Games that tie in to major properties are sometimes, shall we say, a little lacking. So you might be tempted to think that Assassin's Creed Recollection [99¢] is just your average cash-in, perhaps a standard collectable card game with images of franchise heroes Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad and Ezio Auditore da Firenze slapped on the cards. You can stop thinking that right about now, because this game is something far more interesting.

That's not to say it's without its problems -- Ubisoft has been chasing down some big-time bugs since the game was released -- but Assassin's Creed Recollection is more than just another coat of paint on the traditional CCG. It takes the formula real time, pitting you and your opponent against the clock as well as each other.

Once you get past the game's peculiar jargon (cards are Memories, decks are Sequences, creatures are Agents, mana is Gold -- it's all very Assassin's Creed), you'll find a CCG with several creative tweaks. Turns are gone, period. Instead, everything is measured by day. You get one new card in your hand each day, and summoning agents takes half a day. You and your opponent do everything simultaneously, something that would get messy in your average CCG but is handled elegantly here.

You see, you aren't playing directly against your opponent, who has no health or tokens to speak of. You're sending your agents out to campaign in regions that dominate the play field. To win, you need to control the majority of those regions at the same time. If one of your agents finishes a campaign in a region without being opposed, you earn that agent's attack power in points. Ten points and you control the region. So off you go, slapping down agents, throwing them in front of your opponent's agents and claiming regions until one of you is victorious.

There's quite a bit more to it -- you can place Sites on each region that earn points every day, and you can also throw down Actions, which are used to interrupt enemies or boost your own cards. And you have to control your income, the amount of gold you earn each day, because every card has a cost and most of those costs are steep. It's a bit complex, but Assassin's Creed Recollections does a great job of walking you through the basics with a thorough tutorial.

Unfortunately, you come out the other side of that tutorial and slam directly into a wall. The first real mission in the single-player campaign pulls exactly no punches, and your default deck is more than a little lackluster. So, in a move that should come as no surprise to CCG players, you'll probably need to buy some boosters.

To Ubisoft's credit, they don't start you off with a paywall. You'll have quite a few credits by the time you emerge from the tutorial, enough to buy quite a few packs if you're thrifty. They don't do such a good job of explaining the difference between the inexpensive Templar packs and the rather pricey Assassin's packs. As it turns out, they give cards from separate pools, and the Assassin's cards are not so much stronger as they are targeted to advanced play styles. So go for the Templar packs at first.

The cards you'll receive from these booster packs are sure to delight any Assassin's Creed fan. They, and the game's story, are largely pulled from Assassin's Creed 2, and they feature plenty of familiar faces. The cards cover everyone from Rosa the thief to Rodrigo Borgia and every Assassin, Templar, courtesan and scholar between. They're separated into factions, and while each of your decks can only contain two factions and the unaffiliated gold cards, you'll collect plenty of each in your booster purchases. You can't currently complete your collection with single-card purchases, but the upcoming Auction House sounds like it will address that problem.

The single-player campaign, which has you winding your way through fair Italia as an inexperienced Templar, will take skilled players a couple hours, and CCG newbies a fair bit more. It has limited replayability since you can't continuously earn extra credits or experience by replaying old missions. At that point, if not before, you'll need to move into multiplayer, where you can stomp friends and strangers alike.

Overall, I'm more than satisfied with the core game. The rest of the trappings are a bit less impressive. The out-of-game interface is governed by a confusing mix of swipes and taps, which is compounded by a lack of responsiveness in certain menus. Miss the fact that you can access the menu at any point by swiping down with two fingers (mentioned once and otherwise never indicated) and you may end up wondering why there's no way to pause or forfeit a match. There are Game Center achievements, several of them, specifically for buying credits with IAP.

More damningly, there seem to be issues with the purchase of booster packs. If the Ubisoft servers are down when you buy a booster, you may not be able to open it until they're back up. According to some folks in our discussion thread, this may sometimes result in lost cards, though we haven't been able to confirm the problem. I'm sure the server check-in cuts down on cheating, but it also cuts down on players' ability to access the content they've purchased. Add to that a crash bug effecting existing players that was introduced in the current patch and I grow wary of recommending this game before these issues are ironed out, though a just-released patch looks to address some of this. Also, the game is currently on sale for 99¢, which might make it a worthwhile deal for putting up with some bumps in the road during post-release updating.

If you're a CCG lover who also happens to be a fan of Assassin's Creed, though, Recollection really is worth a look. It doesn't add much to the mythos, but it makes great use of the IP. As a bonus, the short film Embers is included, along with a gallery of concept art for Uplay users. But Assassin's Creed Recollection isn't just for fanboys -- it's a genuinely engaging card game with a surprising depth of strategy. Hopefully Ubisoft will be prompt in fixing the bugs, but the core game is intact in the meantime. Just go easy on the IAP.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    This game shouldn't have to be iPad only...

    • Tim Jordan

      With all of the detail, text, and the like, unless ready to read some micro text, I can't see that being an easy conversion.

  • Anonymous

    I want to like this game, but the real-time aspect is a big turn-off. It might have worked if the rules were really straightforward, but half the cards have special powers which are only visible when you take the time to flip them over and obscure part of the screen. 

