App review: Borderlands Legends
2K Games must have known it was onto a good thing when it released Borderlands 2.
The timing of Borderlands Legends, an iOS game based on the franchise, was impeccable - it left just enough time for gamers to finish up their first playthrough of 2 before switching from Xbox to iPad. But despite sharing music, characters and skill trees with the main Borderlands franchise, Legends doesn't play like the rest of the series at all.
See, Legends isn't a shooter. Nor is it a looting game. And there's no story to speak of, so it's certainly not an RPG. It's a top-down strategy game where you control the four characters from the original Borderlands, and help them to take down waves of enemies.
Each of the characters has a unique ability that helps out his or her teammates - Roland can heal the others, for example - as well as class-specific skills that are straight from the first game.
Lilith can phasewalk, and Brick can unleash a flurry of melee attacks. But unlike the console/PC games, in Legends you can unlock multiple skills for each character, so in addition to his melee skill, Brick can also attract all enemies to him to get them off of his teammates.
In theory a Borderlands strategy game could, and should, have been great. I really liked the idea of getting Brick to take up the role of tank, and Mordecai the role of sniper, while the other two characters rushed in and out of battle picking people off.
In reality, it didn't matter which characters I sent charging into battle. There was no actual strategy required. Even on the 'hard' levels that required more than one attempt, which I only came across once in a blue moon, the solution was not to strategise better but to level up my characters more before reattempting the fight.
Legends was clearly rushed out the door by 2K China, and that's pretty sad. The game is a buggy mess. You're supposed to be able to tap a character, then tap a spot on the map to make that character walk to that point. However, if there's cover in the way, good luck getting the character to find a path around it. Instead, the character will often walk into the cover repeatedly until you move them around the object a little bit at a time.
The game is also remarkably repetitive - you'll see the same environments and do the same things over and over and over.
Legends isn't all bad, however - the skill tree system was as interesting and fun to use as it is in the full Borderlands games. There's much about the iOS version of the game that's familiar, and because of my enjoyment of the main franchise's art, music and systems, I liked quite a few aspects of Legends. It's also nice to see something vaguely resembling a console experience, in terms of graphics and interfaces, hitting the iPad. That said, all of the things I liked about it were things that had been introduced by the franchise's creators, Gearbox Studios, rather than 2K China, who developed the app.
Fans of Borderlands might want to give Legends a try, but it's got a relatively high price point for an app - $6.49 for iPhone and $9.99 for iPad. You're probably going to have more fun playing the browser-based, 16-bit Borderlands "demake". And guess what? It's free.
RRP incl GST: $6.49 (iPhone), $9.99 (iPad)