Talk about a tag team.
By now, it should be clear that the Skylanders franchise is about selling thousands upon thousands of bite-sized, vividly painted figurines for at least $20 a pop. And oh, how we want all of them. (What's wrong with us?!)
Perhaps you're wondering what Activision has in store with the subtitle in the upcoming installment, Skylanders Swap Force. In a way, it almost seems redundant since one of the strong suits of the franchise is being able to swap one figurine on the Portal of Power for another virtually at any time. But this "Swap Force" idea goes one step further by introducing 16 new characters that have an upper half and a lower half, magnetically bonded and both registered by an updated Portal of Power, effectively creating 256 possible combinations and thereby plenty of incentive to purchase the whole set.
On their own, the new Swap Force characters like Magna Charge and Wash Buckler are already powerful, but now players can mix and match as they see fit. Combine Magna Charge's top with Wash Buckler's bottom and players can wield the power of an electric robot with squid tentacles that can walk on walls. Two friends who have different Swap Force characters can join forces to create exponentially more combinations.
These new characters come at a most pressing time in the Skylanders universe. Kaos is advancing towards another target, a volcanic mountain that replenishes the magic of the Skylanders universe whenever it erupts. It's up to your team of Skylanders to prevent him from controlling it for his own nefarious uses. Flynn returns as a trusty pilot and Tessa, a female cat native to Cloudbreak Islands, joins the fray.
In addition to much improved character models with a spiffier, cleaner HUD, Skylanders now have the ability to jump, though the platforming element will remain light. While this is a new feature to the console iterations of Skylanders, it isn't to the 3DS version of Skylanders Giants made by Vicarious Visions, so as it comes to no surprise that they are the developers for Skylanders Swap Force instead of Toys for Bob.
No worries, though. Nearly everything you'd expect from a Skylanders title is here: bright environments suspended on islands in the sky, Skylanders that can level up and earn unique new abilities (no word on whether the level cap will be raised, but I wouldn't bet against it), the three-star stage system, and plenty of treasure to collect. Also returning are level gates, with new dual-elemental and Swap Force gates that only specific Skylanders can access due to their different traversal abilities, whether it's flying, climbing, bouncing, or digging. Luckily, some of these gates will lead to neat mini-games.
The arrival of Skylanders Swap Force will also coincide with 16 new Core Skylanders characters, 16 Series 3 Skylanders with new "Wow Pow" powers, and 8 LightCore Skylanders. Of course, this expansion generally nudges players to purchase all of these characters, beyond selling them on eBay (you hustlers, you). Skylanders Swap Force will release in Fall 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U, with 3DS and Wii version info and pricing details coming later.