E3 2013: Skylanders: Swap Force Preview – The Power of Two
Written Tuesday, June 18, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
In Skylanders: Swap Force you can jump. Normally jumping in a game is something you take for granted, but for the latest Skylanders, it's kind of a big deal. Especially when you consider that it means all 100+ Skylanders characters can now jump in the game, as we're shown with the old Skylanders Giants Crusher figure. He jumps, lands and the screen shakes.
Taking the adventure to Cloudbreak Island, bad guy Chaos is back for a third time for Skylanders: Swap Force. On the island, a magical volcano erupts blasting its defenders into halves, giving rise to the eponymous Swap Force: new Skylanders whose upper and lower body parts can be combined. So as well as being able to use all of the existing Skylanders with the game, complete with all of the upgrades and levels you've already earned with them intact, Swap Force introduces 16 new characters and raises the game's level cap to 20.
Adding the ability to jump created a “significant design problem” for Skylanders: Swap Force, Vicarious Visions tells us, resulting in completely different level designs and a change in skill level. The platform jumping sections include obstacles and hazards, but it looks like they're being kept basic, so that kids can still overcome them. And given the additional powers that the new Swap Force characters bring, there'll be plenty to coax in the younguns' for another spell of Skylanders magic.
Our introduction to Skylanders: Swap Force and its “dynamic swapability” comes with Night Shift, the new undead vampire boxer character. A melee character, Night Shift has chunky boxing gloves, can perform massive area damage with his uppercut and can teleport across short distances. Then there's Free Ranger the storm chicken, an air Swap Force character who prances around shooting lightning bolts or transforming his bottom half into a mini tornado. Next we're shown Freeze Blade, an ice character who can throw his frosty chakram blade at enemies and skate around at speed.
Handed some of the prototype figures to play with, we're able to break the characters in half, swapping over their legs and torsos to create Freeze Ranger and Free Blade. Freeze Ranger has Free Ranger's tornado legs and Freeze Blade's chakram, while Free Blade has Free Ranger's lightning bolts and Freeze Blade's ice skates. It's the best of both worlds for both characters. And with Swap Force's 16 characters, you'll be able to create 256 different combinations like this.
The two halves of the figures are kept together by two small magnets, locking them in a heroic pose, whatever combination of torso and legs you decide to mix up. It's a neat touch, while in-game, each combination of characters is procedurally animated so that they look and move like they should once they've been mixed and matched. Experimenting with different combos should prove fun and engaging for little and big kids alike, while creating combos for new dual-elemental gates should prove interesting.
As well as 16 Swap Force characters, Vicarious Visions is also introducing 16 new series 3 core characters, including new additions like Fryno, the fire element leather biker rhinoceros, and Star Strike, a mysterious magical robed Skylander who can throw fans. These two can access the first dual-elemental gate that we're presented with (fire and magic), which is made up of deadly fire traps and magical shifting platforms. It looks a bit tougher than what we've seen in Past Skylanders games.
Moving on, we plonk a life element Swap Force character on the new Portal of Power next, in the form of Stink Bomb, the green ninja skunk. Stink Bomb can hide himself completely using his cloudy green musk, or he can throw ninja stars in all directions, charging them up to throw four in each direction at once. Taking the spooky Iron Tomb Trail, we encounter Chaos' minions, innocent Sugarbats that have been transformed into huge purple 'evilized' creatures by petrified darkness. Along the way, your British moustachioed guide - a tree person named Willowbark – will fill you in on information and teach you new things, such as telling you that defeating the evil Sugarbats will return them to normal.
And so, mixing Stink Bomb and Night Shift, we get Stink Shift and use the vampire boxer's teleport and the skunks shurikens to take down the evil bats and move along to the next area, where we find a Swap Zone. Each Swap Zone gives you a challenge to tackle, but only if you have the relevant emblem on your Swap Force character's base. Here we need Wash Buckler, the octopus pirate character who'll come with the game's Starter Pack, alongside the gold rocket knight character, Blast Zone. Core character Stealth Elf, decked out in black ninja garb will also be included with the Starter Pack.
Chucking Wash Buckler onto the Portal of Power, we're now able to shoot ink, and also use his climbing ability to take on the Swap Zone's challenge, as denoted by the emblem. Wash Buckler can use the sucker pads on his tentacles to scale the wall ahead, collecting gems to unlock special bonus items awarded once he's beaten the climb against falling boxes and other junk. Reaching the summit with all three gems in the bag, a 'Fishy Fishing' bonus mission is your reward, and there'll be 20 of these to unlock in the full game.
Vicarious Visions is really pulling out the stops with Skylanders: Swap Force then, adding a range of new game elements, in addition to the fresh gameplay opportunities presented by the 16 Swap Force Characters themselves. Throw in a whole new game engine that makes the game look much slicker and more detailed, new PvP battle mode arenas, a new survival mode, drop-in/drop-out co-op and support for every single Skylanders character released to date, and Skylanders: Swap Force has all the bases covered and more, just in time for Christmas when child pester power is at its most effective. Will it keep Disney Infinity at bay? With Skylanders already installed in the marketplace, we'd bet on Swap Force to win this year. Hell, it has “dynamic swapability” for crying out loud!
Skylanders: Swap Force is coming to Xbox 360 in October, and to Xbox One as a launch title.