Neverwinter by Cryptic Studios has finally been released on the PlayStation 4 after a three year wait. I was a really big fan of Neverwinter when it was originally released. The biggest draw was its fast paced combat system that rewarded stylistic attacks and real skill. In truth, MMOs have never really been my speed. I struggle with the constant grinding for XP and loot since it doesn’t feel rewarding. Usually I drop off around the mid-to-late game which sucks because there’s a whole slew of content that I want to play. But, the slog on the way to said content is nigh on impenetrable. Only two games have ever really caught me with the MMO bug: Guild Wars 2 (which I played at least a hundred or so hours of) and Neverwinter. Neverwinter was unique due to the fact that the combat felt incredibly engaging and fast paced and it looked incredible. I was also a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons Online but I never spent the amount of time that I had felt it deserved. Some of the questing and such grew increasingly repetitive but the core gameplay was exceptional. Neverwinter seemed to eradicate the questing loop that infuriated me from DDO as well as doubling down, and significantly improving, the combat mechanics that DDO had laid the groundwork for.
The plot around Neverwinter is incredibly fascinating. Set in the aftermath of a cataclysmic plague that wiped a large chunk of the population of the city of Neverwinter and it’s surrounding areas. A large majority of the locales and lore are heavily inspired by the R.A. Salvatore novel Gauntlrym. While I have not persoanlly read the novel I can definitely recommend the works of R.A. Salvatore and if the lore surrounding the Forgotten Realms campaign world, and more specifically, Neverwinter interests you then I’d highly recommend picking up one of his books. There’s a deep and rich lore here which has stayed untouched between both the PC version and PS4 versions of the game. The game features a well fleshed out character customization that truly allows you to manipulate the appearance of the character into what you see fit. While it isn’t Black Desert Online levels of customization, it is still competent and well realized enough for you to make the character feel like your own. The questing is pretty standard for MMO, there’s nothing to flashy there. In my five or so hours with the game, this is definitely the dullest part. THe writing for the quests are boring and uninspired which really didn’t make me want to progress. The combat was really what pushed my forward into new story quests and the likes. The opposite effect of Star Wars: The Old Republic. There are some cutscenes scattered around the main quest which adds a good breaking point which will allow you some time to catch your breath. There’s nothing to crazy on the narrative front but if you dig the Forgotten Realms campaign world and you want to dive into the universe then this provides a great jumping off point
Visually, the game is identical although I did encounter some problems that hindered my enjoyment of the game. For the vast majority of my five hour playtime the game was dipping into, what felt like the low twenties, which is unacceptable for a game that has been out for three years. The frames actually dropped into the single digits at some points, although this was during fights were a lot of projectiles and particles were being flung around expansive catacombs. I’d argue that the frame drops during gameplay is more egregious than drops while roaming around the city of Neverwinter.
Each zone and area seem meticulously crafted and exceptionally well realized. I loved wandering the city and exploring new areas. The world design and creature design looked spectacular from my time with game. The art was a huge point for me when I had originally played through the game and none of that is lost in the PS4 version. It still looks absolutely spectacular.
Neverwinter’s main draw has always been its it’s fast paced, action oriented combat system. The PC version of the game was easily one of the most fun playing MMOs I have ever played. It trades the traditional hotkey combat system for, what can only be described as spectacle fighter levels of flashiness and extravagance. That was the real draw for me, even the basic combat felt weighty, and the use of the skills only increased the pace and feel of every encounter. Sadly, the PS4 version of the game has lost some of what made the PC version so spectacular. It’s greatest fault lies within the lack of buttons on the gamepad. On a keyboard you were allowed a significant amount of skills on the number keys and it never directly hindered the core gameplay. in fact, it benefitted from how simple it all was. The PS4 version of the game requires you to use the L1 button to access an entirely different set of skills… like jumping. Instead of binding the jump key to X, it is instead L1 + X, or using a particular skill maybe L1 + Up or L1 + Square. These limitations of the controller ultimately hinder the overall experience making this version of the game feel significantly inferior to the PC version. It’s disappointing since I really wanted a good free-to-play MMO available to me. But, this version of the game detracts from the games greatest strong points.
Again, it really comes down to the limitations of a controller. It can feel a tad bit clunky which, for me, is a really strong detractor since the smoothness was what made me love Neverwinter. I completed a few of the major main quests and some side quests so I did have a good opportunity to feel out the controls. With time I found myself beginning to enjoy the feel but the constant frame drops also add on to the general frustrations of playing. I’m sure that given more time I will enjoy the control method but as it stands it does not make an especially good first impression.
The PS4 version of Neverwinter is not bad by any stretch of the imagination but it does have significant flaws that may detract from the experience. If you don’t have a PC that is capable of running Neverwinter or you just prefer the feel of a gamepad then I would recommend playing through this. I really hope that Neverwinter does well on PS4 because I’d love to see more MMOs head on to the platform. While what I wrote may sound like I didn’t enjoy what I played, that is not the message that I want to get across. Neverwinter happens to be a game that I held near and dear to my heart. It was one of the only MMOs that I completely fell in love with. I’ll definitely continue playing the game on PS4 and enjoying myself. My 5 hours with the game were still pretty damn fun.
You can download Neverwinter on the PlayStation store for the grand total of zero dollars.
If you can deal with some clunky controls and