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More on Skylanders Swap Force

Keen and I have been continually playing Swap Force and building up our collection. We figure we’d share some of our thoughts on the other aspects of the game not mentioned in our prior review along with some of our favorite characters.

Survival Mode

This side mode is a new addition to the series and a much welcomed one. There are three different kinds: Solo, Team, and Competitive. Either way you’re basically surviving in an arena and fighting off hordes of bad guys rather than beating the tar out of each other. It’s pretty much your typical Horde mode but there are additional power ups (and curses) that can positively and negatively impact your bouts.

Throughout each match your score multiplier increases steadily as long as you aren’t hit. It’s actually a pretty decent way to gain some experience on the side along with a small bit of coin. It is, however, quite hard on the higher difficulty modes where enemies can take half of your HP in one hit. This makes playing anything without a decent dodge maneuver pretty screwed and Giants are just much larger, slower targets which makes them almost useless. Still, it’s something that we enjoy more than just regularly fighting each other and the varied arenas filled with different hazards make it an exciting experience from place to place.

Our Favorite Characters

We currently have 10 or so of the new swappable figures and each of us has started to favor some over the others. Here are some of our picks:

Night ShiftNIGHT SHIFT

Element: skylander undead element

Player: Graev

Night Shift is among my favorite of the new Skylanders. He’s pretty much some kind of vampire boxer. His upper piece utilizes punching combos and a vampiric bite that can be used to restore your hitpoints. Charging up his punch allows for a strong and quite comically large uppercut that can be upgraded to net you more money.  I usually choose to leave him attached to his original base because it allows for much better maneuverability, especially since punching roots him in place. His base piece allows for VERY quick teleports than can be upgraded to shoot projectiles. It’s really fun to “poof” in and out and all over the place and lay the smackdown on baddies.

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washbucklerWASH BUCKLER

Element: skylander water element

Player: Graev

I love water types and this is definitely right up my alley. Wash Buckler is a pirate themed octopus dude with a tentacle leg base. I’m not overly fond of the base, which does decent damage with tentacle slaps and lets you dash-roll around. The top piece is really awesome, though. His main attacks utilize his sword which can also be charged up for additional damage. His alternate attack fires bubbles out of his pistol which encapsulate and immobilize bad guys. Later on you can upgrade the bubbles to contain piranhas that deal damage over time to enemies.  I took this a step further by choosing the upgrade path that lets me shoot TWO bubbles out which can trap many enemies at once and each bubble is filled with a swarm of piranhas. Wash Buckler makes crowd control a breeze.

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grilla drillaGRILLA DRILLA

Element: skylander life element

Player: Keen

Grilla was my first pick.  I saw him and immediately wanted him.  He’s all about punching enemies with his top half, and drilling into the ground to plant turrets with his base.  I was slightly disappointed by the base because I thought he would drill around the map or rely more on his drill, but in the end he’s become a very balanced and effective Skylander.  His turrets are decent.  I picked the ones that splash damage to nearby enemies, but probably should have gone with the rapid fire banana shooters.

As if one big ape wasn’t enough, Grilla can call little monkeys to do battle for him. These moneys are sent out in a wave and smack around a few things before disappearing.  All-in-all, he’s a decent Skylander with a really neat vibe.

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Blast ZoneBLAST ZONE

Element: skylander fire element

Player: Keen

Blast Zone is my new favorite Skylander.  At first I thought he would be this generic guy who throws bombs.  After all, he came with the starter pack so I figured he was just one of the Skylanders Activision had little faith in selling.  Turns out, he’s friggin amazing.  His top half is all about bombs and fire.  Blast Zone can spray fire in front of him that I can control to make a circle around myself.  When I throw bombs through the fire, they catch fire and do even more damage.

His bottom half is all about zooming around with fire rockets spreading fire and ramming into enemies.  The ability to travel quickly allows him to get out which is great on the hardest difficulty where one hit will take a huge amount of health.

Being ranged, AoE-centric, durable, and able to move around quickly is the perfect blend for a Skylander.

The Future of Skylanders? ONLINE!

We’re sure everybody who has ever played these games has wished for some kind of online mode. Fighting against other players online seems to be a no-brainer. People love min-maxing pokemon and battling online so why can’t this take off in a similar fashion? We both get super excited when we talk about all of the incredible things they could do with this game online. Maybe even an online MOBA-inspired battle mode? That would be incredibly awesome.

Skylanders Swap Force Review

Skylanders SWAP Force

Activision was awesome enough to send us the Skylanders Swap Force starter pack so that we could share our thoughts on the game with our readers. We were both very interested to see how this year’s game would stack up, especially since it launched not long after its new, and wildly popular, competition Disney Infinity. Last year Giants game out but, while enjoyable, it didn’t feel like a huge step for the series. I admit to being more than a little concerned that Swap Force might not be able to hold its own. However… I should have known better than to count the Skylanders as down and out.

