The Skylanders franchise has been extremely successful for Activision. Combining toys with video games and allowing kids to easily change their character based on a selection of figurines is both genius and frightening. How will other children's games compete without also allowing kids to use real toys within the game? Luckily, Activision has another Skylanders title on the horizon that takes the concept to new heights.
Skylanders Swap Force takes everything you know and love about the previous Skylanders adventures and kicks things up a notch. Instead of swapping out one toy for another, if you use one of the special Swap Force toys you can mix and match them at will. Video game data is imbedded in both the top and bottom half of each Swap Force figure. What this means is that you can remove the bottom of one toy and replace it with the bottom of a different Swap Force figure to create a brand new toy. This switch is also replicated in-game to add to the fun.
While this assuredly means parents will have to buy an entirely new set of Skylanders, the game comes with a starter pack that includes two figures, and all of your old Skylanders toys will work just fine in the new Swap Force title. You just won't be able to mix and match like you can with the Swap Force figures. In addition, the level cap has been increased in Swap Force, so if you start playing with your older figures, you'll still be able to level them up.
Also new to Skylanders Swap Force is the ability to jump. Fans of the series have asked for it and the developers are certainly listening. While the new jumping ability doesn't impact the gameplay significantly, it's definitely more fun now that you can jump around.
Many of the areas in Swap Force have designations based on specific elements. If you use a Skylanders toy of the same element, you'll receive bonus rewards for your efforts. There are also dual element zones that will give you rewards if you use either of the two elements. Certain zones will match the symbol on the Skylanders toys. These zones will offer different styles of gameplay. For example, the demo we saw switched to a vertical scrolling gameplay style during one of the unique zones.
While the gameplay remains very similar to previous titles in the series, it's really all about the toys and the different combinations that can be had. There are 16 Swap Force characters, which makes for a total of 256 combinations between them all. There are also branching upgrades for each character, and since both the top and bottom half of each figure retains information, if you gain a lot of upgrade coins on the top half of one figure, then switch out the bottom half to a different figure, all of those coins will be available to upgrade the bottom half as well.
Skylanders Swap Force will be available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, and 3DS this October. Next-generation ports of the title will be available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but a release date has not been announced. The person we spoke with at Vicarious Visions stated that it would likely be a launch window title, so expect the next-generation Swap Force to hit later this year.