Review: Neverwinter (PS4)

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Title: Neverwinter
Format: PlayStation Network Download (12.46 GB)
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Original MSRP: Free
ESRB Rating: T
Neverwinter is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Truthfully, there isn’t necessarily a reason to review a game that is both free-to-download and free-to-play. After all, you can download it at no expense and experience it for yourself. So why bother with the review?

Since Neverwinter is an MMORPG, it’s worth knowing whether or not spending hours on this game is worth your time and effort, particularly in these Summer months. It’s also worth conveying whether or not your enjoyment might be hindered by a paywall after you’ve taken hours and hours to level your character.

I spent the first few hours exploring my surroundings in the large city of Neverwinter, wrapping up the tutorial missions, and looking for new quests. Keeping up with quests is a fairly simple process and you can even toggle a visual guide that directs you towards your next objective, both on the map and on the actual environment. I never found myself lost or unable to progress.

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The mythology behind Neverwinter is rich in history and a lot of the events that surround the narrative are based on a series of books written a few years ago. Yeah, it took a while for this game to come to PlayStation 4.

Fortunately, despite the aged narrative, I noticed that some of the event quests available are based on current events in the Forgotten Realms universe. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you are caught up on R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’ Urden stories, you will definitely see some familiar faces and house names. As a longtime follower of this series, I admit to my giddiness upon reading some of these familiar quest lines.

… I have been reading these books for years …
What I haven’t expressed was my absolute delight to finally play Dungeons & Dragons on a PlayStation console again. Yes, we got D&D Daggerdale on PlayStation 3, but that was an abysmal excuse for a game.

Prior to that we had the Baldur’s Gate action adventure series on the PlayStation 2. Otherwise, the Dungeon & Dragons franchise has strictly lived on PCs.

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I made this comparison to a friend who recently asked me “Why are you so excited about this? After all, Elder Scrolls Online has been available for months.” While that series has a rich history, it quite literally pales in comparison to the worlds and stories created in Forgotten Realms.

I have been reading these books for years and years, and finally being able to play in this world on my PlayStation was far more enticing than the lands I visited in Elder Scrolls Online.

… Combat is handled a bit more interactively …
This world existed before my character was created. After I stop playing it will continue to exist in the form of books and pencil and paper campaigns. Familiar names like Drizzt and Bruenor are thrown around in quest lines, and house Xorlarrin and Menzoberranzan are spoken by NPCs from the renegade band Bregan D’aerthe.

If these names or locations do not excite you, then I would consider this game probably about 25% less potent for you, though no less entertaining.

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Combat is handled a bit more interactively than in my previous experiences with MMORPGs. While this is far from being an action-adventure game, your input in combat definitely plays a role in survival.

Your damage and successful attacks are still determined by a mathematical equation but you are still able to dodge an enemy attack with a press of a button and execute special abilities with the push of a different button.

… leveling your techniques and abilities …
Holding the R2 button will engage a continuous primary attack, so you won’t be timing combos. Although you can interrupt this attack with other techniques that you earn as you level.

Leveling your character brings up a few options for advancement. In addition to the less frequent opportunity to enhance your primary stats such as strength and dexterity, you will be offered the choice of leveling your techniques and abilities.

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The abilities are mapped to a button and it’s never difficult to remember what button executes which command because your HUD gives you a visual representation of your controller that is easy to read.

While some quests take place in the game world where other players are seen running around with you, some of the more story-specific adventures take place in “instance-based” environments. This means that only you and your companions will inhabit these locations.

… playable without any naggy pay-to-play pressure …
This method of questing is a welcome one in that you don’t have to worry about other players stealing your kills and taking your loot. It also makes these endeavors more personal. I did run into an issue, where my companions and I would end up in different game instances after quests. It was fairly simple to reunite, but it’s an annoying bug that I hope they fix.

I found that the game is playable without any naggy pay-to-play pressure. As far as I could tell, most of the things you would use “real money” for tended to revolve around cosmetic improvements, changing your character name, or re-rolling your stats.

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I never felt that quests were too difficult and that’s because I went solo for a lot of them. Loot dropped frequently enough to keep me satisfied and at times it was definitely better equipment that I had on my character.

There are certain chests drops that require keys. These are earned in game but you can also buy sets of them to unlock the chests as they come. The problem with the chests is that sometimes they included other treasures within them that also required a key.

… PVP events are also a constant …
Again, most of these were augmentations and were not required for progression, but I did find them cumbersome within my limited inventory. Fortunately there is a bank available to store some of your excess items. The bank also serves as a means to transfer certain items between your characters which is definitely a nice touch.

In addition to traditional quests, events are almost always going on, again, based on scenarios happening in the Forgotten Realms books. These involve a large number of players collaborating to take on epic enemies.

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Additionally, PVP events are also a constant. I am a co-op type guy, so I didn’t care much for these, but the option is there to take on other players and test your skills.

Of course I was nervous about the free-to-play element of this game and had every reason to be. Every free-to-play on my phone has been a pay-to-win experience. I never felt that with Neverwinter.

