A beautiful showcase for CryEngine on mobile
Crytek made a mobile game. If you don’t know why that’s significant, it’s because Crytek is known for graphically rich console/PC games like Far Cry and Crysis, and just the thought that its CryEngine technology was coming to small screens in the tactical action game The Collectables sounds like one of those “so crazy it just might work” ideas. It’s an admirable debut effort; one that suggests you could see more from Crytek on your smartphone or tablet going forward.
Since I’ve never been one to shy away from the obvious, let’s start there: The Collectables is one sharp-looking title. Dapper even, if you can use that word for a video game. From the first time the chopper drops off your team of mercenaries until the last (of many) bullets is fired, there’s nothing but superbly rendered characters and backgrounds and buttery smooth animations.
The gameplay isn’t up to that same ridiculously high standard, but it’s not bad either. A simple tap will direct your fours merc where to go, or you can tap and drag them individually. The action takes place in real time, and there’s no need for targeting since your soldiers will fire on any target in range. Occasionally you can use cover to your advantage, but often you’ll find yourself just gloriously blazing away at enemies while on the run. Think less X-COM, more 20th Century action movie. Also, The Expendables, which had to be an inspiration.
A collectible card game mechanic also comes into play thanks to a small deck of action cards that represent extra attacks like knives or explosives, buffs, heals and other good stuff. These are similarly easy to use, as you simply drag a card from the bottom of the screen and drop it where it’ll do the most good.
Missions have some variety, but the goals are generally simple and straightforward: blow this up, rescue this VIP, hold a position for this long, etc. Enemies tend to come in waves of the cannon fodder type backed up by some bosses, some of whom require extra thought or specialized gear to defeat.
The latter kind are problematic due to the way The Collectables doles out loot. Every mission has a specific reward, which could be a character or action card, fuel (used for upgrading cards) or gold, which is the game’s premium currency. Packs of three cards are also possible. To get all the rewards, you have to grind the same missions five times each, and they don’t generally get noticeably tougher each time. The second set of missions flat out instructs you to do this to obtain the Nano Cloak cards needed to sneak past some particularly nasty armored turrets.
On top of that, there’s the bane of many a mobile game, which is an energy mechanic. Every mission costs you 20 energy, and it’s very easy to find yourself on empty since you only get refilled by waiting, leveling up, or spending gold. The same pool of energy is needed for the game’s limited time events too. Maybe Crytek felt it was mandatory for a free-to-play mobile game, but it’s a bummer here like it is anywhere else.
The hero cards also seem like a wasted opportunity of sorts. It’s clear there are different “classes,” like rifleman, engineer, commando and more, but they don’t play all that differently right away. It’s not until later that they work in tandem with some of the action cards to give the gameplay more depth, but it’s asking a lot of your players to stick it out through the early grind to get there. The designers really could have let their imaginations run wild with action movie tropes – and maybe they did, but it’s not immediately apparent.
In any case, The Collectables is easy to grasp, fast-paced and gorgeous, kind of like that bad boy/girl you had a crush on back in the day. Could we have asked for more from Crytek? Sure, but the people there are still new to this mobile thing, and if they stick with it, there’s every reason to think they’ll get even better.