Skylanders SWAP Force Allows Mix-And-Match Character Building

Posted by Jeff (3417 posts) -
Robot man with squid legs. Naturally.

With Disney getting out there a couple of weeks ago with its toys-that-show-up-in-the-game game, Infinity, I found myself wondering what Activision would be doing next with Skylanders, the franchise that popularized the whole concept. The first game was surprisingly good and the technology was super-impressive, making it something that stood out to me in spite of its kids game status. Giants, the second Skylanders game, felt like more of the same. Nice toy design, but the "Giant" characters made a slow-moving game feel even slower. The magic had worn off... on me, anyway. Apparently the toys are still cleaning up at retail, so I guess the kids that actually drive this end of the business are still feeling it. Last week I got to take a very brief glance at a bit of the third game in the line, Skylanders SWAP Force. And though I figured I was out of the Skylanders game for keeps after Giants, I... might be back on board. Maybe.

OK, so let's start with the toys. There will be 16 of the new "SWAP Force" Skylanders, and the catch is that you can rip them in half. The top half of the toy is held on with magnets, and you can just yank it right off whenever you feel like it. The point? To put that top half onto the base of a different Skylander. So if you want to give your robot guy some squid legs, take the top half of Blast Zone and drop it onto Wash Buckler. Bang, you've got "Blast Buckler," a combined Skylander that gives you the mobility and movement of Wash Buckler and the arm-based attacks of Blast Zone. Your character progress apparently gets saved in both parts of the toy, so your top-half upgrades travel over when you swap the pieces around.

This change brings more mobility options to the game, and much like every Skylander has a Pokemon-like affinity-like Earth, Tech, or Undead--the bottom halves of the SWAP Force characters are classified by their mobility options. So guys with rocket boots can enter flight-specific areas, Wash Buckler can climb things, other Skylanders can burrow, and so on. This mobility type is noted on the front of the toy's base (hence the ladder on Wash Buckler). Also, every Skylander can jump now. That's just an in-game ability for everyone. Hey, it worked for Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, right? Hmm. Never mind.

A magnet dude with squid legs? Sure, why not?

In addition to all the existing Skylanders--including the Giants--there will also be 16 new standard Skylanders, eight more of the glowy "LightCore" Skylanders, and 16 reissued "Series 3" Skylanders. The returning characters in new toy poses will yet again get a new power that isn't available with the old toys, which, much like with Giants, feels like it's over the line to me. The game will also require a new portal, presumably to handle the new SWAP Force crew.

It was hard to get a feel for how different the game would play by watching someone demo a super-brief bit of a level, but it was easy to see that the game's getting a substantial graphical facelift this time around. The characters, even the old guys, look significantly better on-screen and the game is coming out of an entirely different engine this time around--one that doesn't look like it started out as tech developed for a Wii-exclusive. Also, the game is coming out of an entirely different studio this year, as development duties for the primary console versions (Wii U, 360, and PS3) have moved to Vicarious Visions. Beenox will handle the Wii version. This leads to the question: What is Toys For Bob working on? It sounds like the character designers at the original studio are at least signing off on the new designs, but that's about it. In my mind, Activision liked what they did with Skylanders so much that they're now working on some other toy/game franchise, like Transformers or... Tony Hawk Techdecks or something weird like that. Best not to speculate, I guess.

That said, a Tony Hawk game that used those rad little fingerboards would be neat to see. Just putting that out there.

When I first sat down and saw a better-looking, faster-moving Skylanders game, it looked OK. Seeing those toys split in two and fit back together, though, feels like an appropriately crazy upgrade for a series that could use the boost. Will that be enough to keep Skylanders in the driver's seat when it hits this fall, months after Disney enters the market with Infinity? I have no idea, but at least it'll be interesting to watch the two companies go back and forth on this potentially huge corner of the market.

Activison's putting out a trailer tomorrow, if you're into that sort of thing. Until then, here is much of this same information in loud video form:

Staff
#1 Posted by Jeff (3417 posts) -
Robot man with squid legs. Naturally.

