I've been looking forward to The Collectables for a while now. When I got my first look at the game several months ago the gorgeous visuals grabbed my attention immediately, and being able to micromanage a team of military renegades seemed like a perfect fit for the iPad. Now that the game is officially available on the App Store, I can safely say that I was right to be excited about both of those things, but there's much more to The Collectables than that -- for better and worse.
You command a team of up to four unique soldiers as they wage war on enemy troops in a variety of lush environments. The back story is offered in small chunks but you never really get a solid grasp on the overarching motivations of your group -- not that it really matters, you never need a reason to wipe out "bad guys," right?
Easily the most impressive thing about the game is its graphical flair. Coming from Crytek, the folks responsible for some of the most gorgeous console and PC games of all time, The Collectables is very easy on the eyes. Trees sway in the wind, blades of tall grass spin and lean as your soldiers run through them, and explosions produce impressive fire effects, all without the slightest hint of slowdown.
The top-down camera offers a view of the battlefield and allows you to position your soldiers by dragging their paths and tapping on various areas of the environment. Your soldiers automatically attack enemy forces within range, but you can also command them to use specific weapons like grenades at specific times.
The core mechanic of the game, and the reason for its title, is your ability to collect cards that allow you to use specific soldiers, items, and power-ups. You gain cards by completing missions or by outright purchasing card packs via a microtransaction store. Just about everything in the game has its own card, and opening packs that may contain rare or "epic" cards is actually pretty addictive.
Your squad is only as badass as the cards you have available, so wasting powerful cards on one battle might leave you a bit underpowered during your next mission. Thankfully, you're given the option to replay already finished missions and earn extra gear and bonuses. It's a risk and reward system that benefits those with the patience to replay missions, as well as players who don't mind buying card packs to flesh out their crew.
Like many titles that rely on in-app purchases, The Collectables is free to play. The impressive graphics and easy-to-grasp gameplay are enough of a reason to give it a shot, and as usual, those willing to toss a few bucks in will have more fun, more quickly than those determined to grind their way through. Either way, you should give it a spin.