As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.
Into its third year and the popularity of Skylanders is actually growing as opposed to waning. Receiving stiff competition from a Disney-made rival, Swap Force mixes up the established formula set out in Spyro’s Adventure and Giants by enabling you to break characters in half and combine them in completely different ways so as to tackle fresh obstacles.
Just when it seems Activision are ready to cash in another easy win with yet another Skylanders game doing the same thing, the company have reinvigorated the brand with a care and quality that is sure to keep content fresh for a few more years, and also set off another figure-buying frenzy.
Not all Swap Force characters can be combined, but the ones that can, slot together with ease. There are a whopping 256 swapabilities here, meaning that collecting all Skylanders and getting them all together is going to be a source of addiction for kids (young and old). Blast Zone and Wash Buckler will morph into Blast Buckler, for instance.
Portal of master manipulation
The portal really does have powers, because the idea of taking a plastic figure, sticking it on a circle that lights up in many different colours and bringing that character into a video game wows me, let alone a seven year old!
I can only imagine what seven year old me would have to say about all of this if thirty year old me keeps saying ‘Whoa!’
But aside from the Swapabilities, there’s not a whole lot different about the core game. Bring a Skylander in so they can attack, jump and collect loot, and use certain Skylanders for particular abilities. The first major difference is that improvements in the graphics. In light of Xbox One and Playstation 4, these graphics have definitely received an overhaul. The vibrant palette is stronger, the characters bear more detail, the standards are higher, and all the while, the frame-rate holds up and remains slick and smooth. Swap Force is a real tour-de-force of quality
What is also clear is how much of a better game Swap Force is compared to Disney Infinity. You can tell the standard of quality is definitely in the Activision camp and there’s a genuine interest in developing the Skylander story and creating an entertaining sandbox environment around that. Infinity felt like one big excuse to stick Sully with Captain Jack Sparrow and without doing anything meaningful to compliment that.
The Skylanders series is set up wonderfully for the new generation and so far, Swap Force is delivering in a big way.
What happened to Spyro?
So Spyro may have disappeared out of the limelight, but the game has plenty of main characters to steer this ship.
The three characters out of the box cover the base obstacles players will face in the game, but unlike with Giants, players will stumble upon obstacles they can’t tackle almost straight away without having bought other figures. Potentially a good and bad thing. I think though, at this point, Activision is assuming people will have already built up a bit of a collection. A safe bet, really.
As for antagonists, Greebles (or as I like to refer to him, Dobby the House Elf’s evil twin) are a fearful new enemy in Swap Force. They come in various different forms and unlike many other foes, these actually communicate. Eek… And then, of course, there’s Kaos and all his familiar cast of minions to contend with once again. He just doesn’t know when to quit, does he?
Fortunately, all Skylanders now have the ability to jump, which also makes the game a lot more forgiving. Now, if a Skylander mis-steps and falls out of the bottom of the world, the game resets the Skylander back on the path. In that sense, Swap Force has made the game accessible to a younger audience than ever by reducing the difficulty slightly.
It’s Morphin’ Time!
Due to being able to swap-out the Skylanders, new Specialist Gates have been added to the game which can only be used a certain type of swapped Skylander. These gates will supercharge the character and then enable them to take on specific challenges. Again, the only way to face these is to go out and spend on figures. But you’ll all be used to doing that by now, right?
The good news is, all previous Skylanders are playable on the portal, so if you had any of the old tribe left, they’re going to be left to stew and get chipped paint in a toy box. Recycle, recycle.
And the ability to mix up different Skylander types makes some wicked combinations. Pirates and Robots just being the beginning.
The zones will task the Skylanders with various different objectives, like flying, skiing, sailing, climbing and teleporting. These challenges also tie in with the ridiculous amount of collectibles you have to find.
In addition to hats, players must find legendary treasures, charms and story-scrolls. From the stats screen, they’ll also get to see how many swapabilites they’ve managed by means of a chart. This also makes it a lot easier for them to see who else they need to swap and combine.
Areas for Improvement
- Some slight frame-rate hiccups
- Occasional environmental sticking
- Eventual introduction to online co-op for young audiences?
- Potential DLC that allows for further swap-options with new characters?
Despite the contentious issue of buying an all-new portal and figures for the game, Swap Force is a real treat and, to date, the finest Skylanders experience so far. Combining characters is a pleasure and the new Specialist Gates diversify the playing field.
Technical Competency – 9.5/10
Audio Quality/Visual State – 9.5/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 9/10
Swap Force is a very complete, solid end-product. I have no real complaints and concerns over the game’s technical quality, and don’t envisage many (if any) additional updates, though it would be nice to see further DLC supporting new Swap Force combinations in the future?
(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interuptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)
(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)
Issues you’ve encountered
Have you encountered any bugs and problems in your playthrough? Anything we missed? Add them in the comments below and we’ll slot them in!