I’m not sold on Destiny 2. I don’t like the weapon and inventory changes, and in general, the game seems less like a big sequel and more like an expansion. Still, I’ve been itching to play something like Destiny. I’m surprised to report that I’ve found the answer in a free-to-play mobile clone. Wait, don’t leave! You might be thinking “How good can a mobile Destiny clone be?” The answer is: surprisingly good.
Shadowgun Legends is a spin off of the original Shadowgun game, a mobile shooter released back in 2011 that was a Gears of War clone. Shadowgun Legends is barely connected to the original, though. There are recurring characters, but overall, the game feels completely different both in gameplay and tone.
So how much of a Destiny clone is Shadowgun Legends? Well, you have a character level but more importantly you have a power level, which is based on the gear you wear.
You find different colored holograms, which are decoded by a vendor and give you different types of loot.
Ammo pickups look like this.
When not in a mission you walk around in third person in a multiplayer hub, with vendors, PvP options and other players.
You can join two different raids in groups of three, where you fight a big boss and earn a bunch of loot.
Even the menus and interface have a very Destiny-ish feel to them. Shadowgun Legends looks so much like Destiny in-fact that at one point someone saw me playing it and asked “Is that a Destiny mobile game?” And my response was, actually...yeah, it kinda is.
The biggest reason I’m still playing Legends is that the combat feels great. Yes, a touchscreen shooter might sound awful to some, but Madfinger Games has lots of experience here. Double tapping the screen aims down the sights. There is no jump button or crouch button, which simplifies levels, but also makes combat more fluid. A context -sensitive button pops up when hacking, talking to NPCs or opening doors, which keeps the screen clear of virtual buttons.
Unfortunately, the lack of a jump button mean Legends never feels as vertical or open as Destiny. Still, I’ve really enjoyed gunning down baddies in Shadowgun.
Similar to Destiny, Shadowgun Legends also has a large skill tree that unlocks the ability to spawn turrets, heal teammates, and more. For those like me who preferred the older weapon system of Destiny 1, Shadowgun Legends uses a nearly identical system. You get a sidearm, a heavy/special weapon and a primary weapon, like an assault rifle. Switching between them is as easy as tapping the top right corner of the screen. But if you prefer a different layout, all of the in-game controls are fully customizable and moveable.
And for players who just can’t deal with touch controls, Legends supports gamepads. Shadowgun Legends, unlike Destiny on consoles, can also run at 60fps if your device supports it. The game looks great at a higher framerate and combat feels even smoother—assuming you have enough battery, of course.
Missions in Shadowgun Legends are thankfully much shorter than the ones found in Destiny. The average length is around 5-7 minutes a mission. Like Destiny, Legends requires you to do some missions multiple times. But because the missions are shorter, I never got annoyed with grinding in Legends. The shorter missions also makes Legends a perfect game to pick up for a bit while waiting for a game to install or while sitting at a bus stop.
Mission variety however, isn’t great. You will spend a lot of time clearing out rooms of enemies and hacking computers. But the short length makes mission grinding much more tolerable. One mission had me saving a video game streamer named DiePewDie, a not-so-subtle reference to PewDiePie. A different series of missions had me saving instruments from a famous rock band, which involved fighting fire ghosts.
Some bigger missions take longer to complete: a raid, for example, can last around 30 minutes. The one I tried involved solving a few puzzles, like timing our shots in small and specific windows. One improvement over Destiny is that all activities support matchmaking, including raids, PvP, arenas and missions. This makes it easier for lone wolves to enjoy Legends. I just wish Shadowgun had voice chat.
The hub you explore in between missions is very similar to the hubs found in Destiny 1 and 2. You have different vendors, people who give out challenges and a place to start PvP events. But unlike Destiny, in Shadowgun Legends you can hangout in a casino, gambling your credits away. Or visit a nightclub, where you can drink, dance and actually earn temporary buffs for doing so. Yes, in Shadowgun Legends dancing is beneficial. Oddly, like Monster Hunter, you can also earn buffs by drinking and eating different food and drinks. And if you eat too much, your character will actually get thick.
A little touch I loved in the hub was the way the game advertises higher level players on billboards.
Shadowgun Legends lacks any energy or timers. While there are microtransactions, they don’t get in your way. A lot of the stuff you can buy is cosmetic, which includes a frequently rotating series of outfits, dance moves and more. The biggest exception to this is the inventory space upgrade. You start with 15 slots, which is not enough. I quickly filled up after only 2 missions. Buying any in game currency, even the just $5 worth, will expand your inventory from 15 slots to 96 slots. I highly recommend doing this if you have any desire to play Legends beyond the early hours.
Shadowgun Legends also has more personality than Destiny. At times, maybe too much personality. You get called a badass a LOT in this game. Regardless, I do enjoy the lighter atmosphere of Legends: There’s a fun android running the bar, you can get drunk, you save famous people from parties gone wrong, you can dress up like an angry cat or set off money bombs in the hub space that will rain down credits for other players to catch. Destiny doesn’t seem as playful.
Shadowgun Legends is a surprisingly well-made Destiny clone that just so happens to be one of the best mobile shooters you can play right now. Come for the Destiny 1 fix, but stay for the exciting hub, fun atmosphere, and grindable missions.
Zack Zwiezen is a a writer living in Kansas City, Missouri. He has written for Gamecritics, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.