You could be excused for not having heard of Sword of the New World. In fact, you could even be excused if you have heard of it but don’t see any need to get excited. At the moment, between WoW, LOTR Online and Guild Wars, most of us have our fantasy MMORPG needs sewn up. What’s more, Sword of the New World is a Korean import, and most fans of the genre will know what that means.
As with food and music, Korean tastes in the MMO arena differ hugely from our own. They like to control things point-and-click style with the mouse; we like to move using the time-honoured WASD combination. They like hours of repetitive monster-bashing in pursuit of experience points; we like story-driven quests. They only want to level up so that they can beat seven shades of excrement out of each other in PvP (Player vs Player) competitions; we just want to show off our bulging muscles and our exotic armour to our guild-mates. As previous attempts to bring over hot imports have shown (Lineage II, RF Online, Archlord) the Korean mentality only appeals to a limited, hardcore Western audience. Most of us like our games without the grind.
To be honest, my first half-hour in Sword of the New World didn’t give me hope for anything more this time around. Point-and-click controls and a dumb, floating, right-mouse button controlled camera give the game the unfortunate feel of a B-grade offline RPG. The game seems full of pitiful attempts to build atmosphere, not to mention some rotten translations that constantly have you asking “What? Why? How? The game seems disjointed, and it’s unclear where you have to go and what you have to do. As I struggled through the tutorial missions one July morning, I thought K2 Networks would be lucky if I bothered playing past the first hour.
At approximately 1.30am that night the joke was on me. Once you get into it – and it does take a little getting into – Sword of the New World is a refreshingly different fantasy MMO.
The setting certainly helps. Instead of the usual pseudo-medieval/elves and goblins/dark forces on the rise shtick, we have a game that takes the European colonization of the Americas and gives it a distinctive fantasy spin. Sword’s heroes are colonists and explorers, working for a Spanish-inspired empire and fighting both the hostile indigenous creatures rattling around the new continent, plus forces of corruption within the empire’s ranks. The major cities are glorious, baroque creations, while there’s enough great plain and dense jungle outside to make a compelling wilderness. Needless to say, the game also packs in a fine range of mysterious tombs and dungeons.