CryEngine quality graphics have finally graced the iOS, just not in the manner you would have anticipated. The Collectables is a third person action title from developer DeNA, and though it boasts some appealing visuals and entertaining gameplay, if you aren’t one for micro-transactions you’ll quickly find yourself spending more time waiting for the chance to gun down bad guys then you will in battle.
If there’s any plot, it’s in your imagination. Briefings for the games 44 missions are a sentence each and cheeky in execution. One mission briefing tells you to stop the enemy because they are “trying to move the entire videogame’s supply of red explosive barrels to a safe location.” The only thing you really need to know is that there are two types of units on the screen; the ones you bring to the fight and the ones you’re trying to take out of it.
The missions are divided into campaigns, and as with most free-to-play models, there are caveats. Each mission costs 20 energy points from a regenerating pool of 140. The loadout screen before the mission gives you the chance to edit your hero and action cards. Heroes come in several varieties. They’ll wield various weapons, have different attack, defense and xp boost ratings, and range from common to epic. The only thing you’re going to need to worry about is the stats, and you can only wield 4 at once. They can be upgraded with fuel though, and the amount of times this can be done varies from card to card.
You’ll also need to determine which action cards to bring. The higher your level the more you can bring into battle, and these are what you’ll use for special abilities, healing and weapons. Also capable of being leveled up, you’ll want to change them depending on tactics. Want the enemy to play turncoat for 5 seconds? Grab a couple Double or Triple Agent cards. Looking for a speed boost and a quick attack? Sprint and Throwing Knife are a necessity. It generally takes a failed mission before you know what might really come in handy, but the large variety of cards makes for a plethora of tactical possibilities.
Once you’re ready for battle you’ll find the gameplay is intuitive and easy. Touching the screen moves all four units at once. If you want to move an individual, just place your finger on them and drag it to where you’d like them to go. Tactics are fairly simple. You can position an individual behind any number of objects and they’ll crouch and fire over the top of them. Anything more complicated than that will come from card usage. These tactics start out quite simply, but as the enemy utilizes more devious forms of technology, you’ll need to branch out from firecrackers and knives. EMP cards can disrupt nano-cloaking devices, walls can supply temporary force fields. It’s fun to try different combinations and makes you look forward to getting new cards. The music has a pulsing tecno like aspect to it, and I expect the Collectables frequent the island discotheque in between missions. You’ll quickly get used to the hammer of automatic gunfire and nice boom you get from explosives. Sound effects are well done and add to the experience without feeling cheesy or overwhelming.
Every mission has rewards, and you’ll get increasing rewards for completing the mission up to five times. These can include cards of both types, fuel for upgrades, or the games valued currency, gold. You won’t get much from completing missions, but when card packs are so expensive it makes every little bit count. Gold can be used to replenish energy, buy fuel, or get those namesakes, the Collectables. Boosters containing random cards cost as little as 199 gold, and boosters guaranteeing epic level cards can cost as much as 2999 gold. Considering the real world price of gold, $4.99 for 750 up to $49.99 for 10125, at the minimum you’ll pay almost 14 dollars for the best cards.
If you want to take a break from main missions you can always spend your energy on a weekly affair called Global Meltdown, where you play the same missions repeatedly for increasing prizes. Currently there’s an 8 day deadline and the best prize is achievable only after 750 playthroughs, meaning the lower tier prizes are likely the only ones you’ll get. You’ll have to pay quite a lot of real money to replenish your fuel the number of times it would take to beat these within the allotted time frame, and fuel replenishment is really where this game loses its edge.
Points replenish incredibly slowly, at about the rate of one a minute. With missions lasting an average of two to four minutes, you’ll get under 30 minutes of playtime before you have to wait for a refill. That means over two hours of waiting if you’re like me, and would rather take up a session knowing you get to play your full mission allotment. For anyone who’s suffered from a Candy Crush addiction, 40 minutes felt like an eternity, and there’s no cheating this game’s clock. Because of this it becomes more of a simulation in the anticipation of playing The Collectables than it is does an actual game. As a singeplayer game you won’t be doing any trading either, so any soldiers you collect will remain with you, never seeing use against a live opponent.
At its best The Collectables is a fast paced action strategy light with a beautifully integrated power-up system, at its worst its like being in line for an amusement park ride with a park employee constantly reminding you that if you give them five dollars they’ll gladly escort you to the front. I’m not one for the micro-transaction model in this instance, and I only hope that a year or two from now we see a single priced full version of The Collectables. Those are some cards I would pay for.
The Collectables was reviewed on an iPhone 4S using a retail copy downloaded from the iOS Store.