Skylanders Swap Force is the third game in the popular, and ridiculously successful Skylanders franchise from Activision. Seriously, this stuff has started to rival Pokémon in terms of popularity among kids. This latest entry is a hack and slash game that plays a lot like the new Diablo III and other games of its ilk. Each Skylander comes with a small array of powers and abilities that allow you to deal damage to your enemies in various forms, as well as a mobility power that lets you, for example, dash through your enemies while burning them in the process. The mobility power can also allow you to avoid enemy fire or dodge their attacks. Some characters, like the Ninja Stealth Elf, can create a decoy of themselves and stealthily move through the battlefield and perform close-range attacks from behind mislead enemies.
The combat in Skylanders Swap Force definitely veers over the easy side of things, which comes as no surprise given the target audience. Hardcore gamers expecting a challenge will have a good time with the obstacle courses, but for the most part, the game is easy to play and it’s what I’d go so far as to describe as simple and enjoyable.
Outside of combat, Skylanders Swap Force comes with a host of areas designated to specific Skylander elemental types or powers. These areas come in the form of obstacle courses of varying difficulty that you have to traverse in order to attain bonuses to your character as well as your Portal Master rank.
Building upon the mechanics of the first two games, Skylanders and Skylanders Giants, the third game introduces the eponymic Swap Force mechanic. This allows to mix and match the Skylanders creatures top and bottom halves to create new Skylander forms. In doing so, the game also introduces new areas locked away by these Swap gates so players need to collect as many Skylanders as possible to access these locations.
But Swap gates are not the only thing that keeps players out of areas off the beaten path. Some areas can only be accessed through abilities specific Skylanders possess, such as Boost, Teleport, and Climb. Some treasures are only accessible if with a Giant Skylander in the player’s menagerie.
The story in Skylanders Swap Force really isn’t much to speak of, but it’s charming in that it’s written for children and gives you some motivation to progress through the game and explore the world and its environs.
As it happens, an evil dude named Chaos has plans to take over the Skylands. To that end, Chaos engineers a series of machines called the ‘evilizers’ (yes, evilizers, not making this up), which have the propensity to morph normal creatures into evil versions thereof. His plan is to evilize just one of the four great Elemental spirits who control the magic of the Skylands so he can corrupt a volcano which erupts once every umpteen years and fill the entirety of the Skylands with evil.
Needless to say, it’s up to the Skylanders to stop him and make sure his plans go awry. That’s where you come in.
The Skylands are made up of a series of floating islands, each of which is governed by a certain element. Upon these lands, you’ll find a myriad of creatures that fit the location. Playing Skylanders is a bit like traveling to a theme park with many different themes, and it’s every bit as charming.
Interestingly enough, when you play with the Skylander of the appropriate element, you’ll be able to get bonuses to your health, resistance and damage on the map. This not only makes the game easier but encourages players to experiment with their Skylanders (and buy more of those little toy figures to do so) instead of sticking to any single one of them.
As with all Skylander games, players will have to buy physical toy figures to unlock these Skylander creatures within the game, the central gimmick of the Skylander series, and a feature that few other game companies have successfully copied yet. Each of toy bought and placed on the Portal of Power device, connected to the PlayStation 4 via USB, adds a new character to the game.
This notwithstanding, the game does come with everything needed to beat the single player campaign – though that is, as with all Skylander titles, hardly the final goal of the game. But additional Skylanders – and thus additional toys – are only needed to access bonus areas and material.
Skylanders Swap Force – like all of the games in this series – can be without a doubt an expensive hobby, but it’s a fun one if you’re either a kid or like collecting toys or both, and if you don’t mind playing through the game with only three characters, it’s also a rewarding way to pass the time with just the basic starter set.
8 out of 10
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. The Starter Edition of the game is available at an MSRP of $74.99 from retailers.