Game publisher Crytek has followed through on its promise to bring console-like 3D graphics to mobile devices with The Collectables, an action-3D combat game that Japan’s DeNA will soon publish on iOS and Android.
The combination of Crytek, which made the Ryse: Son of Rome game for the Xbox One, and DeNA, one of Japan’s biggest mobile game companies, shows that the powerhouses of the industry are concentrated their resources on bringing hardcore gaming to mobile devices, where billions of dollars are at stake. If they succeed, they could potentially widen the market for hardcore titles and make a lot of money.
Crytek has been around since 1999 and it consistently wins awards for its console and PC games. But it has moved into free-to-play downloadable online games with Warface (free-to-play PC gaming is big in Europe, where Crytek’s based), and now the move into mobile shows the company is expanding into digital gaming.
Crytek is known for graphics-intensive games like the first-person shooter Crysis and its CryEngine game development tools. Now it has rebuilt the CryEngine to work on mobile devices without too many sacrifices due to the weaker processing power of mobile devices. Those devices are getting more powerful, and The Collectables looks so good that you’ll think it’s a PC game.
Crytek Hungary built the free-to-play game, and DeNA will publish and market it around the globe. I played the most recent preview build.
“We are pushing our technology to the limit so that it is an awesome fit for tablets and smartphones,” said Kristoffer Waardahl, the head of Crytek Hungary, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We’ve optimized everything for mobile, like camera movement and navigation. We are bridging the gap of mobile and console.”
The Collectables isn’t a first-person shooter. It has an overhead, isometric view, and you control a squad rather than one soldier. It has a lot of homages to action movies as well as games like Crysis.
You control a band of mercenaries. You can collect a bunch of these “hero cards,” but you can only send four mercenaries into a mission at one time. Choosing the right ones and equipping them with the right weapons makes a difference as to whether you can win the mission or not. Collecting the mercenaries and weapons is like a card game, layered over the action game where you fight the actual battles. That hybrid makes the game infinitely replayable, Waardahl said.
The Collectables has cool lighting and shadows, with lots of bright light and dark shadows on the same screen. The vegetation in the jungle environment of the game is fully dynamic. Palm trees sway in the wind, but they will sway in a different direction if a helicopter flies over them. If you shoot up trees, they will fall apart. You can riddle the leaves with machine gun fire and watch them fall to the ground.
The controls employ the touchscreen. You tap on a point on the screen to make your squad move. You can also tap on an individual soldier and make him move to cover. When the soldiers come within range of enemies, they automatically open fire. So you don’t have to spend all of your energy maneuvering your squad and getting it to attack. You spend most of your time touching and dragging with your finger.
You can also play cards during the battle. You can grab a sentry turret and deploy it in the middle of a battle. The turret will spray bullets at all enemies within range. A mercenary can put on a “nano cloak” to hide from enemy view.
Each always-connected game sessions lasts about four or five minutes. Waardahl credited DeNA, which has lots of experience in Japan with card games, for adding the card layer and extending the playability of the game.
The Collectables works on the iPhone 4 and up as well as the iPad 2 and up.
Your goal is to liberate the islands, but there are no cinematics to go with the storyline. The campaign has about 40 levels, but Crytek will release new content as service over time. It will have events and new game modes. You will be able to challenge your friends but in an asynchronous way.
“You don’t have to read a big novel to play our game,” Waardahl said. “This is entertainment and action.”