Tuque Games is a Montreal-based developer, and Livelock is their debut game coming to PS4, XB1, and PC soon. Seeing as how publisher Perfect World and Tuque just decided to delay the launch a bit, we’ve been spending time with the PC release candidate, and have a few thoughts to share on the top-down shooter slash Co-Op RPG.
Livelock’s premise is a novel one for the ARPG genre. Usually, these games are about demons, set in fantasy worlds. Livelock is different: this is a post-apocalyptic world where machines have taken over Earth, and all that remains of civilization was sent into orbit. Human minds and existence are not transferable to massive war-machine robots called Capital Intellects. Three such CIs are your playable characters in Livelock: Hex, Vanguard, and Catalyst. Hex is your standard marksman, Vanguard is a giant melee brute (with some ranged weapons), while Catalyst is a speedy support character.
Ultimately, Livelock is intended to be played with a party of three – each player taking on one of the three characters. But during our time, because of the few people playing, we didn’t have much experience with the Co-Op aspects. That said, there’s clear potential in the game’s action. If you’ve played any twin-stick shooter, you’ll be familiar with how it works. Aim with the mouse, move with WASD (or right and left sticks on your controller).
As you play through the campaign, you’ll earn new skills for your CI, which include new weapons to use as well. There’s no loot in Livelock, but that doesn’t stop you from equipping and improving yourself. You’ll collect currency as you play which can be spent on upgrading your equipment and skills, and you will find new masks, paint jobs, and so forth to change your looks as you play. I still miss the sense of “what’d I get?” when looting in traditional ARPGs, but I suppose that’s why Tuque and Perfect World are downplaying the RPG aspects and focusing on the co-op and shooters parts.
The action itself is good. I’ve played each of the characters a bit now, and Vanguard – the hulking smashing tank – is my favorite. But the reason is probably because he’s able to actually hit what you aim for. One of Livelock’s current issues that needs fixing before launch is that for a top down shooter, its aiming isn’t always that great. Vanguard escapes that because he can just punch most everything, while Hex and Catalyst require more precision. Additionally, the levels of the terrain vary, but there’s no way for your character to aim up or down. It should happen naturally, but instead you end up shooting into a hill or above the heads of your enemies while they pummel you instead.
The campaign itself is pretty interesting, but it’s only 21 missions long, and will only take most players about 5 hours to go through. If you play it through with all CIs, sure that’s about 15 hours. But since there’s no real variation on second playthroughs, I’m unsure how many people will do that. Instead, the bulk of Livelock’s replayability is supposed to come from its never-ending procedurally generated Survival Mode. This is something I wager would be far more fun with at least one other person, but as a solo player the basic gameplay loop of “how many waves can you fend off” is pretty boring.
For $20, Livelock does seem like a pretty good deal, but there are some issues to be worked out before launch, and I want to really try it with 1-2 other people to see if the MP factor is enough to make the core gameplay more compelling. I’ve enjoyed my brief time with Tuque’s debut, but I’m glad they’re holding it in the oven a little while longer. You only get one shot at a first impression with players, so here’s hoping they knock it out of the park when release does happen.