Neverwinter Review – Roll With It (PS4)
Neverwinter has been out for three years on PC, and saw release on the Xbox One last March. Transitioning an RPG from the desktop to console is never an easy task; MMORPGs like Neverwinter are even harder to port successfully. Time to find out if the wait was worth it.
Lots to See and Do
Neverwinter boasts a ton of content, right off the bat. A lot of this has to do with the game having been out for over three years on PC – PS4 players will have access to everything from the start. That includes all nine expansions currently out, plus a tenth one, Storm King’s Thunder, due out shortly after PC release. Yes, it is easier for developers to release updates on PC, and yes, that means you’ll have to wait a little longer to get new content on consoles, but that’s just the way these things go. Cross-platform play is also not available here. There are several campaigns to conquer, each of which will take several hours to complete without rushing through them. There are eight playable classes to master, though you may have to pony up some actual cash if you want to unlock extra slots so you don’t have to make the tough decision to wipe a character.
Mapping an MMORPG control scheme to a home console controller is never an easy task. Cryptic Studios did an admirable job here. Neverwinter’s control scheme feels a little odd at first glance, since you use the shoulder buttons for your At-Will skills, which are basic attacks. Then again, RPGs like Dark Souls III and Bloodborne have us well-trained on using the shoulder buttons for main attacks, so it’s something you’ll quickly get used to. There are also Encounter skills, which are more powerful attacks and have things like cooldown timers attached to them. Calling these involves holding the L1 button down and pressing a face button (X is devoted to jumping), while holding L1 and pressing a directional pad button handles the more custodian functions of the game, such as bringing up your inventory, the map, invoking (a periodic loyalty boost), and chatting. Overall, the control scheme is a little awkward, but definitely not to the point of frustration.
Loot for Days
Once you’ve got the control scheme nailed, prepare to have some fun with the game’s many campaigns. Thanks to all the expansions released, once you’ve completed the core of the game’s story, there are literally hundreds of quests to undertake, each with a central theme, antagonist, etc. The quests are also almost completely voiced, which is a rare treat in MMOs. Beyond the lore-based content, there are also incredibly challenging instances to attempt to tackle, such as the formidable dragon bosses, which require at least 15 skilled, active players in order to have a chance at victory. Most areas also have random mini-contests, where you’re tasked with defeating or capturing a certain type of enemies within a given timeframe. Do well enough, and reap the rewards.
Those rewards can be new equipment, or enchantments to place on said equipment, on top of the loot that you’ve yanked off of your fallen enemies. Enchantments can be increased in level by absorbing other enchantments or special gems that you’ll find throughout your adventuring. Even your companions, who are summonable sidekicks, can level up, and must be sent away for training for some time in order to gain the benefits of their higher levels. These companions can also wear various gear that you don’t need for yourself. Mounts, such as horses, tigers, and other more exotic creatures, can also be purchased – the better-looking equipment, mounts and companions are locked behind a soft paywall.
The rule in Neverwinter is that you can obtain anything you want, given enough time, for “free.” For those of us who grew up on console RPGs requiring hundreds of hours to complete, this is no big deal. For gamers currently in their teens or early twenties, well, they’ll likely cough up the money to get that sweet loot without investing the time. The paywall in Neverwinter’s case is in the form of Zen currency. The rate is about 1000 Zen for $10 USD, with bonus Zen if you buy larger packs. DLC can cost anywhere from 100 to 6,500 Zen or so. Yet, for the most part, you can obtain everything you need to succeed in campaigns without spending a dollar. Still, if you’re going to invest hundreds of hours of your time in a game, it would feel good to throw a couple of dollars the developer’s way as a show of appreciation for all of this content now at your feet, and Neverwinter’s transaction model appears to have a decent balance for those of us who are a little more strapped for cash.
The PS4 is the strongest of the current-generation consoles, especially from a technical standpoint. Games such as Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, and the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn serve as great examples of this. Unfortunately, Neverwinter is graphically underwhelming. That isn’t to say that the game looks bad. There are many different landscapes to explore, from towering forests and sweeping beaches to eerie graveyards and everything in between, as well as a nice mix of character shapes, sizes, and equipment. Everything just looks a little less dazzling than we’ve come to expect at this point in the PS4’s lifecycle. Part of this may be because this is an MMO, and as such the game has to contend with rendering potentially hundreds of characters in one area.
This would be more excusable, if the game’s engine could keep up with a solid frame rate. Thankfully, during dungeon instances and quests, you’ll hardly ever see a slowdown when the action is frantic. Yet for some unknown reason, whenever you’re in a major city hub, such as Protector’s Enclave, you can be guaranteed to experience a noticeable slowdown, to the point where the game becomes a fast slideshow. Oddly, the PS4’s fans actually slow down at this moment, as well, indicating perhaps that the game’s rendering engine is stuck in an obscure way. Thankfully, we live in the golden age of the Internet, and so hopefully Cryptic Studios will issue one a patch in the near future to rectify the weird slowdown.
Really, Neverwinter has everything an MMORPG fan could ask for. With gobs of content, and even more planned, players who may have missed out on the PC release due to technical reasons owe it to themselves to give it a shot. The game is also free-to-play, which means the barrier to entry is very low. You can obtain all necessary equipment, mounts, and companions without paying a dime, though the game’s premium options are very enticing. The VIP system also nets you permanent benefits once you pay to upgrade, which starts at the equivalent of about $10 in Neverwinter’s Zen currency. Sure, Cryptic Studios doesn’t really do much to persuade a non-RPG fan, but then again with the game taking place within Dungeons & Dragons lore, this comes as no surprise.
So, ultimately, Neverwinter is strongly recommended for RPG fans, and even more so for MMORPG fans. There are a couple of hiccups from a technical standpoint, and the controls aren’t perfect. Graphically, we’ve all seen better, as well. But there is a whole world of Dungeons & Dragons-inspired adventuring to be had in Neverwinter, and you can see as much or as little of it with friends as you so desire. You’re not pushed into spending money on digital goods too much, though the limited stock inventory size does leave much to be desired. Provided the (currently very active) PS4 community holds up over time, Neverwinter will be the MMORPG gamers turn to time and time again.
Neverwinter review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.