Preview: The Skylanders are back in full (swap) force

June 16, 2013


Many, even those who enjoyed it, found last year’s Skylanders Giants to be something of a standalone expansion rather than a true progression of visuals and combat. If you were one of those people, you’ll be happy (and distraught about the state of your finances) to learn that this year’s game is a real advancement and worth checking out.

What it is: Skylanders Swap Force, in development at Vicarious Visions, brings Skylanders a new engine that’s not tied to Wii-level visuals. (There’s still a Wii version, though, if you want it.) It also brings 16 new two-piece figures that can be swapped around to create new combinations of attacks, elemental affinity and movement.

Why we’re excited: Jumping! Jumping is in this game. Besides that, the combat feels fluid in the new engine, and the character models are as detailed as the figures themselves. The new Swap Force figures seem interesting, too; modifying a character’s mobility does legitimately change tactics. If you have a fighter with fast, weaker attacks and good lateral movement, that makes combat play out in a distinct way. Swap those fast legs for ghost teleporting, though, and all of a sudden you’re doing less side-stepping and a lot more charging and retreating. And what if you use those ghost legs on a strong projectile-based fighter? These are actually-interesting decisions.

What we’re wondering: With all these new figures, including 16 more regular ones, things are getting increasingly expensive. (And Swap Force requires a new portal, too, so there will be no breaks on the starter pack.) Is this the year the Skylanders franchise starts to lose steam in the marketplace, like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk before it? Finally, each of the new types of bottom halves have their own Swap Force Zones, in which they’re used for different minigame-like challenges. Frankly, the Skylanders minigames have never been particularly fun. Will this change things?


While the PS4 and XB1 versions of Swap Force will debut later at those systems’ launches, the other versions will be available October 13. Start saving up.