New World‘s first attempt at seasonal content didn’t exactly impress, but in typical New World fashion, the developers at Amazon Games have already made rapid progress on improving things. New World‘s second season, titled Blood of the Sands, may not be the most amazing MMO content I’ve seen, but it’s solid, and it improves on the first season in every way.
Let’s break this down by the major features.
The seasonal story
The season one story was probably the nadir of New World‘s story-telling to date. Yes, I’d rate it worse than those barebones kill ten rats quests we had at launch. The gameplay may have been basic, but the stories were at worst merely forgettable and at times even intriguing. Season one’s story was just a disaster.
So the bar for season two to do better was very low, but it did clear that bar easily. Season two sees the Silver Crows mercenaries hired by an ancient order called the Blood of the Sands. The Crows are needed to help collect and raise eggs of the massive Devourer sandworms, but all is not quite as it seems. Along the way we also meet and recruit a new member for the company, the learned bard Rima Bahar.
The story isn’t particularly original, and I’m still not overly keen on the Silver Crows — as individuals or as a concept — but it’s a perfectly serviceable piece of pulp fantasy adventure. If it doesn’t excel in any particular way, it also offers little cause for complaint.
The Blood of the Sands story also once again showcases rapid progress in the technical quality of how this game tells stories. The last season introduced in-engine cutscenes for the first time, but they were crude and mostly looked awkward. This time, the cutscenes show a much higher quality of camerawork and animation.
This does, however, make me question the wisdom of putting so much effort into content that will leave the game in a few months. I think there’s a place for temporary content in MMOs, but it’s best used sparingly, and making it a regular feature seems an especially iffy decision for a game that has long been criticized for its anemic content.
On the plus side, two seasons in it seems as if the seasonal stories are going to be consistently standalone and separate from the game’s main story arc, so we shouldn’t end up in a situation where new and returning players are completely lost in the current story because they missed what came before.
The season pass
The changes to the season pass system this season are fairly small but entirely positive.
Most notably, the season journey is now significantly less grindy, and there’s a much greater variety of objectives, making it easier for people of all playstyles to complete it. Solo players now have a clear path to completing the journey, which is a very welcome change.
The activity card has also been tweaked to ensure a greater variety of objectives on each card. This makes it a lot easier to focus on just the activities you want to do while still earning seasonal XP.
I don’t think this solves the fundamental problem that the most efficient way to progress the pass is through the most mindless grinding imaginable, and I would still prefer to see the activity card de-emphasized in favour of greatly increasing the XP earned from general gameplay. Season XP boosters are still entirely useless, for one thing.
But this does make it easier to fill out your activity card while playing normally. Add in the XP buffs that came late in season one and the whole process is less grindy than it once was — and it was never really that bad of a grind to begin with.
The coming of raids
The most notable addition of season two is the introduction of raid groups and content geared to them. Never a big raiding fan, I expected this to have no impact on me at all, but I have actually found myself getting some fun out of it after all.
I have neither the gear nor the inclination for the ultra-difficult Devourer raid, but I have been playing the much more casual-friendly Hatchery seasonal trial. A short instance for 10 players, the Hatchery pits players against a few waves of trash mobs followed by two boss fights, with only the final boss providing any meaningful challenge.
It only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to finish a Hatchery run with most groups, usually without a single wipe, and it drops a generous pile of high-level gear with unique appearances.
One other nice feature of the Hatchery is that you will experience a slightly simpler solo version of it during the seasonal story, so you can gain a basic understanding of the mechanics before joining the group version. More games should do stuff like this.
I’ve only occasionally dabbled with group content in New World up to now, but while I will always be a solo player at heart, I did find it felt good to get back into some traditional MMO group content. The Hatchery is exactly the kind of group content I like: readily PUGable, quick to finish, easy enough to not be terribly stressful, and challenging enough to not be a total faceroll.
Since I already have a focus build, I even decided to try my hand at healing. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about how awkward healing in New World can be, but I actually enjoyed it. Single target heals are a little clunky to target, but most heals are AoE, and I like that healing actually requires paying attention to the battlefield instead of just staring at health bars all day. I can even contribute meaningfully to DPS with my void gauntlet when the group isn’t taking too much damage.
I might feel differently if I had to run more challenging content, but for casual stuff like the Hatchery, being a healer in New World is a good time.
By comparison, I found playing DPS a bit dull. DPSing group content seems to be the one area New World‘s otherwise stellar combat falls down a bit. Without the interactivity of blocking and dodging attacks (beyond the usual “don’t stand in the fire” stuff every game has) or the unpredictability of healing, mostly all you do is left click and hit your abilities on cooldown. It’s a bit mindless.
The Hatchery is unfortunately more temporary content, but the devs have said they may be open to making seasonal trials like this one available again in the future, so maybe it won’t be gone forever once season three rolls around. In the meantime, it’s a nice loot piñata for players to chew on.