Borderlands Legends [$4.99 / $6.99 (HD)] doesn't lean on enough of the series' strengths. Instead, it turns a lot of them on their heads to its detriment.

But even removed from Borderlands the series, it's still an unimaginative, often boring game with spotty controls and iffy mechanics that don't work so well together. In a lot of ways, Legends is kind of a mess.

To rewind, Legends is a top-down strategy game that puts you in control of the original four Vault Hunters across a series of randomized "missions." For the most part, missions are simple bag and tag kind of procedures, each consisting of four claustrophobic arenas that spew monsters and the series' psychopaths at you in a steady stream.

Fights go down in real-time, so you're in charge of directing each of the characters at once. The Hunters also have special abilities, and you're tasked with setting those off at the right time for the best effect. Brick, for example, can berserk and essentially act as a tank, so ideally you want to pop this skill in front of a mob. Mordecai is a sniper that can call in a bird. Ideally, you want to pop this from the back of a fight as often as possible. Pretty simple stuff.

Each character also has a support ability. Brick can shield other players, while Roland, the commando, can heal players -- and so on. There's also a cover system, similar to the one XCOM: Enemy Unknown uses; if you're behind something, you take less damage and a small shield indicator tells you if you're covered or not.

On paper, this stuff works together, each system comfortably feeding into the next. In practice, they don't because everything's kinda broken. Horrendous pathfinding, for example, makes the cover system basically useless since Hunters tend to jam themselves into geometry.

Also, Hunter and enemy AI is silly bad. Both will stand dumbly taking damage when out of their own shooting range. You have to direct them to the enemy, even if they're staring down one just a step or two away.

In the early going, I had a handful of situations where I almost wiped on a lone sniper because the Hunter AI couldn't (a) figure out ways around a circular rock and (b) take any initiative while getting bullets sprayed in their faces.

For the most part, the Hunters will respond to anything that directly runs up on them, so that's a plus. I guess. But then there's the controls. They just ... don't work half the time. When you direct a dude it's a toss-up if he'll bother going there. The multi-touch gestures and attack commands are the same way; they're just not reliable.

Combined, all these problems make for a big mess. Most of my fights turn into horrible loops of reviving and dying, as each character struggles to not only move around a rock, but also to stay alive long enough to do so. When hunters revive each other, they can keep firing, so that makes this loop possible.

There's times when everything works, when the level design compliments the play style that was intended and everything clicks. Most of the time, nothing clicks, making this take on Borderlands feel like more of a chore than a game.

As you play, you earn EXP that can be thrown into characters' stat trees, leveling up their special abilities. Basically, you increase the power of whatever they do. You also earn cash as you kill stuff, which is needed to buy new equipment from vending machines.

Neither of these things really work as hooks. The special powers are kind of a wash since the game fluctuates between sillily easy (more on that in a second) or hard enough that you won't be able to do anything other than die and revive in the combat. Cash as opposed to loot doesn't work, either. There's no thrill inherent in visiting a chunk of UI to see what you can buy with what you earned, no compulsion to keep playing because the reward is completely static; cash is just that, cash.

The play certainly isn't the reward -- and it's not consistent, either. The difficulty balance swings all over the place. In the early going, the game is flat-out hard. Around level 15 or so, it swings the other way; you become way too strong and can win without actually even moving the Hunters, which you know, is a problem since this is a strategy game and all. The "late" game introduces some cheesier, bullet-sponge-y enemies that swings the difficulty back again in a unsatisfying way.

The other crazy thing about Borderlands Legends? It doesn't feel like a Borderlands game. The tone is off, the writing is dull, and it doesn't have the series signature loot mechanic, which is the thing that informs the feverish, one-more go kind of play that the proper games absolutely nail. Also, Pandoria in this game just feels... incomplete. You'll play the same levels over and over and over again.

I've spent hundreds of hours across both Borderlands games, playing with pals, picking up guns, and grinding on bosses for legendaries. The idea of playing a Borderlands game on a tablet sounds great, but I can't get into this. It's too broke.

Even if you're not a Borderlands fan, though, this is not a recommended game. In theory, it should be awesome, but in practice nothing works like it should. Legends is a sloppy, unimaginative game that isn't ready for primetime.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • http://twitter.com/mguniverse Danny Perskinstein

    This review is too generous.

    • Respox

      How bad does a game have to be to get 1 star? From the review, this seems pretty much unplayable.

      • http://twitter.com/gacbmmml Noah

        There's a reason he's reviewing games on his own website and not a big-name company like IGN or Gamespot.

      • RushNY

        Why did you like your own comment?  You jelly bro?

