Developer: iFreyr Games
Price: $2.99
Version: 1.01
App Reviewed on: iPad 2G

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

IMG_0542Anyone who is a veteran iOS gamer knows that the platform is a hotbed of developers that unabashedly “borrow” from their console game big brothers, in order to bring new experiences to mobile devices. Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn is one of the most blatant offenders of this practice in recent memory. Aping heavily from Gearbox Software’s Borderland franchise, the game attempts to retrofit the RPG/FPS hybrid to fit in the pocket. Can this ambitious homage stand on its own, or has it managed to bite off a bit more than it can chew?

Players start out with the always difficult decision of which of the game’s four classes they want to choose, as well as the gender of their avatar. From that point on, they are dropped into the thick of the action, starting with a series of miniature missions all aimed to acclimate newcomers to the title’s steampunk western vibe, complete with a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality. Shooting an enemy sets off a geyser of hit points jettisoning skyward, much like another game that has previously been mentioned. And this is just the tip of the iceberg where similarities are concerned.

The main drive of Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn is to equip the player’s avatar with the best rated gear possible. Don’t like the body armor that the character comes with by default? Have no fear, because killing off adversaries nets a bounty of loot that would make a pirate faint with glee. As missions are completed the leveling up leads to selectable upgrades to both gear and abilities, further building upon the customizability of the otherwise randomly generated drops.

IMG_0543There is one problem that has plagued RPGs on mobile for eons: repetition. Unfortunately, Black Dawn is not immune to these same issues. Not only are missions striking similar, time after time, but their short span doesn’t do much to entice players to continue on the quest. Further complicating matters are online co-op and PVP lobbies that are as barren and desolate as the western ghost towns they are attempting to emulate. Hopefully the audience will grow over time, but if the initial indications prove to be true, the entire online component will end up being reduced to nothing more than an unfortunate afterthought.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is true, then Bounty Hunter: Black Dawn has been writing one of the most heartfelt love notes to Borderlands that gaming has ever seen. While it aims high, it probably won’t live up to the expectations of hardcore RPG/FPS fans. But be careful: once it has taken hold, the allure of upgrading gear can be powerful. Just ask any Blizzard customer…

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