Friday, November 19, 2021

Void When Opened

Despite what I said in yesterday's post, it wasn't until this afternoon that I found time to log in to New World to see what the Void had brought. Maybe that should be "wrought". Seems more appropriately doom-laden.

I was way the hell up in the north in Mourningdale but I remembered the patch notes had said something about "a force of invading knights currently raiding Southeastern Aeternum" so I guessed I'd better head that way. I looked at the map and figured if the Varangians had come by ship (which, since Aeternum is an island, they pretty much would have had to have done) unless they had some kind of magic portal or they flew in on dragonback (by no means out of the question) presumably meant a landing somewhere in First Light.

Although that's on the same side of the map as Mourningdale, the overland route is tortuous. Since I've never seen any good reason to change my original bind point from the Monarchs Bluff inn, over to the southwest, I figured I'd recall and run across from there. That would give me a chance to kill several crows with one rock: I had a few quests to hand in at various town boards, I'd be able to get a feel for that oh-so-generous ten per cent speed buff for running on roads and I might be able to snap a shot or two of the "updated visuals" in the starting areas.

The speed buff was easy to assess. For a start there's an icon that pops up when it kicks in so you're in no doubt whether it's on or not. I think I'd know even without the visual indicator. Somewhat to my surprise, I could just about tell the difference. 

It's very much not like getting Spirit of Wolf in EverQuest, where people would routinely refuse even to set out on a long journey until they'd found someone to cast SoW on them, even if they had to pay for the privelege. I can't imagine changing my route to stay on roads just to keep the buff, not if taking a cut across country looks shorter. It's better than nothing, though.

By the time I'd reached the beach in First Light I'd seen no signs whatever of either the invading army or the supposed new eye candy. I went right to the point where you get the first quests in case "starting area" was being used in the most literal sense but nothing. If anyone knows what the changes were, please chime in. I'm not likely to go back for another look unless I know just what I'm looking for.

I had a lot more luck spotting a couple of the new mob types. The Beetle, as far as I know, is genuinely new or at least I've never seen one before. I guess there might be some in a dungeon or a very high level area. In fact, the more I think about it, the likelier that seems. 

Either that or it's a pre-existing model they never got around to using until now. I find it hard to imagine anyone would sit down at their desk at this point in production cycle and proudly announce to their co-workers "Y'know what this game really needs? Beetles!"

The other new creature I saw was the "Lost Alligator Pet". Let me parse that because it's not what you may be thinking. It's not a pet alligator that wandered off and now can't be found. It's the alligator pet belonging to an NPC who's succumbed the overwhelming sense of existential despair that comes with eternal life and has passed into the realm of The Lost

I guess they could have called it "Lost's Alligator Pet" to make it clearer but that just sounds wrong. Although, now I think about it, who's to say that alligators can't suffer from existential despair? Maybe it's a pet alligator that is Lost (but not "lost"). I may be overthinking this.

Two things aren't in doubt. It's clearly an alligator and it's clearly domesticated. I spotted the first one on the porch of a cabin in the woods, not somewhere you'd expect to find a wild alligator. If there was any remaining doubt, the fact that it was wearing armor and a saddle soon cleared it up.

At least I'm pretty sure it's a saddle. It's hard to see in the screenshot, where it looks as if it could be a harness. In game, though, I definitely thought it was a saddle. That would be significant because there are currently no mounts in Aeternum for either players or NPCs. The alligator I saw looked too small to be the mount for a human-sized character (even ignoring the logistics of riding a creature with a ground clearance of less than six inches) but it could be taken as a straw in the wind.

Finding nothing in First Light I decided to do a little research. I googled "Varangian Knights" and found next to nothing of any use except this YouTube video, which irritatingly doesn't feature the obligatory map shot to tell you where it was filmed.


Luckily, someone had already raised the question in the thread and the uploader had replied"North West of Everfall, where it is written 'Stonereach.'" That sounded odd. Everfall is pretty much in the middle of the map, so the location would be more to the southwest than the southeast. 

I opened my map and looked and stap me! Not only is there an area called Stonereach to the northwest of Everfall but there was a big, yellow quest marker right on top of it. I moused over the marker and a helpful precis of the text appeared confirming that it was indeed the breadcrumb quest for the new content.

