and gathering. It's a good thing the gameplay loop really doesn't get old. 

The game rewards you for everything you do. Whether you stop to skin a wolf or chisel down a boulder, you constantly level up a corresponding stat. This leads to unlocking better crafting recipes and abilities. When you get back to town and need to create rations or a new set of armor, you can see the progress you’ve made in the hours you spent exploring. 

Combat in New World feels fast, fluid, and responsive. Most importantly, it all takes place in real-time, so you can choose whether to escape zombie-like Corrupted monsters, or chase after a fleeing rabbit. When you swing your sword or axe, it feels like it's actually connecting with an enemy instead of colliding with air, as in some other MMOs. You build combos with the abilities you unleash, much like Devil May Cry or another swordplay-centric action game. Clicking on enemies to swing your weapon, cast a spell or fire off arrows feels good. There’s no standing idly by, waiting for your attacks to hit. When you score a kill, there’s a wave of satisfaction at the end.

New World review: Character customization 

new world

(Image credit: Amazon)

What feels even better is the fact that you aren't restricted to a certain type of weapon or skill set, just because you chose the wrong class at the beginning. You can wield a blade if you want, or you can respec your skills, and make yourself a magic user. You aren't locked into any one identity, and that alone puts New World ahead of the class in several ways. You can make a second character to experiment if you want, but you can also change your primary avatar's stats and specializations easily enough.

This kind of free-range customization is a constant throughout the game. You can join one of three different factions, become a homeowner in one of Aeternum's settlements, and take part in New World's optional player-versus-player (PvP) shenanigans. You’re never forced into playing with others. But if you want to, there are faction missions and full-scale wars for control over parts of the map. Or, you can fly solo while chatting it up with friends, thanks to proximity chat. You can form groups of up to five adventurers and explore Aeternum together. The camaraderie is reminiscent of games like Sea of Thieves. You're all there to work toward a common goal, and it's extremely refreshing. 

We haven't even touched on each town's unique tax demands, or the fact that you can set up camp and waypoints throughout the island, which help ease the sting of dying. New World is a richly detailed example of good game design — except when it comes down to one frustrating issue. Traveling on foot feels extremely slow. 

At present, New World has no mounts, so you'll have to either journey on foot or use fast travel. Neither option is very fast. You can toggle on auto-run and haphazardly “steer” your character where you need to go, but fast travel is only useful if you’ve a) been to an area before, or b) in an area where it’s available.

Otherwise, you’ll have to hoof it. The abundance of walking eats into time you need to spend grinding for resources. A mount, or a faster way to travel, could easily have eliminated some of New World's frustrations. It’s one of the game’s rare missteps, and a bizarre one, at that. 

New World review: Visuals and sound 

new world

(Image credit: Amazon)

New World is a great-looking game. To be fair, the title ran into some issues with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPUs during its beta, but the final release is smooth like butter. I played New World with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 build, and enjoyed reliably stutter-free performance and fast load times. Surprisingly, in all the time I spent in-game, I ran into only one bug: a banner proclaiming that I was leaving an event, which wouldn’t clear. A reboot resolved this easily. 

The level of detail for customizing your starting character leaves much to be desired. However, you can outfit your avatar with a ton of different items. There's also a wide variety of different biomes and areas to explore.

I wish the music felt similarly memorable, though. Frankly, it just fades into the background most of the time. I found the occasional voice acting to be pleasant, even though you'll spend more time listening to other players chatting, should you choose to use proximity chat. 

New World review: Verdict

new world

(Image credit: Amazon)

For its first real game outing, Amazon outdid itself. New World is not just accessible and exciting; it's genuinely fun to play. This MMO feels like an intimate, single-player crafting adventure, with PvP elements sprinkled in for good measure. Play for an hour, and watch it magically turn into two. Watch those few hours transform into an entire weekend. (Then wonder why you have to spend so much time auto-running from point A to point B, because you could have accomplished so much more with a faster run speed or a mount.)

Yes, this New World review ends with yet another gripe about mounts. An epic, winged creature — or even some sort of horse — would make Aeternum Island an even more exciting locale to explore. But for now, the fact that we're all willing to traverse the land on foot should speak to the game's quality. 

New World is the most fun I’ve had in an MMO in years. It's also a great starting point for newcomers to the genre, who are looking to dip their toes in and see how the water feels. 

Brittany Vincent

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.