Developers on iOS need to recognise the device's limits. We'd all love to play an exact replica of Assassin's Creed on our iPads, but the reality is that renaissance-era Rome is going to be squished down into a pocket money app about as soon as hell develops permafrost.
It just wouldn't work. The touchscreen controls would be wonky, the 17th century city would have to sacrifice a level of detail to fit, and there would be too many loading screens to count. So, instead, Ubisoft has chosen to bring Assassin's Creed to Apple's tablet in the form of a card game.
It's still very much in the universe that Ubisoft has delicately constructed over the past few games.
The campaign takes you through renaissance Europe and up against various franchise baddies. Cards are called 'memories' and decks are called 'sequences'. Every card has gorgeous artwork from the game, and the app is like a jukebox for the Assassin's Creed soundtrack.
The rules of the card game evoke the themes of the series. Political subterfuge, warring factions, Assassins vs Templars, sneak attacks, and full-on warfare. This isn't some half-baked game design that Ubisoft found in its archives, polished up, and slapped some Ass. Creed visuals onto.
Here's how it works. The game is real-time, in that you and your opponent can slap down cards simultaneously. But Recollection still packs a turn-based flair as many events require you to sit back and wait - for money to pour in, for units to power up, for agents to campaign, and for the ceaseless daily cycle to occur.
You see there's this timeline that constantly washes from left to right, counting off days and nights as you play. You can't draw a new card, for instance, until an entire day passes, and pretty much everything takes half-a-day to occur.
This strikes a fresh balance between endlessly procrastinating over which card to play and a fast-paced, thousand-mile-an-hour battle of wits.
The rules are relatively straightforward. The play-field is made up of three areas and you've got to take control of two of them before your opponent does to claim victory.
You do this by placing Agent cards - like Assassins, Soldiers, Thieves, and Merchants - on the tiles inside an area. If they manage to stick it out on the tile for an entire turn without getting killed off, the area is now a tiny bit closer to being in your domain.
You've also got Location cards, which give you more points in that area every day, and handy Action cards invoke all manner of special attacks such as sending an opponent's card back to his hand or wiping out an enemy's location.
If none of that really sunk in (and don't worry, because a clear and concise tutorial lays out the rules nicely), let this be the takeaway message: Assassin's Creed Recollection is wickedly clever. A seemingly simple ruleset hides an ocean of smart tactics, devious ploys, and sly back-handed moves.
For example, as you're constantly against on a ticking clock you need to take the predictable time delays into consideration.
Say your opponent has a super-powerful Agent card campaigning in an area. You could lay down an Action card that sends the warrior flying back into your enemy's hand, but this special card will take too long to power up.
So, to buy yourself some extra time you can send a low-level agent into an impossible fight with the warrior just to give your Action card time to work its magic.
Clever ideas like that give Assassin's Creed Recollection a truly fresh and original feel. Throughout the (frequently difficult) campaign, you'll really need to learn some clever tricks just to survive. Recollection demands a level of strategy that most games save until the very last levels.
Furthermore, the different enemies you face will force you to try different techniques and build different decks. The mercenary leader Bartolomeo d'Alviano plays a very different game to the Pope, for example.
Lost in the shuffle
The game comes with the ability to build your own decks. It really leaves the creation up to you - outside a few basic rules - which is a little rough for card-playing greenhorns who stumbled onto this app because it said "Assassin's Creed" in the name. Some helpful tips on how to build a winning sequence would have been nice.
Collecting cards is also a tricky beast. You can only buy randomised booster packs, not singles, and you only win a small amount of cash for each victorious battle. This means that you're restricted to only buying the cheapest booster packs unless you're willing to shell out real-world money through in-app purchases.
We managed to complete the Story mode without ever paying an extra penny, but in online multiplayer - sadly the only competitive mode available - you might not be so lucky.
While the deck-building and card-collecting portions of the game could have done with a little more thought, the actual card battles are solid gold. Through some clever rules and sharp AI, Recollection forces you to make devious plays and calculated moves - ending up with an astoundingly clever and perilously addictive strategy game.