Lasting First Impressions
Skylanders SWAP Force, the third game in the Skylanders series, is a huge step forward for the franchise. Not just in terms of the gameplay and graphics, but in terms of the new Skylander toys as well. Last year we saw the introduction of the Giants, but their time has passed and now it’s time to introduce a new kind of toy, the SWAP Force. SWAP Force toys are Skylanders that have two parts to them: a torso half and a legs half, each of which can be interchangeably swapped with any other SWAP Force character, thus creating a wholly new character. For example, using the two SWAP Force Skylanders that come bundled with the game, Wash Buckler and Blast Zone, each can be swapped to make both Blast Buckler (top of Blast Zone, bottom of Wash Buckler) and Wash Zone (top Wash Buckler and bottom of Blast Zone). With 16 new SWAP Force characters being made available over the course of the next year, this gives players a whopping 256 new in-game characters.
The Skylanders SWAP Force game itself is also a big step forward for the series. The original two Skylander games, while extremely fun and enjoyable, never really looked like a top of the line game graphically. It had a sort of previous generation look to it. This year, however, the game looks wonderful. On the verge of the next generation, it is evident that this game is ready to complete in the new generation of games. This time, Skylanders SWAP Force feels like actually playing a Saturday Morning Cartoon. That’s just on the Xbox360 version too, I can’t imagine how much better it will look on Xbox One or PS4.
Previous games in the franchise utilized the “elements” of each character to grant them greater strength in certain areas of the game as well as allowing only certain character to open ‘elemental doors’ to bonus sections. These elemental doors return to Skylanders SWAP Force but there are new type of doors and activities now, thanks to the SWAP Force. Each of the SWAP Force toys also have an element associated with them (Blast Zone, for example, is a fire elemental character), but since these new toys can be “swapped” with parts from another toy, characters with dual elements can be created. In addition to the elemental doors in the game, players will also find dual-element doors requiring a Skylander with both elements in order to unlock. With the two SWAP Force characters included with the game, players will have the Water element, the Fire element, as well as a dual Fire/Water element when these two characters are combined. That’s not all, however, as the Swap-Force characters also have an ability associated with their bottom half. Wash Buckler’s ability is Climb and Blast Zone’s ability is Rocket. In addition to the elemental doors in the game, we now find bonus activities that can only be unlocked by a Skylander with a specific ability. These challenges are a singular type of activity such as climbing up a wall while collecting coins and avoiding falling objects, or flying through checkpoints in the sky while avoiding electrical spheres or air mines. These challenges always award players with another treasure chest and plenty of coins to spend on upgrades.
Skylanders SWAP Force retains its usual silly humour and fan favourite Flynn, the greatest pilot in all of Skylands returns, voiced once again by Patrick Warburton. Boom! Players will visit the mysterious lands of Cloudbreat Islands, home to a mystical volcano that erupts every hundred years to replenish the magic in Skylands. Kaos, of course, has returned with a new plan to rule the Skylands as he builds his greatest weapon yet, the Evilizer, intent on turning the great creatures of the volcano evil, thus giving him control of all Skylands’ magic. Now, it is up to Portal Masters everywhere to reunite the SWAP Force in their original form or in new combinations, and send them back to Cloudbreak to save Skylands.
Great new gameplay features, including the ability to jump, make Skylanders SWAP Force the biggest and best Skylanders to date. Once again, the Skylanders franchise proves that, while this game was made for kids, it’s appeal is farther reaching than that.
Activision, I gave you an hour and I am, once again, IMPRESSED.