With Disney getting out there a couple of weeks ago with its toys-that-show-up-in-the-game game, Infinity, I found myself wondering what Activision would be doing next with Skylanders, the franchise that popularized the whole concept. The first game was surprisingly good and the technology was super-impressive, making it something that stood out to me in spite of its kids game status. Giants, the second Skylanders game, felt like more of the same. Nice toy design, but the "Giant" characters made a slow-moving game feel even slower. The magic had worn off... on me, anyway. Apparently the toys are still cleaning up at retail, so I guess the kids that actually drive this end of the business are still feeling it. Last week I got to take a very brief glance at a bit of the third game in the line, Skylanders SWAP Force. And though I figured I was out of the Skylanders game for keeps after Giants, I... might be back on board. Maybe.

OK, so let's start with the toys. There will be 16 of the new "SWAP Force" Skylanders, and the catch is that you can rip them in half. The top half of the toy is held on with magnets, and you can just yank it right off whenever you feel like it. The point? To put that top half onto the base of a different Skylander. So if you want to give your robot guy some squid legs, take the top half of Blast Zone and drop it onto Wash Buckler. Bang, you've got "Blast Buckler," a combined Skylander that gives you the mobility and movement of Wash Buckler and the arm-based attacks of Blast Zone. Your character progress apparently gets saved in both parts of the toy, so your top-half upgrades travel over when you swap the pieces around.

This change brings more mobility options to the game, and much like every Skylander has a Pokemon-like affinity-like Earth, Tech, or Undead--the bottom halves of the SWAP Force characters are classified by their mobility options. So guys with rocket boots can enter flight-specific areas, Wash Buckler can climb things, other Skylanders can burrow, and so on. This mobility type is noted on the front of the toy's base (hence the ladder on Wash Buckler). Also, every Skylander can jump now. That's just an in-game ability for everyone. Hey, it worked for Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, right? Hmm. Never mind.

A magnet dude with squid legs? Sure, why not?

In addition to all the existing Skylanders--including the Giants--there will also be 16 new standard Skylanders, eight more of the glowy "LightCore" Skylanders, and 16 reissued "Series 3" Skylanders. The returning characters in new toy poses will yet again get a new power that isn't available with the old toys, which, much like with Giants, feels like it's over the line to me. The game will also require a new portal, presumably to handle the new SWAP Force crew.

It was hard to get a feel for how different the game would play by watching someone demo a super-brief bit of a level, but it was easy to see that the game's getting a substantial graphical facelift this time around. The characters, even the old guys, look significantly better on-screen and the game is coming out of an entirely different engine this time around--one that doesn't look like it started out as tech developed for a Wii-exclusive. Also, the game is coming out of an entirely different studio this year, as development duties for the primary console versions (Wii U, 360, and PS3) have moved to Vicarious Visions. Beenox will handle the Wii version. This leads to the question: What is Toys For Bob working on? It sounds like the character designers at the original studio are at least signing off on the new designs, but that's about it. In my mind, Activision liked what they did with Skylanders so much that they're now working on some other toy/game franchise, like Transformers or... Tony Hawk Techdecks or something weird like that. Best not to speculate, I guess.

That said, a Tony Hawk game that used those rad little fingerboards would be neat to see. Just putting that out there.

When I first sat down and saw a better-looking, faster-moving Skylanders game, it looked OK. Seeing those toys split in two and fit back together, though, feels like an appropriately crazy upgrade for a series that could use the boost. Will that be enough to keep Skylanders in the driver's seat when it hits this fall, months after Disney enters the market with Infinity? I have no idea, but at least it'll be interesting to watch the two companies go back and forth on this potentially huge corner of the market.

Activison's putting out a trailer tomorrow, if you're into that sort of thing. Until then, here is much of this same information in loud video form:

Staff
#2 Posted by yoshisaur (2645 posts) -

Neato!

#3 Edited by mustachioeugene (499 posts) -

waiting for quest-seekers.

3....

2....

1....

This seems like a neat direction for the toys, I have a nephew that will probably be the right age to love all of these things when it this version launches.

#4 Posted by ahgunsillyo (443 posts) -

Vicarious Visions? Okay, sure. I probably shouldn't be surprised by this.

