Vitae Aeternum: New World lacks customization, but that can be fixed


Welcome to our first installment of Vitae Aeternum, an ongoing column in which multiple writers of MassivelyOP plan to bring you coverage, opinions, rants, and more on the topic of the new kid on the MMORPG block, New World.

New World is an interesting case. There seems to be recurring refrain among most players of, “I’m not sure what it is, but something about this game just sucks me in.” People phrase it in different ways, but there does seem to be a building consensus that Amazon Games has discovered some secret sauce that makes the game work despite some significant flaws.

Count me as another person who seems to have been sucked in despite some major issues with the game. For this first column, I want to focus on my biggest area of disappointment with the game — character customization — but don’t let that send the message that I’m disappointed with the game as whole. Like many people, I find something about it is drawing me in; I criticize because I enjoy the game and want to see it live up to its full potential.

Much has already been said about how poor New World‘s character creator is, and there’s no need for me to spend too much time rehashing it here. The options are too limited, and most of the faces look pretty bad. Much as I love a good character creator, though, I don’t think a bad one is ultimately a serious problem for a game in the long-term. It never held back World of Warcraft, after all.

Slightly more concerning is the lack of visual customization for your gear. While there is a system for applying skins to gear, it only functions for skins acquired via the cash shop, Prime Gaming, or other out of game sources. Early on, I got a barnacle-encrusted coat from a mob drop, and I loved that look, but there was no way for me to keep that skin once I upgraded to a piece with better stats.

Meanwhile, there are armor dyes, but so far as I can tell they only work on in-game gear, not the cash shop skins and their ilk.

This is obviously a very frustrating situation. There’s a lot of great-looking gear in this game, with a unique seventeenth century aesthetic we don’t generally see in games, but much of it is squandered without a wardrobe or transmog system. It’s especially grating because most of the systems — changing skins, adding dyes — are already in place, but arbitrarily limited.

However, I also see hope, in that much of the framework for a great cosmetic system is already in place. All they need is a way to unlock in-game skins for further use, and to allow dyes to be used on premium skins. If they did that, New World would rapidly turn into a great game for fashion wars. Hopefully that can happen sooner rather than later.

As important as visual customization is, though, what’s more important in any RPG is mechanical customization, and that is perhaps my biggest disappointment with New World so far.

New World has no classes; skills are tied to weapons, and you can have two weapons equipped at a time, swapping between them as you wish. Based on this, I had high hopes for a game with massive potential for any whacky build you might care to make. Alas, this is not the case.

The problem is each weapon’s damage scales off one core attribute (or sometimes two, with the secondary providing less benefit), so you can’t combine weapons of differing attributes without severely limiting your damage potential.

There are some niche builds that can work around this. Some builds use their secondary weapon only for utility, in which case the weakened damage of an off-attribute weapon doesn’t matter as much. There are also gems that convert a small percentage of your damage to a magical type, which allows the converted damage to scale off intellect or focus, but not every weapon has gem slots, and even then the conversion is pretty small, so it doesn’t really do much to expand build options.

So in effect, there are classes in New World. They’re your attributes. You can look at weapon choice as a kind of subclass. Are you a bow dexterity character, or a rapier dexterity character?

If we were judging this as a class-based system, I would actually rate New World fairly well; each attribute has enough different weapons available to them to create a decent variety of very different builds (except poor focus, which has only the life staff to its name). But it’s not what the game was sold as, and it doesn’t feel like it’s living up to its full potential.

It also runs against how alt-unfriendly New World is. With only one character per server and fairly grindy progression systems, I can’t imagine even the most devoted alt addicts rolling more than one character very often. This would be fine if you could do everything on a single character, but because of the way attributes work, you can’t.

My preferred solution to all this would be throw out core attributes altogether. They add no meaningful customization; they’re a legacy of older RPG systems where they made sense, but they add nothing to the experience of New World. But that would be a huge change that would require rebalancing nearly all areas of the game. It’s not likely to happen any time soon. Thankfully, there is another solution that is slightly less effective but much easier to implement: loadouts.

If each character in New World had the option to save multiple builds — with their own attributes, weapons, and gear — it would solve a lot of problems. You still wouldn’t be able to combine weapons of different attributes without a loss of performance, but at least you could still use every weapon one character, just not at the same time. I might not be able to make an ice gauntlet/hatchet build work, but I can still use both weapons sometimes.

This would also largely solve the problems with the limitations on alt characters and fulfill the promise of only needing one character. After all, if we can max every trade skill on one character, why not let us do the same with weapons?

It’s frustrating that there aren’t presently more options for customizing both the look and playstyle of your character in New World, but I do believe these are largely fixable problems. We just have to hope Amazon chooses to make addressing them a priority.

New World’s Aeternum is a land of many secrets. In MassivelyOP’s Vitae Aeternum, our writers delve those secrets to provide you with in-depth coverage of all things New World through launch and beyond.

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Yeah, in guild chat we’ve been talking about how the game seriously needs a loadout or alternate build system that we could swap to when out of combat. But far more than that… it needs a complete overhaul of the chat UI. It’s ridiculous that we can’t really customize anything. There’s almost zero indication that you’ve got a tell/whisper unless you decide to go look for it. The customization of the chat channels isn’t great and definitely not intuitive. It really feels like the chat was a bad console port. (and yes, I put in multiple feedbacks on it in every alpha beta where the current chat system existed)

Hikari Kenzaki

The fact that I can’t tell one streamer from another when I’m browsing through Twitch (because they’re all wearing the same armor) is a big turn-off for me.
Good cosmetic/character customization is one of the things that will get me to overlook my misgivings and try a game anyway. This ain’t it.