Granted, I am not level 70, but I have spoken to enough people who have played the game for years on PC and Xbox One and they never spent a dime. Those that did simply wanted some extra stuff. You level as you would in any other role-playing game. Sure there are enticing treasure chest loots that require special keys to open, but I haven’t found them to be an issue, as my main weapons and armor were also dropped by enemies and completing quests.

… a bit more refined …
Visuals:
The game is quite pretty and runs smoothly for one where dozens of players will populate the screen at the same time, but it’s not flawless. Often, when traveling around Neverwinter, the framerate would screech like a grandma hitting the breaks for a crossing kitten. These hiccups seldom lasted long and were not unexpected considering the circumstances.

It looks pretty good for an older game. While not as stylized as something like World of Warcraft, I found the look and character design to be a bit more refined than something like Elder Scrolls Online.

This was the first time I played an actual drow elf in a game like this and I was pretty happy with the options I was given in character design. I was also proud to see that I was restricted from giving my drow any facial hair, a nice little nod to Forgotten Realms dark elf restrictions.

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The environments are also fairly attractive, with nice representations of locations previously only visited in the books and birds-eye-view via some older PC games. Another visual element that played into my enjoyment was the animation. When you are looking at a character’s ass for hours and hours, it’s nice to feel like you are controlling a little badass.

Combat animation looks pretty fluid and not as robotic or underwhelming as other titles I’ve played like this. My class choice was a two dagger-wielding drow, so when he unleashed a blade-fury on the enemies, it made for a pretty engaging animation sequence.

One of my special abilities had my rogue warping to the enemy, delivering instant stabs and slices. The look and feel of these abilities were more akin to an action game liked God of War, and this was a good thing.

… capturing the feel of these engagements …
Audio:
Since Neverwinter exhibits the feel of an action-RPG, some audio choices were made to keep things moving. While not all dialogue is voiced, a lot of the main quest-givers are given voices to keep you engaged.

The music of the realms is orchestrated and a great companion while you travel around the environment but it can also be turned down for those who don’t care for it. Equally, I found the accompanying sounds effects to be appropriate for the executed actions.

I didn’t play a wizard, but I partied with one or two, and I could hear their magic missiles and ray of frosts piping through my headphones. Because of the epic battles against insane odds, the sound design is important in capturing the feel of these engagements. I feel like what was offered here achieved that.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Surprise! This is a multiplayer game. At first, I was worried that I had chosen a different server than my friend, as I could not see her in the environment. I soon realized that the game works with an “instance” format which means we were standing in the same place, only in different instances of the game.

Fortunately, with a few button presses I was able to switch to her instance and join up on a quest. This was a relief, because you might have friends joining the game for the first time when you have already spent hours leveling your character. No one wants to spend all that time working on a character only to have to start over because your friends are on a different server.

… oh wait, it’s free …
Joining up into a party automatically allows voice chat to kick in, which is great because I don’t own a keyboard for my PS4. Fortunately, the keyboard is allowed for those who are shy about being heard online.

Partying itself is pretty simple and the moment you party with someone, their name becomes available should you wish to find them at a later time. That said, I found that most, though not all, quests were achievable alone. I imagine the game compensates for those entering dungeons alone. Some required at least three players, but most of these were the finale quests in a storyline.

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Conclusion:
I haven’t played an MMORPG since Final Fantasy XI on PlayStation 2. This was my first venture in years, and I have to admit that the Neverwinter and Dungeons & Dragons tags enticed me, partially because of the familiar universe, but also because of the equally familiar rules.

So is Neverwinter worth your hard-earned… oh wait, it’s free. Is it worth your time? That truly depends. If you enjoy these types of communal experiences then I would say yes.

I enjoyed playing it, and I often did so alone. But the few times I played with others, it was a great action-infused adventure, with some familiar Dungeons & Dragons scenarios and plenty of things to do.

I personally spent some cash on it. But it was a choice purchase and nothing that was required to further the game along. Ultimately, my review score will be moot, since you can freely download the game and try it yourself. But for me personally: I’m sticking around and seeing where else this adventure takes me.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Carlo

    how is it possible to join a party? and how can I change instance? I’m on ps4. please help.

    • Rey Barrera

      Hi Carlo. It is a bit of a pain the first time you try to meet a friend online. But after you join them for the first time, they will show up on your friends list.

      To change instances, press the large touch pad button on your PS4 controller until your map is highlighted. You will see the option to “change instance” by pressing X.

      Coordinate with your friends to meet at the same instance. After that point towards your friend and select them to invite them to group. The game will keep you in the same instance from that moment on. Oh and you must be in the same zone (location) in order to warp to someone else’s instance. Annoying, I know.

  • Makai Ookami

    I would not personally put this game at an 8. I’d put it down at a 7. The lack of teleportation early on or at all really is bullshit. The pay to win aspects is bullshit. Bags cost too much money/Astral Diamonds and they don’t give you much inventory.

    I dunno, I showed someone the game, and there are just too many flaws. Final Fantasy XI has patched in easy quick teleportation FFS.

    Maybe the game is more fun at max level, but, I would aim more around the 7 range.

    Final Fantasy XIV just added low level content that lets you experience (and level up and gear up) a brand new character. You would be so much better served just getting an FFXIV sub than playing Neverwinter as far as I can tell.

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