Collectable card games are an acquired taste– especially since the whole concept rests on acquiring more cards. Inevitably, this means shelling out loads of cash to bolster the deck. Given the popularity of Magic: The Gathering and the countless other similar games, CCGs are still going strong and now Ubisoft is taking a stab at the genre with Assassin’s Creed Recollection.
While it would be easy to dismiss Recollection as a cheaply thrown-together bit of marketing fluff, there’s enough style and polish here to make this a solid offering for any CCG fan. Putting aside the entire history of Assassin’s Creed, this is a rather innovative take on the standard card game genre. It doesn’t hurt that the presentation is excellent and the historical elements of the game are really interesting.
Recollection uses a sharp and clean interface that hides any clutter beneath a series of small buttons and well-designed play spaces. This is a two-player game, where the player’s cards are available on the lower left, the active cards on the lower-right, and the battles take place in the middle of the screen. The game is, at heart, a battle for territory with three specific areas to conquer in a match.
Meet your ancestors.
The object is to take over two of the three areas by earning ten points in each area. To do this, you place character cards that can exert influence in an area. Location cards can help earn gold and influence faster by providing a background to the player’s half of an area, and there are special-unit cards that provide bonuses to other cards.
The most distinctive part of Recollection, however, is that it’s all timed. It takes a certain amount of time for a card to be ready for play once taken out of the deck or after it’s been used. Everything in the game is subject to a waiting period. Game time is divided between whole and half days, and the counter is a marker on a center line of the screen.
Adding this time-based strategy element makes Recollection stand out. While a day in game time only equates to a minute or two in real time, it adds a feeling of hurry up and wait. Since you can see what cards your opponent is gearing up and putting into play, constantly changing up strategies and trying to place cards before they do is essential.
Card combat is another major element, but (like most such games) the outcome is based on the stats of the cards in play. So, you might immediately know what the outcome will be, but still have to wait for the timer to run down.
Recollection is a game that rewards players for understanding its complex and layered rules, but the tutorial only gives the basic overview. This will mean a lot of trial, error, and frustration for most players– especially those unfamiliar with the genre. So, the learning curve is decidedly steep. Also, since this is a collectable card game, it’s pretty easy to guess how Ubisoft’s revenue system works. While it is theoretically possible to earn purchasing points for new decks through extensive play, players will almost certainly need to outright buy new decks in order to bolster their personal deck for online play.
It’s easy enough to get through the single-player game with only the included cards, but online is a totally different environment, where most players have far more exotic and powerful cards. That said, the online play functionality is excellent and makes the game worth the admission price if competition is appealing to you.
While Assassin’s Creed Recollection isn’t likely to prove interesting for non-card fans, it’s a surprisingly solid and well-done example of a collectable card game. The presentation is terrific, the rules deep and strategic, and the inclusion of online play is laudable. Unfortunately, the game is iPad-only, which seems like a misstep.