      • NoahDavid

        I like everything I post.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        What does this even mean?

      • NoahDavid

        It just means that I feel your reviews are biased and that type of un-objectivity wouldn't fly with any serious gaming news publication. No offense please.

      • KlangKlangKlang

        God, another self-sucking backseat critic, and one without a real cause at that. I'd say Danny's comment was a referendum on the game rather than an actual jab at the reviewer, who did a fine job of expressing his opinion. Even if you matched a fraction of the writer's effort, you still wouldn't be entitled to be heard, much less applauded.

        Thank the intergods there are no dislike buttons on this site to bury your misinformed ego where no one can pet it for you.

      • 1Fcm

        I thought all reviews were biased in one way or another? There is no such thing as an unbiased review. Thats why reviews are considered opinions. We as gamers should never bash a reviewer based on our own bias or opinions. In order for a game review to be unbiased it would have to read like a bullet-point list of what the game has to offer in terms of characters, levels, etc, with no mention of whether it is good or not. And that, sadly, would be boring.

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

         One star would probably mean it has to physically hurt you to play - danger to life and limb? 

  • Tondog

    I could tell you didn't like it based on the TA plays but two stars? Dang. Wasn't expecting it that low. Thanks for the review, Brad!

  • runliketurtles

    I think you mean without ANYthing that makes Borderlands fun. If it didn't have everything and was only missing one or two aspects I doubt this game would be so bad...

  • MidianGTX

     I'm willing to bet Gearbox are secretly upset this happened.

    • pauldavidmerritt

      Nope, they do it on purpose. They put the name 'Borderlands' on the front of it, and know that MANY gamers will buy it, and they get to spend a whole lot less time on the gameplay/quality--IN FACT, BLegends doesn't even have to be a decent game at its best!

      • MidianGTX

         It's quite usual in these circumstances for portable versions of games to be handed off to other (lesser) development teams within the company. I'm thinking the guys who made Borderlands and it's sequel did not make this. At least, I can't find any evidence that they did. It looks to me like it was 2K's call, which is what I meant by Gearbox being upset. I doubt they had much of a choice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trevor-Ford/100000155287227 Trevor Ford

        It was 2K China that handled this.  They worked on the NBA 2K series but this was all their creation.  At least the kind of guy Randy Pitchford seems to be and the kind of studio Gearbox is I'm pretty sure this is all on 2K management.

  • BOWB4ZOD

    Damn I was really looking forward to a game like this. Been looking for a game like Killzone on the PSP.

  • ImJPaul

    I'm gonna buy it tmrw morning anyways. I have to see this for myself and make sure ill truly hate it. It's only $7.

    • pauldavidmerritt

      Wow. This must be a joke. Do you know what happens when people buy games that were purposefully released without any good gameplay, knowing they [Developers] will make a hot buck off of it because of the famous, money-making NAME, Borderlands? Developers will continue to sell flat-out crappy, low cost games and make money off of the weasels that buy and support this crud. Are you a troll too? Heh....

      • Thaurin

        This guy is a troll that likes to annoy people. Ignore him.

      • ImJPaul

        How does wanting to find something out for myself make me a troll? I'm a bit confused.

      • Thaurin

        How does telling people how a story-heavy game ends (even if it was a joke) not make you a troll? Yeah, I remember.

      • ImJPaul

        It doesn't actually end like that. It actually had nothing to do with it. If you had played it you would know that. Jeez.

      • Thaurin

        The point is, I, and many other people, had not played it at that point. You should have known better.

    • NoahDavid

      It's actually only $4.99, so less than the cost of a single gallon of gas or a tall cup of Starbucks.

  • Dorje Sylas

    Oh not more of this spilt price HD garbage. I'd pay an extra 2 or 3 dollars (a.k.a half the price of the HD game) as an in-app purchase to get the 'HD' interface but I'm not playing twice for the same game just so I can play it on both my iPod and iPad (at an iPad resolution). At least they aren't charging Square-Enix prices for that kind of BS.

    You want a cover shooter as an example of game done right, look at Mass Effect Infiltrator, once they added the more free-move style controls its the game to get. And it doesn't do this split-pricing for HD. Really disappointed with GearBox.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

      ME is really good, I agree. However it gets really boring once you unlock everything and beat the entire campaign and the extra campaign. 

  • JJE

    This was without a doubt a hard review for Brad to write. What is it with gearbox? Can we has some plush Hunters just in time for the holidays too?

    • http://www.facebook.com/donald.ronald.754 Donald Ronald

      Except this isn't a gearbox game. It's a 2k game. Get your facts straight.  Gearbox had nothing to do with this and I wouldn't be surprised if they're pissed at the turnout of this POS.

