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The Collectables review: Fun action strategy, minor freemium bumps

Crytek's The Collectables lives up to the hype, bringing realistic-looking graphics, solid gameplay, and plenty of variation through the use of collectable cards.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read

The Collectables for iOS (coming soon to Android) is an action strategy game where you complete missions using a crew of four soldiers with special abilities gained by collecting game cards.


The Collectables

The Good

The Collectables is a great mix of action and strategy. Collectable cards let you fine-tune your strategy with each mission. The graphics are some of the best I've seen.

The Bad

The freemium model will get annoying late in the game. Gameplay gets crowded when played on the iPhone.

The Bottom Line

Even with the minor freemium annoyances, The Collectables is a ton of fun with graphics and gameplay that make it worth jumping through a few hoops.

Developed by Crytek, the same developer that made the Crysis game franchise, The Collectables features excellent graphics, great touch-screen controls, and a fun storyline, as you lead your band of renegades through cool-looking environments.

It's important to note that The Collectables is a freemium title that limits your gameplay, but is fairly generous with the amount of time you get to play. Only later in the game will the freemium model start to be an issue, but in this case, I think it's worth it.

Crytek's The Collectables looks great and plays amazingly (pictures)

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Complete missions

You control your crew by touching the screen where you want the group to go. But you also can direct individual soldiers to different positions by touching a soldier then dragging where you want him to go. You'll mostly direct soldiers in this fashion to position them behind cover, reducing the amount of damage your soldiers take from enemies.

As you complete individual missions in a quest chain, you'll earn rewards that include new soldier cards, deployable weapon cards, and fuel that is used to upgrade your soldiers between missions.

Choose your mission then enter the fray. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Collecting cards

At the beginning, you're given four level 1 soldier cards along with a few action cards that can be for anything from hand grenades to healing your soldiers.

You can earn both soldier and action cards by playing and repeating missions. Each mission shows you what reward you'll get for going through it again, with different rewards each time you repeat it. If you repeat a quest four times, each at increasing difficulty, you'll get better cards after each completed mission. You also have the option to buy packs of cards for real money, but I found the quest reward cards gave me plenty of options on the battlefield.

Action cards are crucial to getting past some of the more difficult levels. As you play through a mission, your soldiers will fire their regular weapons automatically; but in tough situations against several enemies, the Action cards will often mean the difference between life and death. As an example, one of the early cards you get is called the Firecracker, and lets you lob a grenade at a group of enemies for big damage. It's important to note, however, that once used, you cannot use an action card again in that round, so it pays to save them for only the most difficult situations.

Put your soldiers into cover to avoid taking heavy damage. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

It's also important to upgrade your cards. As you play you'll sometimes earn fuel as quest rewards. You can use fuel to upgrade both soldier and action cards to make your soldiers stronger and your action cards more potent. You also have the option to buy fuel for real money, but I found it was pretty easy to earn it just by playing.

Freemium concerns and other issues

In the beginning, you start with 140 energy, and each mission you play uses up 20 energy. So by that math you'll get to play seven missions before you have to stop or buy more energy for real money. But each time you level up as a player, the game refills your energy to full, so you won't even hit your limit for quite awhile.

My concern is about later in the game, when it takes longer to level your character and the energy refills are few and far in between. At this stage of the game, I imagine the energy limits will get frustrating unless you're okay with waiting it out. For the most part, the freemium model will not be in your way, but be aware that later it will become a problem.

The other issue I had with this game is that it's almost impossible to read the text on cards on the smaller iPhone screen. A recent bug update says they should be more readable, but I didn't see much of a difference. On the iPad, it's no problem at all, but it's worth mentioning if all you have is an iPhone or iPod Touch.

At the end of the mission, you're instructed to get to the choppa! Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET


The Collectables is an excellent action-based strategy game with amazing looking graphics, a fun action movie storyline, and tight gameplay. The touch controls let you control your soldiers individually or as a group, making strategic maneuvers possible and immensely satisfying to pull off.

Though it's playable on the iPhone, the small screen size makes it a bit crowded, and you're going to have trouble reading some of the smaller text until the developers provide a fix. On the iPad, it's excellent.

Late in the game, once you've invested a lot of time, I think energy will start to become an issue. The only way around it is to spend real money, or wait until your energy builds back up. Still, as long as you have a little patience, The Collectables is an outstanding game, and it's perfect for anyone who wants a balanced mix of action and strategy.


The Collectables

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Interface 8Performance 9