Is New World Basically Just RuneScape? Well, Sort Of – TheGamer

Is there any difference between RuneScape, a grindy MMORPG from 2001, and New World? No, not really.It’s 2001 and you’ve just got home from school. There are rocks to dig, chickens to hunt, and gold …

Is there any difference between RuneScape, a grindy MMORPG from 2001, and New World? No, not really.
It’s 2001 and you’ve just got home from school. There are rocks to dig, chickens to hunt, and gold to hoard. You’re competing for cowhides at the farm outside Lumbridge and mining iron ore southeast of Varrock – it’s your favourite grinding route and you can’t really say why. One player has just tricked you into trading your Obby cape for a pinch of gold. You’re 11 years old and this is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. This is RuneScape.
20 years later, Amazon Game Studios has launched an MMO that is almost identical to RuneScape, albeit with a fresh lick of paint, a better PvP system, and a whole lot more funding. New World is basically just ‘RuneScape except it’s not really RuneScape’ – allow me to explain.
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New World reaches deep into the pool of nostalgia and pulls out a grossly misshapen version of games that came before it. Amazon execs sit in a room and ponder: “So, what is it that gamers like?” and this is what you get. New World takes the repetitive dungeons of Oblivion and replicates them in its barebones Expeditions, the world chat is reminiscent of EverQuest’s buzzing in-game socials full of cooperative weirdos during a named overnight campout, and the skill-based combat is as smooth as Guild Wars 2. However, it’s RuneScape that lurks in the shadows, mumbling “I hax this chat lulz” under its breath.
First of all, there’s RuneScape’s infamous grind. An endless, pointless, and yet somehow totally satisfying grind. Even after all these years, people want to grind in almost the exact same way they did in RuneScape: For a long time, and for no real reason. Even in a modern multi-million-pound title like New World, the grind remains pointless. There never was a point. Never will be. 2001 and 2021? Same thing, mate.
You spend hours leveling your skills, only to get an axe that cuts down trees faster and a pickaxe that drops more gems. Your Harvesting skill isn’t going to do the washing for you, or get you a promotion at work. So why is it that 800,000 concurrent players have logged in every day since New World’s release to cut down trees and mine iron ore for hours on end?
I reckon it’s pretty straightforward. Numbers go up = happy. The various experience bars, skill points, and slow progression through the hundreds of craftable items in New World mean there’s always something you can be doing. Ignore the rest of the game completely: If you want to spend 45 hours fishing for the absolute premium Pike, you can.
RuneScape was a lot like this, but New World does it even better. The cracking of a falling tree or the satisfying plunks of your pickaxe echoing through the valley like gunshots turn the mundane into something much more intoxicating. Grinding in New World is the best pointless thing I’ve ever done.
Combine this grind with the social aspects of an MMO like New World and things quickly become less boring. Mining for iron in RuneScape wasn’t a solitary experience. I have fond memories of one random player just sending “Nice ore!” every time I finished mining a vein. RuneScape’s world chat was a bizarre place at the best of times, but there was almost always someone to talk to. Last night, cutting down trees in New World, I was approached by three players from an opposing faction who asked if they could come cut trees with me. We spent the next couple of hours just rolling through the forest and chatting every now and then. It was peaceful, sort of surreal, and the only place you should ever meet strangers in the woods.
There’s a bit more to it than that, too. This year has had a lot of single-player games during a time when most people would rather be with their pals. I mean, one of my favourite games this year was Loop Hero, a solitary game that epitomised lockdown living. That’s not to overlook the ongoing success of Final Fantasy 14 – which has player-run theatres and shows, by the way – but there’s clearly a place for an emergent, online, social game like New World in the zeitgeist.
As an example, our faction formed on the same day New World came out. There are people from all over Europe, and everyone hangs out on Discord and plays for hours. This morning we spent a few hours fishing together. We didn’t know each other last week.
On top of all this, it’s clear players are desperate for a classic MMORPG. Final Fantasy 14 is obviously great and ESO offers TES fans a stellar experience in Tamriel, but New World scratches an itch of nostalgia that other games just don’t. The quests, the cities, the social aspects… they’re all very old-school.
Even so, it appeals to a generation of players who never knew the wonder of RuneScape on a faintly humming CRT and a dial-up connection. Why? Because the grind is inescapable. Timeless. Beyond nostalgia. Everywhere you turn there is another tree to chop, a turkey to pluck, a rock to smash open. You can’t resist. It has to be done. Sure, it may be pointless – but wow, it’s gonna be great.
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Harry Alston is a writer based in the UK. He was once number one in the world on Call of Duty: Black Ops and now spends his days chasing that past glory.