Leaving aside the uncomfortable fact that I have apparently had my map upside down this whole time, I had also been assuming the invaders would have been added as something to keep the bored sixties occupied for a while longer. It had puzzled me a little that endgame content would be added to lower-level areas but I had literally been musing as I ran down the road about this being a good first move toward keeping all of the map in play as people stacked at the cap.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The invaders and the associated questline are wholly appropriate to the level of the area they're in. What's more, absolutely nothing in the promotional material or the patch notes suggests anything else. I'd made the whole high-level thing up out of no evidence whatsoever.

A disgruntled Abigail Rose set me to evicting the invading army from the abandoned keep from which they'd just evicted her. I approached cautiously, not knowing what to expect, only to find a bunch of level seventeens lounging around some bright yellow tents. Even though they were all wearing full plate armor they died in a hit or two. Hard to say how tough they'd be at level, although the shield-carrying guards do have a very nasty stun.

As well as killing the necessary half-dozen I also found their not-so-secret plans. These, along with several other notes and letters I read, very strongly suggest the invasion is just the start of a new, longer narrative. How long it will be before we see any of it depends on how quickly Amazon can produce new content, I guess, but it is at least a fair indication they have something in the works.

The story moves from the Keep to the coast, where the Varangians have a gaudy encampment of the ugly mustard-colored tents they favor. Keeping a low profile does not seem to feature in their agenda, whatever it is.

Disturbingly, the camp turns out be barely a stone's throw from the town of Monarchs Bluff. Had I come out of a different gate when I ported there at the beginning, I might have spotted it from the clifftop. It seems particularly brazen that the invaders would set up camp so openly right next to a major population center but as this other note I found suggests, they are neither subtle nor entirely free to make their own tactical choices.

That raises far more questions than it answers. Who is the Lord Commander? Who is the Great Lord? Are they the same person or two, separate individuals? What are they trying to find out? What is their task? Why is it so urgent? 

And why do they call themselves so many different names begining with "V"? Varangian, Varikulaki, Vulkgard. Not to mention where the hell have they come from and how did they get here? I thought the entire island of Aeternum was surrounded by storms that wrecked every ship. Come to think of it there is a wrecked ship right next to the beach camp. And it has their banners flying from the wreckage...

In common with much of the writing in New World, it piques my curiosity and makes me want to know more. I can't yet say if the quest carries on after the first step because having finished it I noticed I was at my Azoth cap and since part of the reward is 150 Azoth I'm going to have to find something useful to do with some of mine before I do the hand-in. I really hate the caps in this game.

That's going to be something for another day, maybe not until next week. It'll be too late to carry on after I finish this and I'm working all weekend. It was a fun session, though. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next.


  1. How lazy is it for New World to jump directly into the tired "Fanatic Catholic Conquistador Surrogate" trope this early in the game's timeline? Really disappointing, honestly. As someone considering whether to pay for the game, kind of puts me off.

    By the way, considering paying for the game because I've found it looks like I can run it through GeForce Now / Chromium on my Linux box. Thanks much for the pointer to GeForce Now! If I decide to start New World now, GeForce Now should work for me as a temp solution until Amazon enables Linux EAC so I can play "natively" through Wine/Proton. Enabling Linux will presumably happen sometime before the Steam Deck comes out, so I shouldn't have to wait too long.

    1. Dammit, I'm dumb, dumb dumb.

      This is what Amazon intended all along, isn't it. They named the game New World. The front page on Steam has a Conquistador-looking evil warrior front-and-center. Even the details match up: Cortés doesn't have to burn his boats behind him if they've already been wrecked coming in.

      Sigh. Knowing that I'd be spending the next couple of years playing the indigenous peoples' side of an Evil Catholic invasion story puts me off the game pretty thoroughly. I'll wait a while to confirm that this is how the game plays out, but yeah… this is how the game plays out.


    2. I'm confused. Five years or so ago, New World infamously began exactly as a colonial invasion themed mmorpg using the look of the Conquistadors and the setting of South America, with a thin veneer of magic/fantasy layered over the top.

