Vitae Aeternum: Previewing New World’s first season and updated 2023 roadmap

    
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Last week, Amazon Games invited members of the press to a presentation where it unveiled its plans for a new seasonal content model for New World. Season one will launch next month, and new seasons are planned to roll around every three months, delivering new content and a seasonal pass for additional rewards.

The inaugural season is titled Fellowship and Fire. It brings with it the start of a new story arc, new enemies, a new dungeon, and more. The update will launch onto the Public Test Realm tomorrow, February 23rd, and it’s scheduled to reach the live servers on March 28th. Here’s a look at everything we learned from the presentation.

The first part of an ongoing story

Fellowship and Fire has players reuniting with Irish pirate queen (and real world historical figure) Grace O’Malley, described as a “fan favourite” character by the devs (I was not included in that polling). Grace is founding a new mercenary company, the Silver Crows, and she wants the player character by her side in this endeavour.

The Silver Crows’ first job will see them working with a Celtic warrior named Skye, whose warrior spirit has been stolen by a Varangian warlock. This story will be told through a series of new quests across existing zones, introducing new points of interest in previously empty areas.

The Silver Crows’ story will not end when season one concludes, either. The New World team is planning for the mercenary company to become a recurring cast that will expand and evolve as new seasons come around. New story quests are planned to be added in “most” seasons, and it sounds like the Silver Crows are going to be the star of these quests for the foreseeable future.

I’m a little mixed on this new angle to the story. As implied above, I’m not overly fond of the story of Grace O’Malley, and the whole thing feels a bit overly tropey. It feels like a step away from the unique horror flavour that initially set New World away from the pack in the MMO genre.

Introducing a new central faction of protagonists in addition to the Soulwardens also makes the game feel a bit unfocused. It draws an uncomfortable comparison to how Guild Wars 2 spent so much time building up Destiny’s Edge as the heart of the game only to drop them like a hot potato almost immediately after launch and shift focus to a different core cast of characters.

On the other hand, I do think focusing on a single recurring cast of characters — whoever they may be — is the best way to tell effective stories in the MMO genre, and the promise of new story content on a regular basis is a wonderful thing to see.

The seasonal pass

As one might expect in the current climate, the new seasonal content cadence also brings with it a new battlepass system, though the New World team is calling it a seasonal pass.

Naturally, there will be both free and premium tiers, with the premium tier costing 20,000 Marks of Fortune (approximately $20 US), which I find to be a very reasonable price. Both tiers will offer endgame currencies, crafting materials, exclusive cosmetics, and even Marks of Fortune rewards. The free tier offers 2500 Marks, while the premium tier adds another 5000, so if you complete a premium pass, you’ll be nearly halfway to paying for the next season’s pass, assuming you don’t spend the Marks on anything else. If you play for a full year, your fourth seasonal pass would be effectively free.

Cosmetics earned from the seasonal pass will be “vaulted” after a season ends, with Amazon keeping them as exclusive rewards. I asked the developers if seasonal cosmetics would ever be for sale separately, and while the studio said it has no specific plans for that right now, the team also wouldn’t rule it out. Personally I suspect vaulted cosmetics will almost certainly be available again at some point; Amazon would be leaving money on the table if it didn’t.

New World has taken some criticism for its skin designs, but we got a sneak peak at a new outfit coming from the seasonal pass, and I think this one will be better received.

When it comes to filling out your pass, there will be a wealth of options. The Season Journey is a set of one-time objectives that can be completed by playing through the season’s new content, while Season Challenges offer rewards for more challenging content. Beyond that, most in-game activities will provide a trickle of pass XP, and there’s also the Activity Card, a Bingo-like interface where players can earn XP by completing various activities, with large bonuses when they fill out a full row or column on the card.

For those of us playing alts, there is good news: Seasonal progress is account-wide, and all of your characters can contribute to it.

The developers didn’t offer a specific time frame for how long it would take to complete a pass, but it sounds like they don’t want it to be too daunting. Each pass will last three months, and the the amount of time needed to finish one will be “not anywhere close” to three months.

I know battlepasses have their detractors, but by and large I’ve found them to be a good way to reward devoted fans and keep players engaged, so I think this should be a positive direction for the game.

A new dungeon, gear management, and more

Outside the seasonal content, Fellowship and Fire is also bringing with it some of the updates promised in the game’s 2023 roadmap. A headline feature is the new Empyrean Forge endgame dungeon. The Forge adds a new enemy type: the Forged, a group of empowered Varangian Knights, who will be encountered both in the dungeon itself and in the new seasonal quests.

A new dungeon also means a new heartgem rune, Fire Storm. I asked the developers if there are any plans to make heartgem abilities more accessible to players who aren’t hardcore dungeon runners, and they confirmed that heartgem runes will continue to be dungeon-exclusive for the foreseeable future. I find this to be a very disappointing answer; the exclusivity of these powerful, exciting abilities is a real disservice to solo and PvP players.

This update will also bring the long-anticipated gear set management feature, though no specific details on that were shared during the briefing.

Finally, there will be a new server cluster launched with this update to better serve players in the Asia-Pacific region.

Time will tell how well this new seasonal model works out for New World. As I said in our recent Overthinking, I find strict content cadences can be a double-edged sword, but I know a lot of people found New World‘s inconsistent and often opaque schedule to be frustrating, and hopefully this will reassure them. I’m also looking forward to reaping the rewards from what sounds like a very generous battlepass; it’s incredible the turnaround from how miserly this game was at launch.

A new roadmap

Several days after the press event, Amazon Games also sent along an updated content roadmap for 2023. This is much bigger and more detailed than the previous roadmap, but I do wish the team could have gone into it during the press event. Without context, a lot of what’s on here doesn’t mean much.

What’s a season trinket? What are season trials? Based on the name, it sounds like they’ll be temporary raid content, and if so, why make them temporary?

Another interesting tidbit is that there’s an “expansion” listed in fall separate from season three. This would presumably be the Brimstone-sized update already teased, and the way it’s labelled does lend one to further speculate that this may be a paid DLC this time, though of course we don’t know yet for sure.

Surprisingly, the expansion does not contain a new zone — there are no new zones anywhere on the roadmap — but instead a “zone transformed.” This will almost certainly be the currently empty First Light. Based on absolutely nothing but my gut instinct, I’m going to make the prediction it will become a zone focused on the Varangian Knights.

I’m all for revamping an old zone and making it relevant again, and if it’s got plenty of quests and content, it isn’t all that different from an actual new zone… but going a whole year without a new landmass still isn’t a good look no matter how you slice it. If the devs are going the paid expansion route, asking people to pay for an old zone is definitely not going to go over well, which may be an indicator this isn’t a paid expansion after all. Again, it’s just speculation.

I hope the leveling revamp is what’s holding the team back and that we start seeing more truly new content once it’s finally finished, but one would hope that by the second year New World would be past the growing pains stage.

There are a few other disappointments on the roadmap, too. There’s only one new weapon mentioned, and it’s not until fall. We do finally have an ETA for mounts, which is nice, but that’s also not until fall. It is starting to seem more and more like this is a team that’s been downsized and is struggling for resources.┬áHonestly, I wouldn’t consider this a bad roadmap if not for the expectation of what a company as big as Amazon should be capable of, but it’s just impossible to shake the weight of that.┬áLet’s hope the seasonal stories and world events are enough to keep the game feeling fresh.

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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