Skylanders Swap Force cuts poor toys in half

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Skylanders: Swap Force is out in two weeks and I just got back from a press event at developer Vicarious Visions’ studio. Here are a few key things that you might want to know.

After the jump, Skylanders cut in half?

Swap Force rolls out with a whole new graphics engine sporting all the HD next-gen bells and whistles you wouldn’t expect if you dismiss it as a “kids” game. System choice will matter. The game is tiered in graphical features from the Wii, to the current gen with 360, PS3, and Wii U (supporting off-screen play), to all the stops pulled out for the PS4 and Xbox One.

It is not being developed by Toys for Bob, but rather Vicarious Visions. At first, you might be apprehensive about a studio change. But these guys have been working on it for years. Yes, years. Even before Skylander: Spyro’s Adventure was out. And from what I saw at Vicarious Visions, it shows.

Swap Force features “swappable” Skylanders, which are functionally mix-and-match books in fully realized (and monetized) plasticy glory. Even though the inspiration is mix-and-match books, this new iteration should be more pleasing to gamers than the laser-focused kid appeal of the last release, Skylanders: Giants.

The dynamically swappable characters advance the “ability bundle” action RPG of Skylanders. The top half (torso) contributes two buttons worth of upgradable abilities while the bottom half (legs-ish) contributes a type of locomotion. The locomotion determines certain mini-games such as octopus wall walking and it gives the character another button worth of abilities. Both of these halves have their own skill trees, which is potentially engaging brain candy as you customize your ‘ability bundles’. The choice of halves lends the game temporary swappable skills (think Diablo III), which each halve’s skill tree lends the game semi-permanent skill choices (think Diablo II).

The total menagerie is 56 critters to indulge your Pokemon fever. 16 of these are brand new, 8 are returning as light core, 16 are reposes, and 16 are Swap Force. The 16 swappable may not sound like many until you carry the one and bring down the zero to realize you now have 250 different skill tree combinations. How is that for bang for the buck on your physical “DLC”?

Gamer dads already understand the appeal. But are the gamers among you tempted yet? More trans-demographic temptations on Monday with a detailed report on the visit to Vicarious Visions.

Rob Harvey grumpily resides in California where he has forgone REM sleep for months as he lovingly walks with his co-dependent cat Little One through the biological mania of Feline CRF. He is longing for the day he can return to the Pacific Northwest “where a person can experience, you know, actual trees, weather, and the color green”. He also continues to struggle, mostly in vain, for his graduate level education in philosophy to produce anything beyond obscenely expensive soul building. He posts on the Quarter to Three forums as Chaplin.

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