Brave New World
I'm still pretty early in New World, having played around six hours since picking up the game last weekend. It's too early to tell whether this MMO will have any real staying power, but I've put together some thoughts on my experience so far below.
The first thing I noticed is that New World is definitely easy on the eyes. Forests are particularly impressive, teeming as they are with shrubs, ferns, grass, and wild-flowers. There's a lot being rendered in at once here, which is welcome in a genre that often trades away visual splendour in favour of performance. The finishing touch here is the way trees are animated. They each sway believably in the wind, giving scenes a real sense of natural life. Meanwhile, fog and volumetric lighting make dawn and dusk especially pretty times to experience.
The only criticism I have of these early environments is that they feel a little generic. New World's story gets pretty heavy with fantasy elements pretty quickly, but the actual environments the game has you exploring are quite tame and grounded in reality. The handful of homesteads, forested areas, and coastline I've seen so far are all gorgeously rendered, if a little unimaginative.
The same is true for character creation. There are some fun presets, and you can make a decent range of serious and goofball characters (my own is rocking some serious Dustin Hoffman Hook vibes), but the number of presets available feels pretty limited right now.
The combat is fun, but I worry that its simplicty could become boring over time. You can only use a total of three active abilities, which seems exceptionally small for an MMO. That said, encounters are unquestionably fun. Enemies can be actively blocked and dodged, which consumes stamina, but basic attacks are free, which keeps the pace of combat feeling brisk. Learning the timing of an enemy's attack pattern to pull off a sequence of perfectly timed assaults is satisfying, but this kind of combat feels built for 1-on-1 encounters, so I wonder how big or intense later battles could really be.
New World puts out some serious Runescape energy with the sheer number of trade skills you can grind. I've found myself chopping down trees, mining, and skinning animals, to name just a few of the enterprising activities available. This all feeds into what feels like a fairly complex system whereby player factions can claim ownership of towns and territories, levying taxes against other players who want to create and sell goods in those areas. This is backed by a series of large-scale PVP mechanics, including territorial wars, which seem pretty well-received, but I've yet to try them for myself.
Players can also take up community quests, contributing resources to a regional pool to achieve goals that produce benefits for everyone in a given region, such as improved crafting stations and lowered tax rates.
These systems sit alongside a more traditional quest system. Some of these questlines include voice acting, though I've encountered some that don't. The quest experience feels generally more ambient and much less "talky" than the likes of FFXIV or The Elder Scrolls: Online. It's closer to Guild Wars 2 in that respect. As someone who drifts from MMO to MMO and has enjoyed both styles, that sits fine with me, but your mileage may vary.
It's easy to get side-tracked when you're out questing and instead find yourself clearing an area of forest, or checking out some caves to see what ores you might find inside. This game is definitely built around satisfying that part of your brain which gets all happy when numbers get bigger and progress bars fill up.
The user interface has got to be one of my favourites in recent memory. I know that's an odd thing to pick up on, but this game feels really polished right out of the gate. It feels like New World takes the best of the UX design from Destiny and marries that up with less confusing menus. Hell, even the initial loading screen is a series of minimalist lines and hexagonal shapes a la Bungie's looter-shooter. Unlike Destiny, however, I've been able to find everything I need in these menus without resorting to a search engine. It's refreshing to see plenty of information (for example, the location of certain crafting materials) listed in-game, as so many games now rely on community-maintained external websites to provide that service for new players.
Anyway, those are pretty much my initial thoughts having gone through the earliest parts of the game. MMOs are enormous things, and I could talk more about New World, but I think much of that is better saved for when I have more playtime under my belt.