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Skylnders SWAP Force Might Be The Series' Best Entry Point For Hardcore Gamers

Posted on Wednesday, October 2 @ 18:00:00 Eastern by


Activision and Vicarious have managed to solve quite a unique problem in developing toys with independent "brains", but as a franchise, Skylanders has always irked me in one way.

Exactly how many toys do I have to buy to play the entire game? Each new entry presents special gates that only certain elementally-charged Skylanders can enter, which ends up walling players off from part of the experience if they don't have all the figures. For example, if you're without a fire-powered Skylander like Eruptor, you won't be able to access that special fire level off the beaten path.

To me, this has always seemed like a huge barrier to enjoying the game. I think hardcore gamers, the biggest consumers in the industry, don't like knowing they're missing out on something in a game that they're really into. I know I don't. I want every achievement and trophy (even if I don't ever get around to fulfilling the unique requirements for each). I want every DLC pack because when I do get sucked into a world, I need to squeeze every last ounce of entertainment out of that experience. I want every single Skylander so I can see every side-mission and bonus level.

It's effective. Seeing an imposing gate glowing with mysterious fun refuse to open makes me want to whip out my wallet and throw it at the TV screen. Thankfully, for preview purposes, Activision gave us a moderate selection of new and returning characters to play with, and I quickly realized that I didn't need every single character to get the entertainment I wanted out of Skylanders.

I had seven or eight figurines to choose from, two of which were Swappable. SWAP Force's new figurines allow you to trade top and bottom halves of a character with your siblings, children, friends, cousins, whoever. You can have a flaming chicken on ice skates or a unicycle-propelled boxer ghost. I would probably rather hold on to both halves, but SWAP Force increases the chances that you'll have the right (at least half of a) character for any given bonus mission or side-objective.

With this, I can see young players tearing open the packaging of a new Skylander and switching pieces to trade later, or even handing off characters at lunch to test out a new figurine and level up a friend's character while they're at it.

I started to play Skylanders SWAP Force more like a kid when I managed to let go of that obsessive completionist within me. I started tossing new Skylanders on just to see how they changed a combat encounter. Soon I was pulling specific Skylanders onto the Portal of Power just to use an area of effect attack against a group of swarming baddies.

Activision is very clear in its targeted demographic, but I'm sure the publisher would like to see more core gamers attach to the yearly drop of new and collectible toys. Even if SWAP Force doesn't grab gamers like it grabbed me during my hands-on time, a few diehard fans will get caught up by kids all too willing to explain the difference between Free Ranger and Fryno. If you do find yourself in that situation, try to play like the kid or at least approach it openly and not like the totally cynical hardcore gamer you are.

Don't forget that Activision is giving away a Starter Pack for SWAP Force every day this month. Skylanders SWAP Force is out on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Wii U on October 13th. It'll be on store shelves next to PS4s and Xbox Ones on launch day.

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