I’m a kid at heart, which must explain why I love Skylanders Swap Force so much. I couldn’t let E3 2013 pass without seeing the latest installment in the series, so I not only made an appointment to hear about the game from Activision representatives, but also to try it on the show floor. I wanted to be completely sure of everything going on, so all of you would have the most accurate information.
Skylanders Swap Force is set in the Cloudbreak Islands. Every 100 years, a magic volcano there erupts. Naturally, it erupts magic, whihch is then used to supply magic to everyone and everything in the Skylands. It’s just getting ready to erupt again, and Kaos wants to take advantage of that. He wants to evilize the magic volcano so it will spew evil over the land, transforming every creature and area. Fortunately, the Skylanders are here to save the day, and are joined by new Swap Force characters.
The Skylanders Swap Force Swap Force characters are divided into two halves and require a new portal to read them. Two small magnets hold the pieces in place, and they can be divided and swapped to make new characters. Activision says there are over 200 possible combinations, due to there being 16 characters of this type. The top and bottom halves each have certain abilities assigned to them, that can be leveled up. When characters swap, their names also change. For example, let’s look at Night Shift and Stink Bomb. When swapped, they become Night Bomb and Stink Shift. It’s an interesting concept, and the developers say it was decided upon to allow players more customization, but also provide more strategic advantages when facing certain enemies. Each part also has a “type” assigned to it, leading to dual type characters. So Night Bomb and Stink Shift would both be undead/nature types, since they would have an undead part and nature part.
Swap Force characters also led to two new kinds of gameplay elements in Skylanders Swap Force. The first is special Swap Force areas, which require a certain Swap Force lower-half ability to enter. The challenge I saw required a climbing bottom, like Wash Buckler’s tentacles, to undertake a mini-game in which my new Skylander, Night Buckler, to scale a vertical wall, avoiding falling crates, to reach the top and acquire a collectible. There are multiple challenges like this, and if someone wants all collectibles, they’ll need to have an assortment of Swap Force characters to reach them.
The other Skylanders Swap Force element is dual element zones. These are locked behind a gate that needs two elements to unlock. Say, for example, magic and undead. There would be two ways to unlock said gate to reach the additional area. The first is to have a second person playing, and have one person use an undead Skylander and the other a magic one. The other is to have a Swap Force character that had an undead half and magic half. For the demo purposes, I used Hoot Loop’s top with Night Shift’s bottom, making Hoot Shift.
Now, for a few other, important, Skylanders Swap Force details. Vicarious Visions has completely redone the game and it is more visually impressive than before. The characters actually look like the figures brought to life on the screen, more detailed and vibrant than before. Characters can also jump for the first time, allowing them to reach new areas. The level cap has been raised to 20 for all characters. New hats will be available as well, and returning characters will have new costumes. People can also find a new kind of collectible, map pieces, to unlock extra missions. Finally, your save file from Skylanders Giants won’t carry over, though figure data will, so people can go ahead and get Skylanders Swap Force for, say, their Wii U without worry, even if they had been playing on the Wii or another system before.
I also used my opportunity to speak with Activision to ask about a Skylanders cartoon series. Activision says there is nothing talk about. The company wants to focus on the blend of the digital and physical world, and that can only be accomplished with games like Skylanders Swap Force. So the idea wasn’t ruled out, but there isn’t anything to announce either.
As I’ve mentioned before, Skylanders Swap Force comes out on October 13, 2013 for the 3DS, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U. It’s $74.99 and includes the game, a portal, the Swap Force characters Wash Buckler and Blast Zone, and the standard figure Stealth Elf. If you want more Swap Force characters, they’ll be $14.99 each. More standard characters will be $9.99 each. There will be 16 Swap Force figures, 16 new character figures and 16 returning character figures, making for a total of 48 potential figures to collect for this third generation. If you’re interested, wait until one of those Toys R Us sales that lets you buy one figure and get a second one X% off. Unless you’re a returning fan – then go ahead and dive in, as Skylanders Swap Force is backwards compatible with all Skylanders and Skylanders Giants figures.