Skylanders Swap Force Starter SetThe Figures

The first thing most people will look at after they crack open the starter pack is the figures. It comes with one series 3 figure (Stealth Elf, been around since the first game) and two Swap figures, the main pull of this iteration as the Giants were last year. Each Swap character comes in two pieces: A top and bottom. They are held together by  some curiously strong magnets, which for me was probably more amusing than it should have been since I can’t stop pulling them apart and laughing like an idiot. All of the Swap characters, 16 in all, can change out their base for any of the others which gives you something like 256 possible combinations. So you can take the fire character and water character, and swap their pieces out to make two fire/water characters. It’s actually pretty awesome.

Rattle ShakeThe Swap figures are slightly larger than a basic figure, but not as large as a Giant. Speaking of which, there don’t seem to be any new Giant figures but there are several new Swap Force branded regular and Lightcore figures. Some are old returning favorites while others are brand new Skylanders.

To be sure you are buying an actual Skylander with the ability to swap, look for the “Swap Force” black circular logo as seen on the packaging to the left.  This will alleviate some of the confusion as you come across many of the regular Skylanders still branded in Swap Force packaging.

 

The Game

Skylanders SWAP Force Grilla DrillaAfter we finished messing around with the figures Keen and I sat down for some co-op play. We were promptly blown away. The game has gotten quite a makeover since last year — it looks truly spectacular. I don’t know if it’s a new engine, but it looks and runs great. I wasn’t expecting such a vast improvement to the visuals. The rest of the game’s presentation is similar fare, but that’s not really a bad thing. Swap Force introduces a new and interesting area known as the Cloudbreak Islands where a volcano erupts every 100 years to replenish the magic of the Skylands.

The core gameplay is of course similar to the previous titles, but it does feel tighter and more polished. The greatest change would be the ability to jump. No longer do you feel glued to the ground. Now you can hop around like an idiot, which is one of my favorite things to do in video games. I would love to be able to double jump, though, but I’ll take what I can get. The game retains it’s mission-based format except now we’re back to having an interesting hub-world rather than the tiny airship from Giants. Each level still contains several hidden collectables, hats, hidden areas, etc. that usually require more than one play-through if you want to get everything.

Skylanders SWAP Force Grim CreeperThe Swappable characters add great level of depth and interest. The Swap Force characters play like traditional Skylanders except their abilities are separated between their top and base pieces. The top piece is the main character, gains the experience and money, and has the main attacks. The bottom pieces offer their own ability line and also provide different special abilities that let you unlock doors and gain access to special challenges. Both top and bottom abilities have their own upgrade lines and diverging upgrade path which gives the swappable characters more upgrades than basic figures. What’s really cool about this is that you can keep the main part of your character (the top) and swap out the base if you don’t like the second attack/ability, or if you want to gain access to an additional element to gain a stat boost or open an element door.

All of the characters from previous games also work in Swap Force but are pretty much limited to what they could do in their respective games, meaning they can only reach a certain level or may lack some of the new abilities.

Swap Zones are a new addition to levels.  These gated areas require your Skylander’s ‘base’ to provide the required special ability (located on the front center of the base and indicated on the bottom right of the box).  These Swap Zones act like replayable mini-games.  Dual-Element gates are another addition requiring you to meet both required elements to enter. You swap your Skylanders until you alone qualify, or you can meet the element requirements together with a friend.  These separate adventures yield great rewards and provide even more depth to the level.

The Price of Entry

The most common issue with a game like this is obviously the pricing. The toy-game genre can be incredibly expensive if you go in with a collector’s mentality. Some people may be able to afford it, but I’m sure a lot more can’t. The starter pack is around $75 and figures range anywhere from $10-$17 depending of whether it’s a Basic, Lightcore, or Swappable figure. The best piece of advice I can offer, which I gave when Disney Infinity came out, is be patient and wait for sales. These games almost always have deals going on somewhere, and you can easily get the starter pack for cheaper along with other deals like ‘Buy one get one 40%” off. Sites like CheapAssGamer.com are great for finding good deals.

Skylanders SWAP Force Pop ThornI find that I’m having a similar reaction to Swap Force figures as I did to Giants. Back when I played Giants I pretty exclusively played as a giant because why the heck would I not be the bigger, badder, more interesting characters? The same holds true for Swap Force. Sure, I’d love to collect all of the new figures but realistically I won’t be able to. What makes it easier to deal with is the fact that I probably would be only playing with the swappable characters anyway and there are only 16 of those, which is a lot easier to swallow instead of 55+ and even more so if you want to cut it down to only 8 figures (One of each element). Even then you get like 64 different character combinations. Or you can even go for less than that if you want and utilize older figures. You’re still going to be able to enjoy the game.

The Verdict

Skylanders is still going strong and will easily hold its own in this continually growing genre. Both of us easily recommend the game to newcomers and fans of the franchise alike, but still cautiously advise not to go overboard on the buying like Keen did after we got our press kit in the mail.  He went out and bought every Swap Character causing the TRU employee to audibly exclaim, “Oh my god…”

Swap Force has definitely made us believers again.  We’re already making plans to hit up Toys’R’Us for some of the regular Swap Force Skylanders that look cool to us. Stay tuned for more posts on our Skylanders Swap Force adventure.

