Vitae Aeternum: New World’s Aeternum relaunch is actually a solid update – with terrible timing and comms

    
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After months of waiting, New World‘s June mystery announcement has been revealed as New World: Aeternum, a console release coupled with a rebranding and a decent content update, if not a full-scale expansion.

There’s a lot to like in this news, and I would say that this is a big win for MMORPG players if not for a few glaring issues that erase the goodwill it might have engendered, chief among them the fact that it’s almost half a year away, not launching until October 14th. The long wait is very, very bad for the game, and I’m going to get into that. But first I want to recap what this update actually is and the many good things it does offer, if only to counter the disinfo floating in the currently mostly negative Steam reviews claiming that PC players are getting nothing.

“People are left with the feeling that existing PC players are being thrown under the bus to chase the console crowd.”
In players’ defense, Amazon’s messaging around the Aeternum update has been more than a bit confusing, so let me clarify a few things. This is not a complete redo of the game. This is not a shift away from being an MMORPG, even if Amazon is obviously going out of its way to avoid the term in literally every communication, even on Discord. It’s still the same game, and those of us already playing on PC will be able to continue on as we have with our same characters and everything we’ve earned up to date. Rebranding aside, this is simply a large patch coupled with a console launch.

There’s also been some confusion around the original Amazon PR statements that PC players will need Rise of the Angry Earth to enjoy the Aeternum update. This has some people worried they’ll be locked out of their account if they didn’t buy the expansion, but it has been confirmed by the studio that it just means means you won’t be able to do the new content unless you own the last expansion, same as all other recent patches. (I still think it’s not a great look considering that newcomers on console get that expansion bundled into their purchase, however, but at least you’re not paying twice or getting locked out of the game, which was the fear.)

What I really like about this update is that it includes something for pretty much every type of player. A full-fledged multi-boss raid is something the hardcore PvE players have been asking for since launch. Repeatable soul trials are an incredible boon for solo players. I’m not sure a free-for-all zone is what the PvP community really wanted, but at least it’s something for them.

Back in my day...

There are some nice smaller features, too. Swimming looks like it’s going to be pretty simple without any associated content, but it felt weird that the game didn’t have it, so it’s nice that it’s finally coming. The new dialogue system (which appears to be simply a new camera angle for talking to NPCs than a full mechanical revamp) seems a bit unnecessary, but cool, I guess.

Amazon is also apparently revamping some of the leveling yet again, though from the clips we’ve seen this appears to affect only the initial tutorial. I don’t really think that’s necessary either, but I was reflecting recently on how big an improvement in quality there is even from the earlier revamped content to the most recent, so I guess I can see the value in it. The cutscenes have gotten quite good; why not introduce them sooner?

And obviously, there’s the console release itself. In isolation I see this as a massive positive, even though I’m a PC player. More ways for people to play is always a benefit for players and developers alike, and there aren’t as many MMOs on console, so New World might have a better chance to prosper with that crowd, which means more revenue and security for the game and its fans overall.

Even more impressive, there’s going to be full cross-play, something I don’t think anyone anticipated. That means PC players can reap the full benefits of any bump in population the console release provides.

It’s funny, but when I was speculating on the June announcement, I cast some doubts on the popular console theory because I didn’t think the devs had time to get a console release ready for summer. I was both happily wrong and tragically right because there is a console release, but not any time soon, and therein lies the massive, glaring problem at the heart of this:

October is much, much too long to wait.

People have already been raising hell over neglect of the game in recent months as Steam concurrency continues to trend down. I don’t think the last few updates have been quite so bare of content as some claim, but it is true the content they brought doesn’t have much in the way of long-term replay value. Even an ultra slowpoke gamer like yours truly will have long since run out of meaningful things to do by October.

The scale of the update is also a lot less acceptable when it comes after so long a wait. This would be a very respectable patch if the release date were in July, but if you’re going to make us wait this long, it needs to include a lot more – like the new zone we all thought we were getting this year and now probably won’t see until 2025.

There’s also the bugs to consider. After very slowly getting the game’s tech issues at least partially under control since launch, the release of Slayer Script unleashed a whole host of new bugs, and many have been left unfixed for a totally unacceptable length of time. My main character has had the wrong face for two months.

Add all this together and people are left with the feeling that existing PC players are being thrown under the bus to chase the console crowd, and whatever chance New World might have had to become a hit on console is likely to be ruined by the terrible word of mouth this is going to create.

To me, this looks like an act of desperation. The current PC population must not be big enough to support the game; it’s the only reason Amazon would attempt a rebrand this drastic. But it still didn’t need to be this way. The team should have been able to pursue a console launch without signaling to the PC and MMORPG playerbase that its presence and loyalty are no longer needed.

I think one of the saddest things about this is that the developers are going to get all of the hate for this, but I’m sure they know just as well as we do how bad this looks. How could they not?

The only possible explanation for this is that the higher-ups in the Amazon hierarchy are not giving the New World team the resources it needs. This isn’t some shoestring indie company; it absolutely have the ability to continue supporting PC players properly as it prepares for a console launch. Someone decided not to do so, and having seen time and again over the last few years how passionate Scot Lane and his team are about this game, I’m sure it wasn’t them.

I do see a narrow path for the devs to pull out of this tailspin, at least partially. If they announce that there is meaningful content coming between now and October, that would help a lot, but given the lack of mention so far, I fear there is no such content. I think it would also be a good olive branch if they offered Rise of the Angry Earth free to every PC player who doesn’t currently own it; that console players get it bundled into their base purchase feels pretty galling in the face of everything else. That, at least, seems like something that could plausibly happen if feedback is strong enough.

The PR damage is already so great that I don’t think anything can repair the game’s reputation entirely, at least in the near term. New World is going to lose players over this, full stop. But if they go all hands on deck in damage control, it might not be a fatal blow to the game. I fear that’s not going to happen, but I can hope.

I do understand the desire for the chance to make a second first impression. New World really has made amazing strides since launch, but because the improvements happened in bits and pieces, it never made the splash of a Final Fantasy XIV style relaunch, despite being almost as big in scope.

Just a few months ago, I thought things looked great for New World. I had literally already started writing a draft of a Vitae Aeternum column about how the game had hit its stride and entered its golden age. Mounts, the dungeon finder, countless massive quality-of-life improvements, artifacts, and the revamped leveling experience had finally made it into the truly great game I believed it could be when I tried the alpha.

But then Season of the Guardian got delayed by weeks, the Slayer Script update that was supposed to make things smoother made the bugs worse than ever, the game languished for weeks without news or even basic bug fixes, and now the Aeternum update debacle has the remaining loyalist community going nuclear. Things have crashed and burned in an incredibly short span of time.

I love New World, and I’ll keep playing. But my belief in a promising future for the game has been shattered along with the community’s trust. The Aeternum relaunch is going to have an incredibly hard time finding any success with so little goodwill left among longtime players. I want this rebrand to succeed, but I’m deeply afraid it won’t.

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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