  • Noah

    Insta-download for me. Sounds like an upgraded version of Battleheart!

    • pauldavidmerritt

      Wow, really? The reason Gearbox would let a game like this 'fly', is that many gamers will buy it because it has a top-selling name, and it has NOTHING to do with the quality/production of it. When people stop spending their money on hot game titles and names, maybe developers would feel a bit more obligated to create a real, full-fledged, quality game. Come on...!! Geez.

    • Ryan Bach

      You have a funny definition of 'upgraded'.

      • http://twitter.com/gacbmmml Noah

        Just because Eli can't get his guys to walk around a rock doesn't mean the rest of us can't!

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Check the byline.

      • Noah

        Oh, my apologies. Mean to say Brad.

  • Nicholas Yu

    That it is too bad. I was really looking forward to this after getting deeply absorbed by the new XCOM. I guess I will keep playing Hunters 2 to get my mobile squad strategy game fix.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

    I played this game, I say it's a pretty good game if you like strategy squad based tactical games. The only thing I say this game lack in is the in-app purchases. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

    It's kind of ironic that people rate this game a 2 star, whereas they rated 4 to 5 stars for other dumb puzzle games that aren't technically games in my book. I am a "real" gamer and I find it awkward how those tasteless games that give me a bad taste can be a good taste for others. #badtasteingames

    • JPhilipp

      I presume it's a matter of reviewing relative to the target group, asking: "Is this game fun for those people who like to play these types of games?"

    • pauldavidmerritt

      Get real. It doesn't surprise me or the many, many other gamers how a puzzle game could rate better than this. Troll. Game developers are moving closer to dumby-dumb releases, and they can afford it because people will by the game when it says 'Borderlands', and developers don't even have to put the gameplay and quality up to par. Are you a buyer that supports these B.S. releases, or are you a hired troll?

      • NaugyTruth

        Ok man... All you do is talk down people that want to give the game a go, you know make their own opinion.  Are you hired to shout down people that want to practice their right as a consumer, even if you don't understand it. You have done that on at least 3 comments of folks that said they are willing to give it a go.

        Back the eff off... really, the shit is old.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

        I am not a buyer or troll. I am only critiquing the games and comparing them. I don't have anything against the people who play the dumb puzzle games, but the game itself. Trust me when I tell you that there are games in this iphone world that are badass and some that are torture. Just a little touch-screen smartphone can have many possibilities( or games) such as: N.O.V.A. 3, MC3, IB2, Hunters 2, GBWG or GLWG, Kingdom Rush, and many more. Go ahead, give them a try. 

    • Ryan Bach

      I know that you think anyone who likes different games than you has bad taste and is not a real gamer. I don't know why you object to this game's rating, which 'dumb puzzle games' are overrated, or what that last thing has to do with this review aside from the fact that you wanted to complain about both. Maybe you can talk more about the content of the review and less about your contempt for other gamers? #unnecessaryhashtag

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

        Look, I don't think that people who like different games than me have bad taste. I think bad games are its own reason that its bad. I mean games like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope aren't technically "real" games in my book, but I don't think any less of it. I still think it's a good game even though I don't play it much. Games like Crying Poo( I don't even know why I know about this game) and Epic Beard( piece of random sh*t) are the worst games ever; they should be the world's greatest torture (if you don't believe me, try it, but don't, you'll probably die of boredom). I am a critique on games and I believe N.O.V.A. 3 or MC3 are gods compared to crappy puzzle games. Of course, you have the right to judge as well, so go ahead and give those "god" games a try, you'll like them if you like FPS. BTW, I didn't say this game would be one of my favorites, I just think it's at least better than puzzle games in these categories: graphics, rpg-like, more perks, customization, and possibly challenge level.

    • MrAlbum

      You need a new viewpoint.

      If puzzle games are not real games, then a hardcore gamer should blow through them, right? Since they aren't games according to what you stated, then they should not take any effort to beat, correct?

      To test this theory, I want you to try a highly-reviewed puzzle game that TA reviewed. Then see how easy it is to beat it, and if any skills as a hardcore guy make it easier to play the game.

      Consider this as you play: The strictest definition of a game is, as far as I know: "An interactive work of art". That's it. All games boil down to something similar to this statement.

      Puzzle games often have beautiful art. You can interact with them. Therefore, THEY ARE GAMES. As per the base definition, of course.