#5 Posted by theuselessgod (299 posts) -

This looks weirdly awesome. But until you can actually play with the toys NOT on the portal, I think I'll hold out. Maybe. Until my wife finds out about this.

#6 Posted by ajamafalous (11849 posts) -

That seems kind of insane.
 
I still wish that Skylanders had failed miserably so I could've just scooped it all up for like $50 a year after it came out, but it didn't. The games still seem really good, but I'm a goddamn adult; I don't have the money to spend collecting toys to put in my game.

#7 Posted by MoonwalkSA (418 posts) -

I love that Jeff is willing to throw unreasonable amounts of money at the Skylanders franchise just to show it to the rest of us.

#8 Posted by KaneRobot (1420 posts) -

Dig deeper into LOUD VIDEO

#9 Posted by Wampa1 (626 posts) -

Do squids have legs or are tentacles hands? The IMPORTANT questions!

#10 Edited by Bane122 (783 posts) -

Say what you will about Activision but, this seems like a pretty cool, innovative direction to take the series. The mix and match is pretty clever but what really surprised me is that a lot of the combinations shown don't look awkward. Every one they showed with the possible exception Magnabuckler looked like it could have been originally designed that way. If that carries through the whole set that's no small feat.   
 
The only downside to this I can see so far is it really exposes Giants as kind of a cashgrab. It seems they did so little new things in that tone compared to this one.

And Beenox is doing the normal Wii port, huh? Those last couple of Spider-man games must not have been kind to them.

#11 Posted by Kushieda (45 posts) -

To quote Arthur Geis from Twitter:

giving kids two ways to lose their expensive collectible toys (or just part of them) is goddamned evil genius.
#12 Posted by oobs (338 posts) -

Jeff you need to see someone man! Its for your benefit really!

#13 Posted by FierceDeity (358 posts) -

Just imagine if instead of a kid's game this was a action RPG hack and slash game like Diablo or Torchlight. Toy lust + Loot lust would be overwhelming!

#14 Posted by ildon (361 posts) -

@FierceDeity: Tabletop/D&D-style RPG or strategy game would be even better. Imagine painting your miniatures in the real world, and then having to paint them again in the game.

#15 Posted by Morden2261 (277 posts) -

My wife and I fell deep down the Skylanders hole. This announcement is already making my wallet weep.

#16 Posted by Crunchman (379 posts) -

I wish all articles were followed by a man in his underwear explaining the story to me.

#17 Posted by Burrobean (58 posts) -

This thing has the potential to become a messy arms race like the one that helped kill the music games. Disney and Activision battling it out to be the coolest toy/game franchise, adding more and more features, requiring more and more peripherals, until the consumers get fed up, and a pile of plastic crap gathers dust in the closet.

I hope it doesn't get that bad. I like Skylanders quite a bit, and I'm very intrigued by how Disney's ambitious Infinity will make use of that massive roster of characters. But Skylanders consumers are already being told they need a new portal device to keep up with the series? That doesn't bode well. Activision managed to smother a genre I love with their constant stream of plastic instrument games. Let's hope they treat this new golden goose with a bit more respect.

#18 Posted by Maajin (1052 posts) -

@Crunchman said:

I wish all articles were followed by a man in his underwear explaining the story to me.

Now that's a video game website I can get behind.

#19 Posted by Coombs (3449 posts) -

As I said in the underwear comments, Why bother when Disney Infinity is just around the corner and has the one thing Skylanders doesn't, Good Gameplay.

#20 Posted by MEATBALL (3070 posts) -

@Coombs said:

As I said in the underwear comments, Why bother when Disney Infinity is just around the corner and has the one thing Skylanders doesn't, Good Gameplay.

Huh? When did we see Disney Infinity gameplay?

#21 Posted by Eriktion (63 posts) -

In my opinion, these new Skylanders that they've shown lack personality. Granted there is no in-game footage and all of the new characters have not been show yet. Also, if you're going to have switchable body parts then I think you really need to be able to switch heads too.

