Neverwinter is a free-to-play MMORPG that released on PS4 over a month ago, but has been available on PC for three years and Xbox One for a over a year. This review is based on the PS4 version, and it’s completely free in that you don’t even need PlayStation Plus to play the game.
Since its release, I’ve put A LOT of time into the game. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t enjoy it. And while it is a free-to-play game, it no longer is to me. I’ve put $60 into the game, so it’s basically a brand new release retail game for me. That’s all I’m putting into it though.
Of course you don’t have to spend money on the game. You can play it and never spend a dime, although I’d say if you’re playing it a lot and enjoying it you should consider spending at least $10 to get 1000 Zen so that you can get a month of VIP.
If you don’t want to spend money, you can sell stuff on the Auction House for Astral Diamonds, which you can also get from Weekly Quests, some Daily Quests, Dungeons and Skirmishes, and salvaging certain “magic” items that are level 60+. You can then use those Astral Diamonds to buy Zen. It’s a nice system, but I didn’t mind throwing the developers some money since I was playing the game so much and enjoying it.
I’m going to be honest and say that I paid absolutely zero attention to the story as I burned through the quests, skipping dialogue and cut-scenes whenever I could. Certain games I’ll play and actually be invested in/care about the story, but with a game like this I couldn’t possibly care less about the story. It’s a pure gameplay experience for me, and on that front it delivers very well.
Now if you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fan, then you may care about the story. You’ll know the characters already, and you’ll be able to appreciate the world and fan service much more than I can (I’m not at all familiar with D&D having never played any of the games or read any of the books set in the universe).
Gameplay is pretty standard here. Action oriented and button mashing (though not necessarily mindless button mashing). The game plays well and combat is largely satisfying. I say largely because I think combat actually falters during boss battles or simply the more spongey enemies.
I main a Great Weapon Fighter (a DPS character) so I swing a big sword (well trident). I find I have the most fun when just laying waste to mobs of lesser enemies and moving on to the next batch. Boss battles and tougher enemies it’s more standing still spamming one attack while waiting for encounters to cool down and doing a specific routine, only moving to get out of the way of an attack. I feel like I shouldn’t be able to look away from the screen during one of these encounters, but I can and really don’t have to worry about it.
Some of the content, like a powerful bonus demon in a Demonic Heroic encounter or a Dragon, largely involves me standing still right at the boss and doing my thing, moving out of an AoE attack before resuming position, but there’s usually enough people around to make the framerate start to dip. If you want to push the framerate to the extreme, kill some dragons in the Well of Dragon’s in a full 40-person instance. In that case, not only can you not really see your character or any signs of an impending attack, but the framerate dips to like 2fps (that’s not an exact number) and is even more mindless than anything else you can do in the game.
One thing Neverwinter isn’t short of is content. On top of the fairly lengthy base game, it’s packing nine expansions with a 10th on the way (already available on PC). The campaigns add a ton for characters to do once they hit level 60 and 70, and if you let it be it’s almost too much since these involve things that you need to do on a daily basis in order to progress and push further into the end game.
The end game is largely where my interest started faltering to a degree. Running Epic Dungeons and attempting to get into the two “raids” is the way to get the gear you’ll need to push your character further in power and item level. But of course the drops are RNG with really low drop rates, and if you’re like me and are having to rely on matchmaking via the public queue then you might as well forget it.
Even a raid that is as easy as can be like the 10-player Demogorgon is a struggle to even get Silver with randoms on PS4 at the moment. Half the time you queue up for this event you don’t even get into it because it couldn’t find enough people. You only have five minutes to join the queue for it, and it only comes around once an hour. When all you want to do is get a Demogorgon run in, it can be quite frustrating to wait, queue up, and then not even get to do it and having to wait another hour to try again. Don’t even get me started on the hilarious failure that is the 25-player Rise of Tiamat, which is just 20 people mindlessly running around without the damage to do anything or a clue of how to do it if they did have the damage.
In time, these activities, and the Epic Dungeons (which are just as bad with randoms when you’ll largely never finish), will probably become a lot better. It’s only been out a little over a month, and folks who aren’t living on the game still working on acquiring better gear to up their item level. It’s still new for most of the player base, so it can get a bit of a pass, but it’s still frustrating nonetheless.
Despite my issues with the game’s endgame at the moment (from the perspective of a solo player), I have greatly enjoyed my time playing Neverwinter and will continue to do so albeit to a lesser extent. The game boasts a wide variety of zones (forests, deserts, graveyards, snowy areas, flooded lands, a sky based one, and so forth) that boast unique enemies. The game isn’t going to win any awards for best looking game, but it looks quite well considering it’s a three year old MMO ported to PS4 that has a lot going on.
When you’re not obsessing over trying to make your character more powerful and getting frustrated with certain aspects needed to do that (randoms making an Epic Dungeon impossible, tons of refinement points needed to upgrade gear, etc.), it’s a fun game to just run through areas slaughtering enemies solo. My favorite areas to do this are Dread Ring, Icewind Dale, and Well of Dragons.
I’ve put $60 into a free-to-play game ($40 for VIP and $20 put with $10 from Astral Diamonds to get an Epic mount) and I don’t regret it. These items, while not necessary, have aided my enjoyment of a game I’ve put a lot of time into (far more than I probably should have considering the game has only been out a little over a month). I think that says a little bit more about the game than I have here. It’s a lot of fun in the beginning and well into post level 70 content, and then still very fun in shorter bursts.
As it’s free, I see no reason to not at least try it out. Worst case scenario is you dislike it and uninstall it, which is no big deal. Even if you’re not an MMO player (and I haven’t been prior to this game), it’s worth getting into especially if you like fantasy games and settings.