Developer; Publisher: Madfinger Games; Release Date: March 22nd, 2018
Tested On: Razer Phone (Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM), Android 7.1
Shadowgun Legends completely blew my expectations out of the water, and being familiar with Madfinger Games’ previous instalments in the franchise, I was very surprised at how much effort the developers have put into completely changing the game. Shadowgun Legends feels unlike any other game before it, and fills a niche currently absent from the mobile games market. Think of it as a toned-down Warframe or Destiny 2 on the bigger platforms, and that’s Shadowgun Legends in a nutshell. On the moibile, the closest reminder is Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. 3 linear shooter, which is a somewhat old game by today’s standards. The mission-based gameplay from a central hub has allowed the developers to create something fresh for the franchise and the mobile platform in general. As a free-to-play package, it is a very enticing deal, and the game doesn’t force players to rely on micro-transactions, as those exist only for the purpose of cosmetic items and premium currency. Given the game’s PvE nature, plenty of loot can be gathered in many of Shadowgun’s story and side missions, eliminating the need to spend real currency on in-game purchases, which plays to the title’s strengths. To add, Shadowgun Legends looks and plays similar to most AAA titles found on the PC and consoles, and I can easily say that it’s the best looking game on the market. Madfinger games have certainly been improving their first-person shooter and visual experiences, with Legends representing their best efforts so far. The game is quite a looker, and shines on high-end phones, not only presenting crisp visuals and smooth framerates, but also featuring the highest amount of particle effects I’ve seen in a mobile shooter. Shadowgun Legends is an excellent FPS game, and while its free-to-play nature is bound to create obstacles in progression, the fluid gameplay and addicting missions makes Legends a big hit on the mobile platform. Add in its free price, and there is no reason to not give this game at least a try, and I can easily recommend Shadowrun Legends for those in a market for a first-person shooter on the go.
If you’re familiar with previous Shadowguns, then Legends feels like a completely different game to the first two, and one that’s best executed overall. The first Shadowgun was a linear third-person shooter with a short campaign and not much else to offer. The follow-up DeadZone took a different approach, offering a free-to-play online deathmath or team v team gameplay, but it did retain the look and combat of its predecessor. Shadowgun Legends steps into a completely new direction, and features hub-based gameplay along with a switch to a first-person perspective. Out of a free game, I would not expect such level of detail put into Legends, and while some would no doubt find its structure to be quite repetitive with similar missions, there are also plenty of exciting moments to be had playing it. Shadowgun Legends uses the same player progression systems seen in many MMO titles, which includes access to different levels of gear, extensive skill tree, as well as a wealth of customization options available to purchase in-game. While repetitive mission design might serve to the detriment of the game, its close relation to games like Warframe and Destiny 2 that specialize in PvE events and gameplay will draw many players in, and the addicting gameplay loop will keep players occupied over extensive periods of time.
Shadowgun Legends features a single hub town, from which all missions can be accessed on the fly through the galaxy map, and these range from simple defense/eliminate missions that only take 2 minutes to complete to extensive story missions that require longer attention. The mission design can be summarized as highly repetitive, however having played Warframe on PC with the same progression loop, I can easily say that Shadowgun Legends makes up for the repetition by enticing players with better gear and quality combat experience. The game constantly pumps out new gear through quest rewards and enemy loot drops, and is pretty generous with the content it has on offer. You can buy better items from vendors for either standard or premium currency, and of course, if you wish to have any customization beyond paint for your armor and guns, you’d need to spend some real money on currency to gain access to those items. But as mentioned before, one doesn’t need to spend money on Legends to still enjoy it for many hours. After multiple hours of playthrough, the game feels very familiar to Destiny (take either the first or second one) in many ways, including restrictive story progression in favor of additional ‘grind’ quests, however keep in mind that Shadowgun Legends is available on the go and doesn’t cost any admission price.
