"Lootin' and Shootin' RTS-Style"
The Borderlands series is well known for its fusion of first-person-shooter gameplay and RPG elements (aside from its overabundance of firearms, but we'll talk about that later), but with Gearbox's iOS spinoff, Borderlands Legends, the series is taken in a different direction: a real-time-strategy direction. But does the genre shift work? Well… just continue reading to find out.
Borderlands Legends gives you control of the four Vault Hunters from the first Borderlands. The difference here is that you control Brick, Roland, Lilith, and Mordecai simultaneously as they shoot their way through hordes of the various human and nonhuman scum of Pandora. In true RTS fashion, the action is viewed from a top-down perspective, and commands to move are issued by tapping a character and then tapping or sliding toward the desired location, at which point they will automatically start attacking the nearest enemy until given a new command.
Like the regular games in the series, killing folks will earn the Vault Hunters cash and experience. The cash earned will allow for the purchasing of the absurd number of unique weapons, shields, and stat-boosters available in the shop that can be accessed between missions or at halfway points during longer missions. The experience, meanwhile, goes into the earning of skill points, which can go into unlocking and upgrading various skills (more on those shortly) and buffs for each character.
Each character in Borderlands Legends may be controlled the same way, but they are in no way designed to be played the same. It will please fans to know that despite the move to RTS gameplay, all four characters play like they do in the first Borderlands, with Brick slow but powerful, Roland skilled all-around, Lilith quick on her feet, and Mordecai deadly from a distance.
Complementing each member's unique differences are the skills that can be unlocked for them as experience is earned. These skills (which range from Brick entering a berserker state to Roland summoning an automatic attack turret) should be familiar to Borderlands veterans, and they allow for a good many ways to spice up the action. Furthermore, each character can give themselves or a teammate a unique stat boost to give those characters a leg up in the heat of battle.
That describes Borderlands Legends's gameplay; well, I think. But is said gameplay fun? A simple answer to that could be "yes". Indeed, it is fun to learn each character's strengths and weaknesses and how to make effective use of them in battle. While not as deep or nuanced as other RTS titles, the strategy element is enjoyable enough that I felt awesome once I figured out where to put the Vault Hunters and which skills to use at what time, watching in delight as they beat down waves of Skags and Bandits.
Despite that, Borderlands Legend's design is, unfortunately, flawed in quite a few ways. The most notable offender is the way missions are handled. Unlike the main Borderlands games, Legends has no plot driving things forward, and instead, each mission consists mainly of survival challenges on a sequence of randomly selected maps. It pretty much goes like this over and over: fight through four waves of enemies on this map, move on, fight through four waves on that map, move on, lather, rinse, repeat… you get the idea.
There is the occasional variation in this formula, though. One mission may involve taking out targets scattered about a map along with the enemies, while another may involve trying to protect an NPC from a boss. Despite this, the formula in which these variations exist soon drags things down in repetitiveness, as there is only so much to do when the main objective is just shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.
Adding further frustration is the occasional control issues in Borderlands Legends. More often than it should have, a Vault Hunter would just stand there after receiving a command to move. This was exacerbated whenever said Vault Hunter was standing near another one, as tapping a location often instead switched control from the first character to the other (in short, this game is best played on the iPad's larger screen). Other issues, such as characters occasionally getting stuck on pieces of the environment, serve to take away from the fun and leave one wondering why Gearbox didn't notice them before letting the game out into the wild.
As it is now, Borderlands Legends is a game with the potential to take the fun factor present and make it a truly memorable RTS title, but irksome control issues and the poor mission design prevent it from becoming so. That isn't to say that it can never be that game. If Gearbox backs this game up with problem-fixing updates, then one day it may live up to the promise of fun to be had within all the shooting, looting, and strategizing. But for now, you'd best play Borderlands 2 if you want that Pandoran itch scratched.
GameDynamo's Score for Borderlands Legends (Mobile)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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