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.
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