Madfinger Games have done a really great job at focusing on the visuals for this game, and it looks absolutely stellar on high-end mobile devices. Texture resolutions are very sharp, and the game has the best vegetation detail across all mobile releases of the recent years: seriously, take the time to look at the grass in the hub town and you’ll see what I mean. And textures are just a beginning of this visually impressive package. Shadowgun Legends tends to gravitate towards Michael Bay-style explosive action, and every mission gives an opportunity to see some of the best particle effects by far in mobile gaming. Everything from lighting to environmental detail absolutely shines, and the game features a few diverse locales to make sure players don’t get bored of the same missions they partake in on the same maps. Having to render only a single open hub town, Legends takes full advantage of the assets from Unity Engine to create some spectacular environments and game effects. Did I also mention this is the best-looking Unity engine game I could find on mobile? No? Well, Legends absolutely is, and I’d go as far as to say the game is comparable in graphics to some modern titles on the PC and Consoles. If that wasn’t enough, Legends has the best set of animations that apply to both the player character, as well as the enemy AI. Interactive segments really showcase the animation quality, and even pulling levels is quite satisfying to see, until you’ve seen that same animation about 100 times. Shadowgun Legends as a visual experience is simply unchallenged on the mobile platform, and while quite a few recent releases on mobile such as Gear Club (my review) and PUBG (my review), they are far from competing with the quality of Legends. If you have a high-end phone or tablet, then Legends is one of the best, if not the overall best lookers on mobile systems.
Shadowgun Legends takes players across multiple planets, which brings diverse locales to be seen across the campaign. The scenery change is always nice, although after a few grind missions in the same environment, I was getting bored of the sights. That’s not to say Legends has bad environmental design. In fact, it is the opposite – the level of detail here is the best I’ve seen in a mobile game, which helps Shadowgun look stellar on high-end flagship phones. And the effort didn’t just go into environmental backgrounds either, and shows in everything from character models to highly-detailed guns and even animations are as diverse and smooth as I’d be expecting from a high-profile PC game. Which makes it pretty sweet that Shadowgun Legends is free, however that brings many gripes along which I discuss further into this review. Surprisingly, all these graphics still take up under 1GB of storage, although Madfinger Games’ releases have always been fairly condensed in size. Still, the environmental design showcases some of the best detail and variety I’ve seen in a mobile shooter, and while it’s sci-fi premise looks awfully similar to N.O.V.A. 3 by Gameloft that itself took inspiration from the Halo series, Shadowgun Legends stands its own with a wider range of game mechanics. The hub-based mission design is rare to see on mobile, and while I’m not a big fan of 2-minute long missions, which amount to about the same time as a few loading screens when hopping between the hub and confined linear levels in different locales. But overall, this all works really well, and there is plenty of content to keep players invested over longer periods of time, as many would enjoy Legends’ solid gameplay.
The brief plot there is concerns humanity being oppressed by a superior alien force, although can easily be missed because of the gameplay structure. Hub-based mission design never really leaves room for any story development to happen, and lack of voice over in at least main mission briefings doesn’t help by much either. Shadowguns are known as skilled mercenaries in this universe, and as one, the player completes a variety of story missions, side challenges and takes part in surprisingly many multiplayer modes. You wouldn’t really care about the plot here, plus Legends feels awfully similar to Halo, Destiny and N.O.V.A. in its plot setting and development, and as such, there are far better stories to be seen even on the mobile platform. As Shadowgun Legends is free, expect a progression curve that takes a while to complete; story missions are broken up with side quests and quick challenges, and while it does offer diversity away from the main plot, the grind required to access further plot missions often slows the game down to a complete halt. Whereas the main plot missions are generous with their XP rewards, side missions tend to reward players much less, and on numerous occasions, I found myself grinding side missions or dipping into multiplayer just to unlock that next story bit. Not that it’s a necessarily awful design, as the gameplay in Shadowgun Legends is very solid and while it does require grind, the game doesn’t force micro-transactions. The game is one of the best shooters on the mobile platform, although it is bound to find competition from the likes of PUBG Mobile and Fortnite when it comes out. The PvE-based mission design works really well along with Legends’ central hub, which makes the game fun to play both in short bursts and over longer gaming sessions.
