Astral Diamonds Neverwinter hack
Thankfully, the game mostly lives up to that promise on the PlayStation 4. As it should. With more than a year of prep time on the Xbox One, Cryptic has had plenty of time to translate the experience to consoles and polish it to a fine sheen. It’s not perfect, but for the most part, this is the same Neverwinter we reviewed back in 2013. If you’ve played it and enjoyed it on PC, the PS4 version delivers the same experience plus every campaign unlocked from the get go - plus a few unwanted technical issues we’ll get to later.
Gameplay - 8
The game’s active, dodge-based combat translates perfectly. After collecting your missions in the area’s quest hub, tearing through the enemies scattered across the campaign map feels absolutely natural on the DualShock 4. Jumping out of the red danger zones is easy since class abilities are bound to L3. Cryptic has done an excellent job of translating Neverwinter’s controls to the gamepad, using the face buttons and triggers for abilities and attacks, and the left shoulder button as a modifier to access functions such as the world map, chat, and inventory.
Everything that isn’t mapped needs to be accessed through a cumbersome screen of menus and submenus. There are simply too many functions in an MMO to not include a menu system, it’s just that Neverwinter’s is so rudimentary. Something as simple as accessing the settings menu takes six separate presses, so there is definitely room for improvement. Interface elements can also be selected manually by cycling to them with the dualshock’s touch pad. Once you get used to the system, navigating to what you need speeds up substantially.
Beyond the basics of control, this is almost identical to the PC version, including all of the updates and improvements made since its 2013 launch. You will still be heading off into instanced quest areas, finding secrets, solving puzzles, and hitting story beats. Cryptic has added in a generous aim-assist to make up for the less precise joysticks and, rather than dumb it down, it made it preserved the satisfying hack-and-slash identity of the original. Loot veritably rains from the sky as each mission promises you some goodies, money, or rough astral diamonds to refine and exchange for cash shop currency.
This is Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s best to adventure with friends. You can form your own party or use the game’s built in queue tools for formal group content. Voice chat turns on automatically, but I found few players actually using it. This is a shame, but not surprising with PSN’s anemic VOIP community.
As you play, you’ll also unlock companion characters that can be outfitted and leveled up. Companion control is rudimentary at best, as is their AI, but it gets the job done. Upgrading companions is disappointingly grindy unless you spend real money on upgrade tokens. Even the basic companions should see you through most of the game, however, and will still work well for the real-time, set it and forget it, gathering and crafting quests.
There is always something to do in Neverwinter. You can quest, complete dungeons, take on campaigns, PVP, or queue up for an ever rotating series of PVE and PVP events. Instanced PVP (there are some open world areas, too) comes in three flavors - Domination, Gauntlgrym, and Stronghold siege warfare - ranging from 5v5 to 20v20. I enjoyed PVP, though am admittedly less than stellar, and in this case wished I could have used a mouse for aiming my attacks.
The major drawback to the PlayStation version of Neverwinter is the lack of any kind of Foundry tools. For most of the game’s life on PC, the Foundry provided players with tools to make their own campaigns for other players to enjoy and add immeasurable life to the post-campaign game. Without user created content, Neverwinter on PS4 is handicapped. That said, the Foundry has been disabled on the PC version of the game for months with no return in sight. Players are rightfully questioning whether or not Cryptic may be planning on sunsetting the service as it no longer appears on the feature list where it was previously prominently placed.