Kickstarter Donor

Agreed on all points, really. Loadouts would definitely be a nice addition – at least 3 free sets. (3 for each “role”)

As for character creation options – I also don’t want to rehash what has been said before, but I will say I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve spent a large chunk of my pre-playtime simply remaking my character over and over again with different faces trying to decide which one I like enough to stick with it without feeling horribly disconnected from my character any time I see it from the front/side. I agree with aYates though: WoW may have been limited, but you at least had pleasing choices to pick between. I don’t really feel that way with the options here in NW. I have seen people say they’d at least like to be able to swap eyes/nose/mouth around…and actually, I think even with a small change like that you’d have a far better chance to make a face you like. (Secret World had something like this and while frustrating, at least it felt mildly better than NW. Visually similar, too…)

I’d be surprised if they don’t unify the transmog/dye/etc systems into one cohesive unit. They’d sell way more dye if it worked on everything, and people would be way more invested in their skin system in general if they could mix and match cash shop and ingame stuff. WildStar was great about this and I loved mixing together things from regular play and the cash shop. Same with GW2.

I definitely have some hope and optimism for New World…the gameplay has that mysterious magic and if they mixed in some magic with the character customization from all levels they’d definitely have a potent elixir on their hands.

Great first edition of Vitae Aeternum. I love the name, too.
I’m looking forward to more installments of this column! 🥳

Adam Russell

Yea I am constantly tempted to switch from dex/spear/bow to a strength or int combination, but after L20 it starts costing you. Plus Im short on storage space so keeping multiple sets of gear would be difficult.


I have a theory I keep playing because of some weird ASMR effect from hearing trees chopped or boulders mined, especially at a distance.

It’s like listening to a far off lawnmower cutting grass on the weekend. Add in some beer and fishing and I’m set for hours.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yup, cosmetics are awful. Every time during open beta when the survey came up, I’d comment that they needed better fluff, more fluff and better fluff system.

But considering how quickly (by MMO standards) they threw together an engaging game even if we don’t know how they did it, I’m giving them a pass for a few months.

Once they get their server/transfer issues ironed out, figure out what to do about servers owned by one faction, how to allow members to revolt against scamming company leaders, and other issues currently plaguing them, I hope to see a better cosmetic system.


I also feel that the limited number of active skills available per weapons is quite … limiting. I understand ESO has 5 active skills and copying that number could raise some eyebrow, but still…
Anyway it’s something that can slowly be expanded.


Yeah, WoW’s character creator from 2004 is way better than NW.
At least you could pick from multiple races and the faces are a lot better than NW’s.
That’s pretty sad in 2021 lol

I’m enjoying the game for what it is but not sure how long it’ll last for me..


I completely disagree on the mechanical customization opinion. It’s obviously through the lense of someone that hasn’t reached endgame, because there are quite a few item perks that can dramatically alter a build.

The problem with mechanical customization is that there isn’t a ton of explanation around the various systems and how they synergize.

There is also the note of secondary attributes. While the scaling is lower, using a weapon that scales secondarily off of an attribute you’re using for your primary weapon is just fine. A great example of this is pairing a hatchet with a bow or musket. The hatchet is just fine.

Also sockets are far more common in higher level weapons, so healers won’t have a huge problem finding something to use as a backup weapon once the innate damage of that weapon starts to fall off.

Dug From The Earth

A hatchet user with 300 dex (no str) will do less damage than a hatchet user with 300 str (no dex).

While that may be completely fine for an average player, it wont take long for the TryHards to start calling the shots like they do in most mmo’s, insisting on min/maxed builds in order to get groups.

As a secondary weapon that doesnt get used much, thats fine, but if your primary weapon is using just the secondary attribute, there will be a noticeable difference.

Bruno Brito

I’m highly sure that Hatchet just overperforms across the board. It’s the best secondary weapon when you level any sort of magic spec, specially Life Staff players. It’s a design problem, not just numbers.

Albeit i’m way more in the camp that it’s not a issue with Hatchet but more in how other weapons behave in PvE. Hatchet is balanced, other weapons are eh.


Great Axe is pretty… great. But you’re right, Hatchet is performing about where other melee weapons should. I think one of the strengths it has is the cooldown ability it gets, which many other weapons don’t have — it’s just a flat 20% damage increase to all attacks plus some utility benefits if investing more skill points into it.

Any weapon without that buff or something similar is going to need that 20% baked into the other skills you unlock, and that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Bruno Brito

Axe is really good but it has some weird mechanics. The first row of the left spec improves your melee light attacks, and the other improvements are for your heavy. It’s a bit disconnected.

As for Hatchet, it’s also how good Berserk is. This is a game where you can simply outlast your enemies, and having LS/Hatchet with a on demand selfbuff that gives you too much and the base damage is already high enough that you don’t need to invest in STR is quite a lot for where other weapons stand.


I wish they’d just add things you salvaged to the current drop down system. It’s clunky but already in place.