      There was, unsurprisingly, a good deal of negative reaction to the basic concept, which Amazon very thoroughly took on board. They threw out almost all of the recognizeable colonial/historical elements, keeping only the armor and ship designs, and converted the narrative, lore and setting into a full-blown high-magic fantasy complete with demons and fireballs. They also pushed whatever the previous (not necessarily indigenous - it's unclear) inhabitants tenure far, far into the deep past, to the point where no-one currently living on Aeternum has any personal knowledge of who lived there before them, even though they themselves have been there for many centuries.

      The game now begins with a large disclaimer telling anyone who cares that Amazon spent a lot of effort consulting experts to get a multi-ethnic setting established and the NPCs come from all over the world (which itself is not even established to be "Earth" as far as I know). If there's one thing they wanted to make crystal clear it's that the version of New World they went with has absolutely no connection to the real-world historical version beyond the name.

      I'm a bit puzzled as to how you interpret the Varangian knights as a reversion to the Conquistador trope, although I can see the way they are set up does have similarities. If that is where this is going then it's an interesting bit of reverse engineering, placing both the players and the NPC population in the role of the invaded rather than the invaders. As yet, though, I don't think we know enough to say.

      Curiously, I looked up "Varangian" and it's a real-world reference that would place the invaders somewhere in the Viking realm. They were pirates, mercenaries and traders. The religious affiliation is interesting because they began as worshippers of the NOrse gods but like most of Scandinavia, by the time they faded out in the late middle ages most of them had converted to Christianity. What religion the ones I killed followed wasn't evident.

    3. Heh. Interesting. As you can tell, I hand't really followed New World prior to launch. (I'm grateful to have friends like you who do all the MMOs and blog about them in detail. Thanks for what you do.) Hadn't occurred to me that the "New World" stuff was leftover theming from a previous iteration.

      The Varangian letters you showed certainly read like stock Fantasy Conquistador tropes to me, which is what started me down that road. The whole "fort building next to a native city whose inhabitants don't yet see why they should mind" thing too. I'll be fairly surprised if things take a different turn, honestly.

      I really like the idea of turning the trope on its head in this way, even if it doesn't make me want to play it (if you can see the distinction). I mean, playing the underdog side of an invasion by a force with superior technology and terrible ethics (with an optional religious fanaticism as a driver) is hardly a new concept, but tying it this explicitly to a real-world instance is pretty novel in the MMO world. Making the indigenous people have their own sophisticated "civilized" culture is quite accurate, to the point that I'm not surprised the pre-alpha folks were uncomfortable with the historical version. What happened in the actual New World is so horrific that most folks don't want to deal with it.

      Nor do I, really. I'll wait a bit and see how the game goes — I'm super-busy anyway and probably wouldn't have enough playtime to do it justice right now.

  2. Good to know the Varangian stuff is accessible for us plebs. I had also assumed it was high-level only.

    My focus in this patch has been testing out the void gauntlet so far, and I have to say I'm very happy with it. It's like they combined all my favourite RPG archetypes into one weapon. Shadow magic, DoTs, ranged, melee, healing, and damage, all in one!

    1. I have tried so few of the original weapons that a new one was way down my list of things to look at. I didn't even thibnk of it to be honest. NOw you've given it such a glowing review, though, I think I'd better get hold of one pretty sharpish!

  3. The "south eastern Aeturnum" referred to is the entire area of the island we currently have access to. It's clear from the map that while we have coast to the south and east, both north and west are zones we're currently locked out of. How far does the island extend? As far as Amazon want to keep adding content, I guess. The Varangians have presumably sailed along the coast from one of those currently inaccessible zones.

    I'm also happily using the void gauntlet - it's a debuffing and lifestealing weapon with an option to pop a void blade and make melee attacks. It's pretty decent solo, and a real boon to groups. It also fits my character thematically - the original version of that character was a Reaver in Dark Age of Camelot (a life stealing, debuffing shadow knight type class).

    1. Oh, thanks for clearing that up! Although I obviously *know* the part of Aeternum we can access is only a bit of the island, because I can literally see the other parts stretching away, inaccessible, on the map, I automatically *think* of the bit we're in as the whole thing. It had literally never occured to me that "south eastern Aeternum" meant "the playable area". I can be something of a literalist at times.

      It also makes far more sense of the invaders seemingly being turn-of-the-millennium Norsemen. Of course they can have their own thousand-year old settlement somewhere along the coast. I was very confused about how they'd arrived not only through the barrier but also a few centuries too late!


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide