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Livelock review

Livelock is one of the best examples of its genre. It’s an impressive package that expertly balances its setting, mechanics, difficulty, pacing and visual prowess to provide an isometric twin-stick shooter that’s superb fun to play alone or with friends.

You play as one of three Capital Intellects; human minds uploaded into towering robots armed to the teeth with weapons. You are a failsafe, designed to fix any problems that occur over the eons between Earth being irradiated with gamma rays, destroying all organic life, and the time humans can return to the planet, their minds having been stored digitally in several massive storage servers. Of course, something went wrong, with the planet now embroiled in a war between robotic factions. You and your two fellow Capital Intellects must bring an end to the corrupted robotic forces and secure the stored human minds.

It’s an intriguing story that spins a pleasant tale with a handful of twists and revelations over the course of the 6-8 hour campaign. Furthermore, your robot foes have their own leadership and elite forces for you to exchange dialogue with in a Saturday morning cartoon fashion that’s hard not to enjoy. Of course, the Transformers comparison is inevitable, this is especially so with the voice-work, which is largely excellent and some notable one-liners serving up a chuckle or smile, however, it’s treads a darker line than that of everybody’s favourite robots in disguise, therefore it soon differentiates itself enough to become its own original thing.

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Whilst an intricate tale is being spun, this translates mechanically to shooting and bashing copious amounts of robots, and it’s terrific fun. The isometric view makes everything looks so small yet at the same time, thanks to detailed environments with derelict buildings and vehicles as well as natural features such as trees and rivers, also provides a wonderful sense of scale. Whichever of the three robots you choose – Hex the ranged weapon specialist, Vanguard the melee specialist, or Catalyst the support specialist – you’re inhabiting a hulking great metal beast of a machine. During the explosive fire fights you’ll knock cars incidentally and send them skidding across the battlefield. Meanwhile, you can walk through most walls, suffering the slightest of slowdown to your gait. You absolutely feel like a huge, unstoppable robot, which is excellent.

The sound design further sales your metal might, with thunderous steps as you walk and shriek of steel on steel as your shred your enemies component from component. Additionally, absolutely stunning visuals and enemy design provides unique robotic monstrosities to combat, a strikingly saturated colour palette, and some of the most impressive particle and weapon effects seen in the genre. But it’s the shadows that really pull you in. Everything onscreen casts one, with framerates largely staying smooth and fast. As the battlefield is changed by the destruction of walls and scattering of debris, new shadows are formed dynamically. It’s marvellous.

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However, as previously hinted, there are occasions when the on-screen action compromises the framerate, but it’s thankfully rare and short-lived when it does occur. Additionally, Livelock supports up to three player cooperative play but online only, which is a bit of a shame for couch co-op fans.

If you do venture online for cooperative play you’ll find excellent difficulty scaling to match the player count. Whether playing alone or with others, the challenge is ideally crafted to offer you an intense fight that is often barely winnable, keeping the satisfaction of victory always high and rewarding.

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Shooting and smashing robots in intense battles across a variety of locations ends up feeling more akin to Diablo than any traditional twin-stick shooter. The inclusion of melee combat options as well as a host of different special attacks on cool-downs, of which you can only have three equipped at one time, further this similarity. A secondary mode to the story-driven campaign, Open Protocol, builds on the comparison, allowing you to take on levels without the narrative threads and concentrate on high scores and gaining more experience. With experience comes more weapon options to unlock and upgrade, allowing you to customise your characters to a significant degree, even to the point of changing their class specific specialisation, such as equipping Vanguard with ranged weapons instead of his default melee ones. It’s superbly customisable and allows you to shape your characters however you feel or to what best suits your team if playing online.

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With weapons and abilities unlocked with experience, loot is kept to a minimum and comes in the form of Firmware for your characters, allowing you to customise their colour, their head and their cape. Collecting capes may sound daft but seeing it flap in the breeze as you tear through hordes of mechanical foes is both heroic and awesome.

Indeed, Livelock is excellent, from the hugely satisfying destruction from the environment and enemies, the complex and unique enemy design – to the point where they’ll limp under the weight of their arsenal – to the thematically excellent soundtrack with unexpected layers of instruments that gives Livelock a one of a kind musical score. It’s a tremendous title and a champion of its genre, hurt quite a bit by a lack of local coop and ever so slightly by the odd hit to the framerate.

Thanks to Xbox and Tuque Games for supporting TiX

Neverwinter, Storm King’s Thunder expansion announced

Perfect World Entertainment Inc., one of the leading publisher of free-to-play MMORPGs, and Cryptic Studios have announced the newest expansion for Neverwinter, Storm King’s Thunder. In the tenth expansion for the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons-based MMORPG, adventurers will experience a unique story about the rise of giants, based on the upcoming storyline from Wizards of the Coast. This expansion will be available for PC in August but a console release date is still to be confirmed.

Neverwinter: Storm King’s Thunder sees giants invade the world of Neverwinter. Adventurers will travel north to Bryn Shander – the heart of the Ten Towns – to investigate the sudden presence of frost giants in the region. This new content will bring players through three new adventure zones as they team up with popular characters from Dungeons & Dragons lore, including Catti-brie, Wulfgar and Harshnag.

High-level adventurers will experience a new campaign that will guide them through the new adventure zones and story content. In addition to the story content, the expansion will also introduce players to a new tier of dungeon and additional high level equipment for adventurers.

Neverwinter is a free-to-play action MMORPG on the Xbox One that can be downloaded via the online store. For further information check out the official website.

Neverwinter: Rise of Tiamat available later today

Neverwinter Rise of Tiamat

Later on the today during the 7AM PDT maintenance window (3PM GMT), Perfect World Entertainment & Cryptic Studios have announced that Neverwinter: Rise of Tiamat will be available on Xbox One. The content update will be released alongside an update that aim to improve player experience across the board. These include an onscreen mini-map, performance upgrades, adjustments to queuing and more.

Neverwinter players may now explore the all-new Well of Dragons adventure zone while battling the harbingers of Tiamat, queen of the dragons, in the first of five free expansions Xbox One players can expect in 2015 at no additional cost.

Neverwinter: Rise of Tiamat follows the events of Neverwinter: Tyranny of Dragons campaign and the recent Siege of Neverwinter event. Along with new quests and heroic encounters on the path to completing the final chapters of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign, players can anticipate the upcoming 25-player battle with five-headed draconic goddess Tiamat.

With Neverwinter being one of the first MMORPGs to come to the Xbox One, we wanted to ensure that our game lives up to the idea of a living world.  Rise of Tiamat is just the beginning of our continued support for our game on consoles as we look to deliver more dungeons, dragons and game optimizations that our players want.

said Rob Overmeyer, executive producer of Neverwinter. You can read our full interview with Rob Overmeyer here.

Check out the trailer and new screenshots below.

 

 

Neverwinter closed beta keys are being distributed

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The Neverwinter closed beta test began on Feb 5 and keys to access the beta are still going out – I received mine last night! The ‘free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG’ only runs for three days so if you’ve got a code redeem it quickly – there’s not much time left to experience one of the first “premium free-to-play titles” headed to Xbox One.

Once you’ve taken your first steps in Neverwinter’s universe, make sure you pop over to the official Xbox One Neverwinter forums to leave your feedback or report any bugs that you’ve encountered.

While it may be flaunted as “free-to-play”, Neverwinter has a variety of ‘booster’ packs that can be purchased – although I wouldn’t advise buying anything and expecting it to work in the beta!