Skylanders Swap Force is the next title in the hugely popular Skylanders series, and one can’t help but think this is a pretty big year for the toys-to-life franchise – especially with challenger Disney Infinity on the horizon.
But if this sequel has shown anything, though, it’s that developer Vicarious Visions aren’t taking anything for granted.
Introducing a brand new inventive type of Skylander – which requires players to own a newer and more technologically advanced portal – Swap Force seems intent on evolving the gameplay of the series more significantly than Skylanders Giants did.
Meet the Swap Force characters
Swap Force introduces 16 new ‘Swap Force’ characters – and as the name implies, the twist involves swapping and combining different parts to create new variations of Skylanders.
Each Swap Force character comes with a detachable top and bottom half which will allow players to mix and match different abilities. For instance, Washbuckler – a new water type – is an octopus pirate who can attack with a cutlass, tentacles or ink.
However, he’s also fairly slow. On the other hand, Magnacharge – a tech type built of magnets – is nimble thanks to his speed wheel.
By taking the top half of Washbuckler and combining it with the bottom half of Magnacharge, you get Washcharge - a hybrid water/tech Skylander that has all of the attacks of Washbuckler but the speed and agility of Magnacharge.
There are a total of 256 different combinations from mixing all of the Swap Force Skylanders.
An upgraded Portal of Power
However, the new Swap Force Skylanders come at a cost, as they’re only compatible with a new, prettier-looking portal.
All of the existing Skylanders toys are compatible with the upgraded portal, but Swap Force cannot be played with the older model. All game bundles will come with the new portal.
Mixing things up with swap zones
In the past, Skylanders levels have been littered with bonus areas inaccessible unless you had a Skylander of an elemental type. Having a Trigger Happy or Drobot, for example, grants you access to all tech areas. Swap Force adds a new layer to that concept with swap zones.
Each bottom half of a Swap Force character will come with one of eight added abilities, which they can use to reach a unique gameplay area.
Activating a ‘rocket zone’ lets a rocket-powered Skylander engage in a special segment where it must fly through a series of rings before time runs out. Elsewhere, Washbuckler has the ability to climb, while Magnacharge’s pace allows him to tackle ‘speed zones’.
The new jump mechanic
The other significant evolution to the core gameplay is that now Skylanders can jump. This applies to all characters, old and new, but Vicarious Visions are being coy about how much it will affect level design.
As for the threat of Disney Infinity, Vicarious Visions don’t appear too concerned, and is instead more focused on doing its own thing.
“If you have a good idea there will be competition, and at the end of the day, consumers benefit from that,” Bala stated.
There’s no reason to doubt that from what we were shown. Swap Force still exudes the same charm its predecessors boasted, but on both an artistic and technical level, it looks better and more vibrant than ever. On top of the 16 Swap Force characters, there will also be another 16 core Skylanders available.
A lot of effort is going into the franchise’s third retail title, and it’s building on what made Skylanders great in the first place. Series fans can expect another enjoyable and magical-feeling game when Swap Force hits store shelves later this year.