Preview: Skylanders Swap Force

Activision's latest money-spinner takes shape

As we wrote earlier this week, Activision has announced the next game in the Skylanders series: Swap Force.

At the New York event we had a chance to see some early levels of gameplay. What was immediately obvious was the higher fidelity of visuals this time round. With new developer Vicarious Visions delivering this year’s game it seems there has been more time to finesse the experience.

As you can see in this gameplay video, Skylanders Swap Force not only improves on the in-game visuals but cut-scenes also benefit from the sharper graphical engine. Vicarious Visions created the engine that was used by Toys for Bob on the first two Skylanders and here are able to squeeze a bit more out of it.

There is a potential issue here though as the Wii version is being handled by a different developer, Beenox. Losing its lead platform status, alongside the higher graphical bar of the 360 and PS3 versions, it will be interested to see how close it comes to the other platforms. Vicarious Visions are looking after the Wii U version themselves though which, although hasn’t been shown yet, should look every bit as good as the other core console platforms.

N-Space are again handling the 3DS game this year. Although not much was said about the portable version at the launch, it is likely to follow the same format as last year — offering a more action platforming version of the Skylanders experience along with its mobile mini-portal.

Of course, as with any Skylanders game, a big element is the toy figures. Swap Force revolves around 16 new toy characters that can swap their torsos and feet. By doing this players can pick and mix different stats and abilities — in over 250 combinations.

The Swap Force figures we saw, although not the final build, were of impressive quality. The detaching and reattaching of the two halves feels solid and positive as two powerful magnets keep the figure together. There were three Swap Force figures to get hands-on with at the New York event: Wash Buckler, Magna Force and Blast Zone.

In addition to the Swap Force characters there will be 16 new core Skylanders, 16 Series 3 figures and 8 new Light-core figures. This is a similar pattern to Skylanders Giants, with the Series 3 characters re-releasing existing Skylanders with a new Wow-pow ability and pose. However, Swap Force will bring 16 rather than 8 new standard size Skylanders this time round. Two of these were available to see at the launch: Countdown and Rollerbrawl.

One unexpected part of the announcement this year was that a new Portal of Power will be required to play the game. This means that there will only be starter packs for Swap Force, rather than the Portal Owner’s packs we saw for Giants.

As we get closer the launch of Skylanders Swap Force, which seems likely to be the end of the year again, there will no doubt be more information and gameplay to sink our teeth into. Time will tell if Activision have struck the right balance between collecting and value for money.

Thanks to Family Gamer's Andy Robertson for providing this report.