The sword is the only weapon in New World that you can pair with the shield, which is highly recommended, by the way. The two share mastery skills – Swordmaster and Defender Skill Trees – so pairing them up will allow you to fully explore their abilities.
The Swordmaster tree is mainly on the offensive side, helping players increase the damage they can deal, slow down enemies, and stun adversaries.
The Defender tree, on the other hand, is all about, well, defense. It reduces the amount of damage both you and your allies can take on top of making your blocks more effective. The caveat here is that you must be wielding the shield for all these to work.
The sword’s damage scales primarily with Strength and a bit of Dexterity. So expanding these two abilities will certainly help harness the sword’s full viciousness.
It’s a pretty quick melee weapon which makes it perfect for those close battles. On the other hand, though, the damage is a bit limited, so there’s a lot of striking to do.
Also, the sword’s range is limited, so you might come up really short against an enemy with, say, a spear, not to mention the long cooldowns.