#22 Posted by DaMisterChief (628 posts) -

Great Write up

#23 Posted by DrDarkStryfe (1087 posts) -

@MEATBALL: The assumption is that it is a much more fleshed out version of the Toy Box mode from Toy Story 3, which was amazing.

#24 Posted by ErikSchroder (205 posts) -

Oh, god, fingerboards - totally forgot about those.

#25 Posted by dropabombonit (1484 posts) -

This looks proper tidy mun. Also that video was flipping hilarious

#26 Posted by MattOnTheSite (96 posts) -

I wonder how the new movement based areas will work in co-op.

With the previous games, you only needed one Skylander of the door's element type in order to unlock it and open a new area, but if the area unlocks in this game will let you fly/burrow/etc I wonder if it will require both players to have that leg type or just lock them out of the gameplay there.

#27 Posted by Hurricrane (128 posts) -

Activision HAS to stop requiring the new version of portals and the original figures soon, or a lot of parents are going to get really pissed and stop buying them.

#28 Posted by mattgriffin (59 posts) -

Vicarious Visions did the 3ds version of the first game, which I enjoyed far more than the console version. Jumping makes a big difference.

#29 Posted by pw2566ch (480 posts) -

@MoonwalkSA said:

I love that Jeff is willing to throw unreasonable amounts of money at the Skylanders franchise just to show it to the rest of us.

And what's even more harsh is that this is a yearly thing. Didn't he say he dropped $300 on Skylander Giants figures?

#30 Edited by I_smell (3925 posts) -

The swapping idea is really cool. I always said Pokemon should've done fusions after Red Blue n Yellow.
Also I think they should come up with new names for fused skylanders instead of clamping the first half onto the second half. I just think that'd be so so cool to try them out and find ALL THE NAMES, and it'd make each combination feel so much more individual.

I feel like it'd really pay off if they were a LITTLE BIT more respectful of people's wallets, but aside from that: Skylanders is cool.

#31 Posted by jaycrockett (429 posts) -

It will be awesome if the old toys work in the new game. I like playing these games with my kids but I don't feel the need to buy all the toys over again.

#32 Posted by The_Nubster (2047 posts) -

That seems cool. I really, definitely still won't buy it because I don't have the same kind of money to throw around as Jeff, but this is a much cooler addition to the series than "hey, we got big dudes this time."

#33 Posted by development (2073 posts) -

come swap with me

#34 Posted by DrDarkStryfe (1087 posts) -

It will be interesting to see if retailers will give space for Infinity, when a new Skylanders is on the way.

#35 Posted by ArtisanBreads (3749 posts) -

Oh yeah a Tony Hawk Techdecks game is next for sure!

#36 Posted by HBK619 (160 posts) -

Is it only obvious to me that Toys for Bob are clearly doing the next-gen version of Skylanders?
 
Activision are just doing the COD thing with their devs, rotating so they don't get bogged down doing 1 year cycle games and can't come up with enough innovations in a year (like Giants).
 
As if Activision would suddenly push them away like they're nothing and have done nothing. Right now they're the Infinity Ward of Activision until they screw up and Robert Bowling becomes head PR guy...but until then they'll be doing the every 2nd year Skylanders instalment.

#37 Posted by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -

I'm so glad I just decided to invest in Skylanders this time around so I can just go out and get this shit day one.

This looks fucking crazy.

#38 Posted by RobertOrri (1120 posts) -

Collectible Tony Hawk figurines that you can put into a real skateboarding game would the be coolest thing ever.

#39 Posted by probablytuna (3535 posts) -

A Transformers game in the vein of Skylanders would be kinda awesome actually.

#40 Posted by BBAlpert (1370 posts) -

@Maajin said:

@Crunchman said:

I wish all articles were followed by a man in his underwear explaining the story to me.

Now that's a video game website I can get behind.

GiantThong.com

I apologize for any unfortunate mental images, but thong was the only underwear-related word I could think of that sounded anything at all like "bomb" (and even that's an awfully stretched rhyme).

#41 Posted by YukoAsho (2001 posts) -

Yep. Looks like this fad's gonna be beaten into the ground SO HARD.

#42 Posted by Coombs (3449 posts) -

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