E3 2016 – Neverwinter Hands-On Preview – Free Speech (PS4)

They say the best things in life are free. Whoever “they” are probably weren’t necessarily talking about video games. Yet, the idea does seem pretty cool – hours of entertainment for nothing out of pocket. Most games have to find a careful balance between charging for premium content and providing fair ways to keep free players from falling too far behind those who pay up. Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment believe they have achieved such a balance, and are just about ready to release Neverwinter onto the PlayStation 4, following successful launches on the PC and Xbox One. We sat down and played the game for a few quests while at E3 2016, and have our Neverwinter preview ready for you below.

Staggered Launch

Neverwinter launched on June 20, 2013 for Windows. It’s a more traditional massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The developer was also very quick to point out that their game is completely free. Players can run through all story content, hit all level caps, engage in the game’s economy, and much more. Premium items include account character slots, bag slots, boost items, and other pieces of content which can help to expand a player’s experience. Based on lore from the famous Dungeons & Dragons series, Neverwinter draws upon decades of history.

Since its inception, Neverwinter has seen nine expansions. It will launch on the PS4 including all of these expansions, including the latest update, titled The Maze Engine. This means that any players new to the game will have three years’ worth of content from the start, for no charge. It’s an impressive, almost staggering amount of content to just give away. Neverwinter’s install size should be around 16GB, and it will be playable as soon as a fraction of the assets are downloaded – the rest of the game will stream in and be saved for later, which should help with adoption rates among new players.

Speaking of new players, when asked about perceived differences between console and PC gamers, our spokesperson said one thing that took the team by surprise was the fervent dedication that console gamers exhibit towards in-game achievements. Yes, before you ask, Neverwinter features a Platinum trophy. That fact alone is guaranteed to at least drive some downloads by gamers who might not otherwise try a game like this.

Control Conversion

Since Neverwinter was originally conceived as a PC game, the controls had to be adapted to work with a much more limited input device, the controller. It appears Cryptic Studios did their homework, because I was used to the controls in no time. Targeting enemies was straightforward, and it was clear who I was aiming at. Using special abilities was mapped to the face buttons, and summoning a mount involved just tapping the up button on the directional pad. While we didn’t go too far in-depth on the control scheme, by the time my demo time was up I felt confident most everyone could pick up the game and be used to its control scheme in no time.

Running on a proprietary graphics engine, Neverwinter appeared to run just fine on the PlayStation 4, with a solid framerate which was maintained even as the action grew more intense. The true test will be during online play and in larger instances, but things were looking steady.

If you’ve been wanting a new console MMORPG to burn some lazy summer hours with, Neverwinter definitely fits that bill, without actually charging you one. With the official stamp of the Dungeons & Dragons series, this game is rooted in traditional RPG mechanics, brought to life on the PlayStation 4, and made more accessible by a complete rethinking of the control scheme. Neverwinter is currently set to launch on the PlayStation 4 sometime soon this summer.