      Any thoughts about this?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

        "Real" games does not mean difficult. Real games are the effort the developers put in the game to make it challenging yet at the same time not too difficult and not too boring. Games that can be creative or "big" that can have many possibilities. I think games should be lasting, fun, and inspirational. Games like IB2 are great, they have a personal customization, lasting, have a purpose or a goal, very very creative with its many equipment( mostly in rpg), and great looks or graphics. N.O.V.A. 3 or MC3 are lasting, very very lasting, since they bring out a great game style and gameplay, the online should keep users from getting bored, since we all love competitions, so we play to be the best. That's why these games are so great, they get the player addicted. To actually answer your question, I'll answer it with a question. Will I be addicted or will I get bored? Hmm?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000912563325 Alfred Liu

        You are probably referring to games like bejeweled blitz. You're right, they are puzzle and they are challenging. However, you are wrong about art of work. Is this really a game that you want to spend all day every day in? Does this game actually have a goal or is it just plain random? If this is what makes you pass your time and you're willing to pay money for a low quality game then perhaps I can just make a puzzle game and not put effort into it. All I need is to make colorful shapes and come up with combinations, then I make millions of dollars. 

  • Chris Sullivan

    i gotta say, this review is just plain harsh. I get that yea, it's not a super awesome mega borderlands iphone game, but it's really no where near as bad as these guys are making it out to be. Personally I'm having more fun playing this than crescent moon's or any of the other battleheart clones. it even has some charm to it with clap trap humming along etc. I think that the TA guys are just really upset that it doesn't feel exactly like borderlands would on iOS. 
    Which, when it's made by a different team, in a different country, and is an entirely different style of game, is kind of a silly thing to expect. I'm just sayin'.

    • anada

      Not when it carries the "Borderlands" branding.

      • Chris Sullivan

        Because every AAA game that moves to mobile is incredible right? Get real.

      • anada

        You are saying its silly to expect a certain standard because it was made by a different team. Everyone else is saying when you slap a premium price tag on a game and use the Borderlands branding to push sales then you are rightfully going to have expectations to meet. When a blatant cash grab such as this is made, people will call them out for it.

        I think you need to get real.

      • NaugyTruth

        This blatant cash-grab, which I have read no less that a dozen times on three different games in the past 24 hours is passe at this point. 

        $6.99

        Look at that for a few minutes... We are not mortgaging our homes here folks.  I would spend this on Space Invaders in an arcade 30+ years ago.  And apparently that was a cash-grab as well.

        This game entertains and at the same time was released with flaws... oh my f34434king gard!!!  What?  Read any other review in the past week and some very highly rated games here on TA had issues at release.  But they were not flayed in vendetta like fashion, no, the reviewer found some redeeming quality to go ahead and say, "it is decent game, but it has flaws, give it a whirl, I am sure they will fix it".

        But not on this one, no way.  It seems that someone at 2k goosed Eli on the hinie or pissed in his Cheerios, because the guy could not find one positive mention to report in this game.  It sounds more that he was expecting the console version of Borderlands and he was given the ole bait and switch that was too much for him to handle.  He needed to shift gears and he was stuck in editorial neutral.

        I have seen many people saying the game is decent, it has flaws, but still they are having a good time.

        I think if anything, this shows a level of rigidity and singularity on the part of the reviewer, and if I was reviewing him I would give the same level of bias he showed  2k.

        2 out 5 Stars

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    Worst rating a game has even gotten on TA?

    • defred34

      Yes, joint worst with games like The Amazing Spider Man and Dead Trigger.

      • MrAlbum

        Have they ever dished out one-star reviews?

  • PadreTomasito

    Where is the gameplay? The real Borderland-like gameplay? I just see some static 3d-models that are shooting randomly to other static random nonAI 3d-models like in some kind of the worst tower defense game ever... iDevices are capable to run games that looks almost like PC Bordeland and they just made such shitty game?

    • http://twitter.com/gacbmmml Noah

      Just because the iPhone can handle games that look like Infinity Blade doesn't mean that I want every game on my device to look like Infinity Blade.

      I enjoy Hero Academy just the way it is, which is basically just static 2D models shooting and attacking other static 2D models in some kind of the best turn base game ever...

      • PadreTomasito

        Sure, but this is Borderland franchise. I like retro games, I like 8bit games even more than InfinityBlade-quality-games but this one is sold under Borderland franchise (so AAA class) and it sells you nothing even close to Borderland...

      • Noah

        Did you say the same thing about the Mass Effect game and the Metal Gear game when they came out? Of couse you must have... so why are you surprised when this game is released? 

        It's not like they called it "Borderlands 2: The hit PC game in the palm of your hand". No. They billed it as the "latest addition to the Borderland franchise." Take it for what it is... an upgraded version of Battleheart, not Halo 4.

