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 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.


+ 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

  • I couldn’t wait on this review. We skipped GIANTS and Disney but it looks like this may have more variety than SKY1.

    Just one question. Which do you like better? Disney or Skylanders Swaps?

    Thanks for the review!

  • That’s a real tough question. They both offer really different kinds of experiences.

    Disney Infinity has some really fun adventures to play through along with tons of collectables. The main draw of the game, however, is the Toy Box mode. In it you can create your own world piece by piece with hundreds of different things to interact with. It goes a step further with complex toy interactions. Like you can tell the camera to switch to a birdseye view when you enter a certain trigger area or tie a button to activate certain objects, etc. There is a lot of depth to it and fun to be had. The Disney IP is what really sucks me in. Right now it’s mostly Pixar and later Disney offerings but I’m hoping we get some more classic stuff in the future.

    Skylanders is more focused on the adventure through and leveling up your characters and gaining new abilities. The main story is probably going to last you longer than the adventures in DI and features an unlock-able difficulty mode. You can also battle your Skylanders against each other, which is something that DI doesn’t really offer. There’s also a new survival type mode where you can cooperatively or competitively fight off hordes of bad guys.

    It’s a tough call to make and I don’t think I could really pick one over the other. Disney Infinity does have some remarkably fun adventures (Pirates and Lone Ranger come to mind) but for the most part the game is about making your own fun and is more of a sandbox experience. Your characters do rank up but not in any noticeable way and don’t gain abilities through leveling (You can aquire new abilities through the adventure stories though) whereas your Skylanders get stronger, have better stats, new abilities to unlock, etc. Both have great but quite different co-op. Disney Infinity splits the screen and lets you each wander off on your own for the most part while Skylanders sticks you both on the same screen. Each has it’s pros and cons.

    I could probably rattle on about this stuff all day but in the end it comes down to the type of experience you are looking for.

  • I’ve played both Swap Force and Disney Infinity, and it’s not even close. DI is buggy and because every character pretty much has to have the same set of moves in order to function correctly within the Toy Box, they all feel similarly generic. Every DI character has to have the same double-jump/ledge climb mechanic and a generic set of attacks with different effects. Each Swap Force toy you buy feels like a completely different character, giving you an entirely new way to play through the core game experience.

    Swap Force is a game filled with depth – huge levels with lots of stuff to do within them. DI is filled with buggy, boring fetch quests to unlock Toy Box content. And don’t get me started on the Toy Vault’s random chance at cool stuff, where you get maybe 3 or 4 cool items in a field of 16, and you use precious spins and invariably wind up with crap content when you want cool content. Ugh.

    Only the truly hardcore Disney fans need apply for DI. You should play them both prior to purchase, and I’d be amazed if anyone really chooses DI over SF.

  • I can’t wait for a company to make a more adult version of these games. Imagine a Warhammer game like this.

  • The nice thing about Skylanders is that it actually does appeal to man-children like us. I can still see what you mean, though. A more mature version of the same thing may do well, or it may just be that Skylanders does so well because of the way kids (and man-children) are drawn to its charm.