The Social Hub is the beating heart of SL; it’s where you’ll first spawn after creating your character, and where you’ll return after each victory or defeat. The Hub is pleasingly vibrant and busy with lots of flashing lights, moving parts, neon signs and things to tinker with. Since release, there’s been no shortage of other players going about their business, helping to give that lived-in vibe that an MMO needs in order to thrive.
A trip to the gruff character Slade will see you entrusted with your first mission, easing you into the controls and helping you get comfortable within the game’s universe. Not being able to crouch or jump at first feels odd in a shooter, especially on a console with a controller, and not being able to lob grenades from your L1 button feels like something is missing. The lack of crouching and jumping is soon forgotten as you relax into SL’s universe though, and grenades are unlocked eventually via the skill tree.
After a handful of campaign missions, rank 2 sees the vendors unlocked – Willow for buying and selling weapons, and Big Red for armour. Gear is of the usual common, uncommon, rare, and epic varieties, each with associated colours, and customisable with collectible stickers and spray paints.
The varied customisation is one of SL’s strengths, helping you feel invested in your character. Extra customisation options can be purchased for real-world dollars should you feel the need.
Speaking of the economy, a slight wrinkle is that eventually you’ll collect three locked boxes that take up room in your inventory that can only be unlocked with your real-life hard-earned. They can’t be dropped or sold either, so if you don’t want to spend money, you’ll need to get used to seeing those three boxes in your gear screen, they aren’t going anywhere. SL does offer a lot of game for free though, so it’s understandable the developer will want to add the temptation to spend here and there.
Rank 3 opens up one-on-one PvP duels, and four-on-four matches, giving you a chance to test your skills against something other than artificial intelligence. There is a nice selection of maps that are chosen at random, with verticality added via jump pads that boost you to higher levels. It’s a neat way of working around the lack of a jump ability, and campaign missions eventually employ the mechanic as well.
Overall, the shooting in SL is solid, although at the moment, movement when turning around with a controller on Apple TV is too slow. Turning while running forward and backward is fine, but turning on the spot feels like you’re driving an 18-wheeler. In a recent stream, Madfinger has said that there will be some tweaks to the movement system in an update scheduled for May, focussing in particular on improving the controller-based movement. On an iPhone or iPad, a quick swipe will turn you with lightning speed, so it would be nice to see this improved for those on Apple TV.
The one-liners constantly spouted by your character such as “Shit, that hurt!” and “Big ugly alien!” get repetitive early on, and an option to turn these off would be greatly welcomed.
Also at level 3, the all-important skill tree unlocks, after which players will earn a skill point with each new level, with the option of attributing it to either the Combat, Agility, or Survival branch. Active skills can be chosen and mapped to the L1 and R1 buttons, such as grenades and temporary invincibility, or Passive skills can be unlocked such as permanent increases to health or movement speed. Once these skills are purchased with in-game credit, they can also be upgraded depending on your overall Power rating. Your character’s Power rating is calculated based on values attributed to your weapons and armour, gradually increasing with better gear.
This overall gear, skill tree, Power, and upgrading system works very nicely, all tying together to provide a logical progression system throughout your adventure. The system also helps forge immersion, as you create the character you want to create, depending on your preferred play-style.
The Casino that becomes available in the Hub at rank 4 doesn’t really add anything to the overall game, other than a way to lose your in-game credits (or win some if you’re lucky), but the Bar of War is a fun addition, and a nice place to hang out with your squad or guild. The studio has let slip that a lot more additions are coming to the Hub, with mini-games and more social spaces.
SL’s first dungeon, or raid, is The Voltaic Fist, available at rank 5, and it’s well-imagined, with multiple stages, but highlights one of the game’s biggest current flaws – the inability to communicate in-game with your fire team.
Both this first raid, and the Blade Dancer raid which becomes available at rank 20, have puzzles which really require players to coordinate, which is impossible without communication. Madfinger are aware of the weakness and have plans to implement a fix. I resorted to trial and error, and eventually lucked into fire teams that knew what they were doing, but it was frustrating. It’s a pity, because otherwise both the raids have the potential to be a lot of fun. Both end-bosses Regis and Riksh are formidable opponents, and it’s truly satisfying taking them down.
Speaking of satisfying, and rewarding as far as loot goes, both the Bronze and Silver Arenas are a blast, with no doubt a Gold Arena coming in the future. With your fire team you’ll fight off waves of increasing difficulty, culminating in an end-boss. Neither are for the faint-of-heart, but as with the raids, both are very satisfying on completion, and come with great replay value.
It takes a while for the solo campaign missions to heat up, but after about rank 10 the difficulty ramps up nicely, and some welcome length and complexity starts to appear in the story missions past this point. In a cheeky wink, one mission is boldly titled Destiny Calls.
There are also some fun side-missions handed out along the way from Pedro (who’ll decode your holograms for loot), Willow, Big Red, and S.A.R.A. the barkeeper. Hakim will offer sponsored contracts, which offer varying amounts of in-game credits after varying lengths of time, as well as fetch-style quests such as killing X amount of enemies with a rocket launcher and so on. Even as a solo player, you’ll have no shortage of things to do.
Even after reaching the current level-cap of 20, there are still campaign missions to complete, becoming available once attaining higher Power levels, and still more side-missions handed out in the Hub.
As with many games on the Apple TV platform, one of the absolute highlights of Shadowgun Legends is the ability to continue your progress across your Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. The option to be able to grind out a few sneaky missions on your portable device, or to just check in and do housekeeping in the Hub is incredible, and it’s one of the platform’s standout features.
Madfinger Games have just begun with Shadowgun Legends, and this style of game is always a gradual evolution, with the studio promising content for years to come. Let’s hope that pans out, because what’s already on offer is huge, and plays extremely well, despite its flaws. The positives far outweigh the negatives in the early days of this sci-fi MMO shooter.
I’ve had a blast with what I’ve experienced so far, and I can see myself being in for the long haul, jumping in and out to keep in touch with my guild, and experiencing its evolution and content additions as Shadowgun Legends grows. Bring it on.
If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games Of 2017 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Enjoy.
In A Nutshell:
Shadowgun Legends from Madfinger Games is a big, blockbuster addition to the Apple TV gaming catalogue, and a must-have sci-fi MMO shooter for your Apple TV library. Boasting a huge single-player campaign, PvP, co-op modes, raids, guilds, and epic loot, well…let’s just say those aliens aren’t going to shoot themselves.