When I began downloading The Collectables, there were three things I immediately noticed.
Firstly, the game is published by Mobage, a company that has enjoyed great success with card battlers and RPGs.
Secondly, the game is developed by Crytek, a studio that pushes the boundaries of technical excellence on each platform it's involved in.
Thirdly, it looks to be inspired visually by The Expendables, a testosterone-fuelled but tongue-in-cheek cult favourite.
I reckon this curious mixture of talents has a good chance at producing something enjoyable to complement the action movie aesthetic. Find out if this is the case as I play it for seven days and report back my findings.
From the moment you first gain control of your squad, you can tell there's some fancy tech powering the game. Put simply, The Collectables is seriously impressive to behold.
Explosions and gunfire rattle your headphones, for one. As you might expect from Crytek, though, the visuals are the show-stopping elements here.
Foliage reacts convincingly as gunfire is exchanged through the jungle environment. Dapples of light are visible through trees. Realistic shadows fall upon the battle grounds. Bloom brightens up dark areas when a grenade is detonated.
Squad mates traverse the landscape as you'd expect a crack team to. So, they take shelter behind cover when instructed, vault over small obstacles, and concentrate fire upon enemy positions while trying to reach their destination.
If nothing else, I can already recommend you download The Collectables just to see it in motion - it's really quite something.
The gameplay itself is good so far, too, albeit a little simple. You work your way through enemy encampments, completing objectives and then getting to "the choppa".
Your squad and its powers are determined by a deck of cards that you gradually collect through play (or purchase). Hence the game's title.
In summary, then, colour me impressed so far.
Day 3: Entrenched
The more I think about it, the more this game resembles Cannon Fodder.
I mean, if you replace clicks of a mouse with taps of a finger, the comparison holds up. In both, you're essentially leading a squad of heroes, who increase their skills as time goes on, through combat zones.
They automatically target their enemies, admittedly. This point aside, the games feel much the same, including the occasional injection of humour in both.
If there's a problem with keeping your squad in a group, though, it's that controlling them so that they're effective alone is challenging. You can tap and drag a hero to a point on the map - which is especially useful if you want him to take cover behind a chest-high wall - but there's rarely an option to do this for all of your squad mates.
Actually, the landscape around you isn't used to good effect on the whole. You rarely interact with it in a meaningful way - you can't hug walls for cover, for instance, or sneak through the undergrowth. You just barrel through each area firing at anything that moves.
Eventually, you find that your heroes aren't powerful enough to progress through the missions, so you must upgrade them. You can improve their effectiveness in battle by sacrificing Fuel to increase their power, but you'll also need to buy more cards for your collection to have access to more powerful special attacks.
If you don't want to spend money, then you can grind for the various currencies. While each mission remains the same, the rewards are increased. So, while it can be a bit boring to complete the stage again, the pay-off is usually worth it.
Day 7: The Spendables
In addition to dumb action movies and Cannon Fodder, the other major reference points for The Collectables are sticker albums and trading cards.
In effect, your collection is part of an album of collectable heroes and items, and looks very much like the football / cartoon / video game sticker albums that were so popular in the '90s.
When you view your collection, you can't help but notice that each hero or item is a card that you can examine and flip over for more stats. There's a definite appeal to collecting the rare ones, as there always is for any collection.
During missions, when you tap and drag an action card into play, it does feel a little more like a tabletop trading card game, albeit with more explosions and particle effects. I also like the fact that your cards don't get consumed and discarded when you use them (unlike in some stingier games with a similar system).
I've run into some new gameplay ideas in the last couple of days, though they're hardly a revelation. ECMs on the map block the use of certain action cards, which in theory limits the way you approach the game.
In practice, though, the main tactic for the entire game is to simply rock up to an enemy position and hope you have a stronger force. The presence of the ECMs doesn't change your strategy that drastically, then.
There are also Standoffs with heavily armoured goons. During these encounters, you have to either pour hundreds of bullets into your enemy or use a powerful weapon card. So long as you're well equipped, these goons don't pose a huge threat.
After a week of play, some minor annoyances have aggravated me a little more than I thought they would.
For one thing, environments repeat often, which is especially noticeable as you need to repeat stages multiple times. The camera is a source of irritation, too, since you can't move it manually. This means that you're at its mercy when it decides to focus on action up ahead when you're still being shot from behind.
However, I enjoyed my time with The Collectables, mostly for its brainless fun and visual splendour. The squad-based grind isn't as complex as you'll want it to be and repeating sections won't be to everyone's tastes. Saying that, it's handsome in motion, and compulsive collectors may just be swayed into persisting with it to ensure they complete their collections.How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.
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