    Right, I have critical, time-sensitive decisions to make, but in order to make the right decision, I have to inspect cards carefully. I can either try to memorize the special powers and hope I can tell all these Italian men apart as I play, or I can hope that I'll win by ignoring the special powers until they pop up.

    It's a shame, because this game is beautifully made. They really should have either made the rules simpler or made it turn-based.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      This is one of those things that I believe will separate the skilled players from the average players - knowing your deck, knowing what your cards can do and knowing when to deploy them. I'm not there yet, but I can see the possibility.

       It's certainly quite a bit more hectic than any turn-based CCG, though.

  • Tim Jordan

    It is a pretty amazing CCG but, while what you get credit wise of pack purchasing power for your IAP is decent, this game is REALLY geared to pushing you to the IAPs.

    -The packs come in 3 varieties, Templar 100 credits (12 cards from the Templar set with a rarity distribution of 8/3/1), Mixed 500 credits (12 cards chosen randomly from either Templar or Assassin with the same 8/3/1 distribution), and Assassin 900 (12 cards from the Assassin set with the 8/3/1 distribution).
    -Completing the entire solo campaign nets you about 900 credits!  You can replay earlier missions but you only get credits from them the first time they're defeated and typically it's 25-50 credits.
    -You can earn up to 300 credits a day from doing some multiplayer but it will take some SERIOUS WORK.  The first 100 is awarded once you have achieved 3 wins, you can earn an additional 100 if you then achieve another 5 wins, and the final 100 is only shaking loose if you achieve an additional 7 wins.  Realize that isn't simply another 100 for 2 more wins but a combined total of 8 wins for the second 100, and 15 wins in a single day to get the final 100!
    -So, unless planning on spending some cash on IAPs, you really should stick to the Templar packs as completing the campaign and getting 15 wins in one day would get you maybe some 1200 credits which barely covers 1 of those Assassin packs and, until new single player options are added, that 900 credits from completing the campaign (this is all of the mission winnings combined, not a big 900 reward at the end or anything) can only be gained once!

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      That's strange - I came out of the tutorial with ~1000 credits (though it did slow down immediately after that). Was that not the normal experience?

      But yes, while you can get by without IAP, it's not nearly as fun to do so. I love collecting the cards and the only way to do that realistically is to spend a LOT of money.

      • Tim Jordan

        The 900 was a rough estimate, maybe it is 1,000.

  • Tim Jordan

    At times it can be a little annoying but I do like how it handles what are often such tricky timing issues of interrupts and counters in CCGs.  Since most cards take a while to come into play and most don't have a lot of extra text the only time it might be an issue is with some of the instant action cards that might pop-up and resolve before you know what happened and force you to read their effects while already in the discard pile.

  • http://twitter.com/crispee Chris Besett

    It's a fabulous game and I think the real-time aspect (though jarring at first) makes it much more exciting.  And there is no way this would work well on a phone.  There's a lot going on and so much detail to look at.  I highly recommend it.

  • http://twitter.com/hedges Sancho

    Based on the timjordan's post above, earning credits via multiplayer is a chore. Why can't you earn credits for every win? Why can't they just implement a skirmish mode where you earn credits and xp? Or earn credits and xp again from re-playing the story mode? It's clear that Ubisoft just wants players, who already shelled out money for the game, to pay more just to be able to create new decks. It doesn't help that the assassin's pack cost 9 times as much as the Templar pack. What's worse is I keep getting disconnected from an online match so I haven't earned a single credit from all the times I tried to play online.

    Ubisoft has been greedy with their console game releases and it's sad that they haven't learned despite the player backlash. In the end, what should have been a great game is crippled by business interests of Ubisoft. I bought this game at full price, finished the campaign in 3 hours then had no motivation to play again.

    • http://twitter.com/Tuism Steven Tu

      Magic The Gathering probably costs 10x more to play and keep playing. Look at where that game is.

      I believe they have a winning business model on their hands - sure I would love for them to tone down the money aspect a bit, but as it is, it's still VERY good value for money for the game, engagement and community.

  • http://twitter.com/grza grza

    Problems with this game:

    1. XP cap. (incredibly little XP can be gained from the story)
    2. Extremely high card prices
    3. ^ This means the expensive, random IAP purchases are MANDATORY.
    4. Can't get new cards (very necessary!) at all without a uplay account, and being online. 
    5. Uplay was down yesterday. It was having problems today. So maybe you just can't play at all no matter what.
    6. Or if you're really unlucky, like me, the server issues will result in a loss of the cards you purchased, leaving you with absolutely nothing.
    7. Oh and if you try to play online and the other person quits, you get nothing.

  • http://www.theshadowgamer.com/ theshadowgamer

    an interesting idea..now to wait for its android's release >.<

  • http://www.theshadowgamer.com/ theShadowGamer

    an interesting idea, now to wait for its android version >.<

  • worldcitizen1919

    I can't find this game on the App Store. I'm in Australia. Is this USA only or was it pulled? Keep coming up with a blank page.

  • GrAnax

    It's not iPad only... I play in iphone4 with no problem... Great game.

Assassin's Creed Recollection Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4