Summary:

+ Gorgeous engine upgrade
+ Jumping
+ Swap Characters introduce innovative gameplay
+ Story/Setting/Characters are captivating
- Pricey / New types of pay-walls
– Branding may confuse parents
– Still no Online Multiplayer

We give Skylanders Swap Force an amazing 4.5/5

Skylanders Swap Force

So just recently Skylanders Swap Force was announced. The hook in this entry seems to be the new 2-piece figures that can swap out their top and bottom sets to create dozens of different combinations.  It’s a pretty interesting idea and I’m curious to see how they implement it. Will the Skylander you create just have a few powers from each set or will the unique combination of, say, putting the tentacle legs on the bottom of the robot guy give you some special ability that only comes with that arrangement. Will some areas require a combination of tech/magic or water/fire, etc, to gain access? Also announced was the addition of the ability to jump, which lots of people have been wanting, including me.Skylanders Swap Force

That’s really the extent of my knowledge on the subject.  I’m not aware of any other details having been announced. Well, except that they will be releasing 32 or so figures. I think 16 will be new Skylanders and the rest will be updated versions, like they did with Giants, and I’m assuming the “16 new skylanders” are the swap force figures. When you think about it, this is actually  a pretty cool idea. Even if you only get a few of the figures, that still gets you several different character combinations, which can give players the variety of play without requiring the purchase of so many figures. And, of course, all of your old figures will work in the new game. The only thing that won’t are the old portals.

Skylanders Swap Force Magna Charge on top Swash Buckler on bottom

Magna Charge on top with Swash Buckler on the bottom!

I do have some concerns, however. The franchise seems to be becoming a yearly thing and that worries me. I don’t know how far they can push things in only a short amount of time. The past games were good and all, but they had some issues, one of which being their simplicity. Only a few of the buttons on the controllers are utilized, with the rest being mapped as repeats. I understand that their core demographic is kids, but that seems to not be giving kids nowadays a lot of credit. Years ago we might have only had 2 buttons and a d-pad, but every kid today has grown up with more complex stuff and they are doing things that we probably never could at that age. So that being said, I would appreciate a more complex game. Giants did offer difficulty settings, but all it really seemed to be was making the enemies hit harder and you hit softer, which I don’t think is a really smart difficulty design. Hopefully with the addition of the jump ability we will see some new gameplay mechanics put into action, like some platforming. Another big thing that players want is online play, both in the form of co-op and battle arenas. I haven’t heard anything mentioned on the subject but it would be a gross oversight for them not to include it this time around.

I am excited because I do like the Skylanders brand a lot, but this time I am a little more cautious. If they hope to compete with Disney’s foray into the genre, Skylanders really needs to bring its A game.

Disney Infinity: Skylanders First Real Competition

The next Skylanders: Disney Infinity

Adventure through story campaigns called “play sets” which sound like Skylanders platforming levels.

Exciting news today! Disney just announced a new toy and game combination: Disney Infinity.  Disney Infinity will utilize different character figures, play set pieces, and discs. When placed on the base piece they bring to life new characters and powers in the game. Sound familiar? It should because it’s essentially Skylanders, except with Disney and Pixar IPs. However, it does take the familiar Skylanders format and push it forward with its “Toy Box” concept.

Players will be able to gather game assets like weapons/vehicles and save them to their Toy Box, where they can they create and build their own world and adventures in a vast open environment. Not only that, but the Toy Box mode can feature up to 4 players at once and there is even online play along with content sharing. The video brought to mind the Toy Story 3 game made by Avalanche software who just so happens to be the company working with Disney Interactive.  From what I saw in the trailer it gives off somewhat of a Little Big Planet vibe and… Originally I wanted to say somewhat of a Minecraft vibe, what with the bright, chunky environments that can be terraformed, but Keen recommended I avoid that as to not confuse people. Er, wait…  Check out the trailer.trailer.

Disney Infinity portal

It really does scream Skylanders all over it.

Anyways, Disney really seemed to do their homework on this one. They took the Skylanders concept and really pushed it forward with new and exciting gameplay ideas. The Skylanders franchise is going to be forced to take bigger steps in their future games if they hope to compete. I mean, GIANTS was good but it felt like no more than an expansion pack, and didn’t really do much to further the scope of the series by bringing in new concepts and ideas.

I’m actually really looking forward to this game now and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Luckily it seems like they are aiming for a June release, which isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, however, it’s going to be another expensive hobby. Yikes!

Skylanders Giants Review

Skylanders Giants

It’s only been a year or so since the original Skylanders first came out.  I suppose that can be viewed as a good, or bad, depending on your point of view. More Skylanders figures and fun gameplay are always nice, but in only a years time could they possibly have tweaked much of the experience? I guess it depends on whether or not you can still have fun with more of the same or if you crave completely new experiences. Hmmm… I think we made a blog post about that once.  Any-who, SKYLANDERS TIME WOOO!

Read our full review after the break. [Read more...]