The central town in Legends grants access to everything from missions to new gear. It serves as a central hub, where players start off to venture into either single player missions or the various multiplayer modes Shadowgun offers. It’s the only semi-open location featured in the game, and even then, it is limited to a few interactive spots and characters, however that is understandable on the mobile systems. Not that there is anything to do in the hub besides selling looted gear and picking up missions, so there are no complaints against the game in regards to the linear structure. It is easy to tell Legends borrows many elements from the likes of Destiny and Borderlands, with first-person gameplay, various rarity levels of loot, and the focus on constantly improving player stats. Again, this isn’t a bad thing as such games weren’t available on the go, and Legends fills that niche perfectly. In addition to endless piles of gear, there is a giant skill tree, which suggests a very high level cap, although I doubt the game has enough single player content to support that, and those interested in maxxing out their characters would resort to multiplayer. Decoding holograms or opening loot boxes is the easiest way to get paint for armor and weapons, which offers players an opportunity to personalize their Shadowguns.
Legends is fairly generous with loot, and after extensive browsing through the game’s visual shop, I determined that premium currency is used for cosmetics only, so doesn’t offer players who spend real-world money any significant advantage. For those obsessed with accessorizing characters, be prepared to spend some amount of real-world currency. With that said, there is one element the premium currency affects most, which is loot box keys. Gold loot boxes contain a high chance for rare items, however require a keycard to unlock unlike regular chests. After a few hours of play, I have 3 sitting in my inventory with no way to unlock them, which I see as a problem as more and more of those loot boxes are accumulated. Oddly enough too, Legends is missing a daily rewards system (apart from currency contracts with certain payouts), and to use its wheel spin feature, one again needs the premium currency. It’s not the best design, as the wheel spin does contain a chance for keycards to those gold chests I noted above. Forcing players to spend real-world currency on something with a random chance of reward (hello triple A gaming loot boxes) is not an ideal system, and like many other free-to-play titles on mobile, Legends could have done with a free wheel spin per day. Apart from these major gripes with premium currency, however, there is no reason to spend real-world currency at any point as the game provides enough rewards.
The multiplayer mode is fairly diverse, and offers players a selection of 6 different modes, which include both PvP and PvE systems. There are 6 models in total, including a co-op dungeon, 1v1 and team vs team modes. It’s a diverse set of multiplayer events, and given Legends’ recent launch, servers are plentiful with other players, who are even rendered real-time in the game’s hub town. Legends offers a set of emotes for quick gestures and also message communication, however that appears to be limited to the hub town so far, as I’ve found no means to communicate with others during actual missions. When missions require player coordination to unlock something, it can be frustrating when others on your team aren’t paying attention, and hopefully it’s something that can be addressed in future updates. A proper communication system can certainly be useful in co-op, as well as team vs team modes. The latter 3 co-op arenas are gated behind lengthy progression, which lessens their appeal, however based on description, they are meant for skilled players, so taking time with the game prior is fairly important. With the diversity of content that Shadowgun Legends offers with both its single and multiplayer modes, the game is currently one of the best shooters available on the mobile platform, and also Madfinger Games’ most ambitious project so far (read here).
With release of Shadowgun Legends, the mobile platform finally has a title to contend with likes of Warframe and Destiny, and the game is also one of the best lookers across a vast range of games on Google Play. The fluid first-person shooter mechanics combined with a loot system and skill progression creates a unique experience on mobile, and the addicting gameplay loop contributes to longevity of the title, which is important considering fierce competition of releases on the mobile systems. With an extensive single player campaign broken up with side quests and challenge trials, Shadowgun Legends is the most ambitious FPS title on the platform so far, and its free price can’t be ignored, even if it does bring numerous gripes with the game’s slow progression curve. In addition to being a stellar shooter, Legends is also an excellent looker, with visual detail coming very close to the graphics of some PC and console titles. Environmental design deserves extra praise, and the diversity of environments is excellent for a game of this scale. While it is not a completely perfect game, and the progression presents some extensive grind in places, the gameplay more than makes up for it with diverse environments and excellent FPS mechanics. As a free download, I see absolutely no reason not to recommend this game. Madfinger Games did indeed deliver on their “most ambitious title yet”.
*all screenshots captured in-game