      • PadreTomasito

        Well, both iOS games mentioned by you were at least action games. Yes, both of them were misleading in their franchise overuse. And this one is more like no-action-at-all game and a overuse too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StevenRBaptiste Steve Baptiste

    Are you reviewing harshly after the 'Doritosgate' fiasco? Making it look like you are standing up to bad games all of a sudden. I have seen reviews on here giving games 4 out of 5 that I've played and thought "did I download a different game.... delete".
    Surely gaming is down to personal preference, just the same with all other types of media.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in future updates, so I would have gone with 3 out of 5 as there is definitely room for improvement but it's not a terrible game.

    • NoahDavid

      Exactly. Just because Eli thinks a game is the best or worst game ever doesn't mean the rest of us will think the same thing.

      I've done the exact same thing you did with a game Eli gave 4.5 stars! Remember something called "Battleloot Adventure"?

      The game was 100% broken because the Witch could cast a single spell to kill any enemy in the game after playing for about an hour. It was completely game breaking, yet Eli still gave it 4.5 stars.

      I read this site to figure out which new games are coming out soon, not because I take the reviews seriously.

      • MrAlbum

        One thing I'd like to ask:

        Sure, the game Battleloot Adventures wasn't perfect, and it has the balance issue you mentioned.

        But was it fun?

        Did the art style support the gameplay? Did the audio design help improve immersion in the game? Can the overall package be enjoyed? I ask this as someone who played the first minute or so and left it alone after that, so I ask these questions as a way to find the truth of the matter.

        If the above questions are answered "yes", then I can see where the 4.5 star rating comes from. If a slightly flawed game is really good despite said flaws, then the game deserves praise.

        I am also a firm believer that if something about the game is broken, as you described, then it is the player's job to notify the developer so they can address the issue in some way. Do the devs for Battleloot Adventure know about the Witch exploit? Or was that intentional? After all, it often takes players to come up with exploits that the developer may not intend. League of Legends is a good example of that concept. Again, for the devs to be aware of the problem, then the problem needs to be communicated to them.

        Last but not least, as an Engineering major, it takes at LEAST 3 views of an object to get a good grasp of that object's physical shape, and even then more views are almost always necessary. Be aware that your view alone is not the 100 percent truth of the situation. It takes consideration of multiple views to understand the fundamental reality of the situation.

      • NoahDavid

        Yep, they fixed it in one of the first updates. Which made the game much better and possibly worth the 4.5 stars Eli gave it. However, we shouldn't be reviewing games based on future updates, they should be based on current builds. And if that's the case the original rating should have been much lower IMO.

      • Ryan Bach

        So there was a bug/exploit that you had to choose to use, that would make the game too easy, and that was promptly patched?  I don't see how that would warrant a "much lower" rating.

  • defred34

    Judging by the review tone and what-not, it looks like this game would have got a 3-3.5 had the name Borderlands not be there. I think that's unfair - say as much that it isn't the real Borderlands deal, but give the rating based on the game's merits. 

  • SporadicMovement

    If it's Gearbox that made it, I'm sure they're going to risk the IP's reputation to make a game and try to profit; because we all know BL 2 barely sold any copies. It's not a top ten best selling game since it came out at all! It's 2K's call, and I guarantee this game was rushed to capitalize on the little time that BL 2 is hot, before Cod Blops 2 and Halo 4 come out. Also, pathfinding & AI issues can be patched easily, so I'm waiting for the update first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gord.pratt Gord Pratt

    Thanks for saving me the $7.  I was planning to buy just because it *was* Borderlands branded, but I appreciate your honest review.

  • Decaf Table

    What a waste of a game. I appreciate the honest feedback to save me the time and money over buying this. The mobile market has the hardware to compete with current gen systems, why can't we get more good competent developers besides just Chair and the "new" Firemonkeys?

    • NoahDavid

      A waste of a game you never even tried? Yeah.... heh.

  • http://methylblue.com/ Max Howell

    I've payed for and played some real shit that has been rated four stars here. I find it very hard to believe this is worse than almost everything else reviewed by this site.

  • Mario

    In all honesty I think the game is pretty good and worth it to play. Yea the game isn't what we would expect of a borderlands title but thats only because we compare the game to its console versions. Take out the FPS style of gameplay and I assure you that the games would be similar. I downloaded the IPA of the game and installed it on my iPhone so that I wouldn't be just stuck with one RT game (ie Heros of Destiny).

Borderlands Legends HD Reviewed by Brad Nicholson on . Rating: 2