Review by horror_spooky
Bringing swappable toys to life
Skylanders: Swap Force is easily the best game in the series to date. With development shifting to a new studio, Vicarious Visions, some fresh eyes are able to take what was great about the first two games and dial it up to surpass its predecessors as the best of what Skylanders has to offer.
First and foremost, the game features a new Portal of Power that is required to play. This means that a new Starter Pack must be purchased. Since I've been playing the games spending the least amount of money possible, this adds a significant three Skylanders to the collection, including two Skylanders of a brand new type.
One of the new Skylanders is a regular Skylander of the life type called the Ninja Stealth Elf. The other two that come in the starter pack are Blast Zone and Wash Buckler. However, Blast Zone and Wash Buckler (fire and water types respectively) are special in that they are "Swap Force" Skylanders.
What this means is that the top half of Blast Zone can be disconnected from the bottom half and attached to the bottom half of Wash Buckler, or vice versa. Essentially, it allows players to combine the abilities of any two Swap Force Skylanders together, which results in an exhausting amount of combinations for those that have all of the toys.
This new technology is really cool, and it's the first real "wow" factor that the series has been able to deliver since the first game. Giant Skylanders are cool and all, but there's just something special about manipulating a figure in the real world, and then being able to transfer it to the game world accurately. The technology here truly is impressive, and it's worth biting the bullet and buying the new starter pack to be able to experience it.
The Swap Force Skylanders all have their own special ability related to traversal, which is reflected in new mini-games spread out across the levels. Speaking of traversal, Swap Force finally gives players the ability to jump. Previous Skylanders games were much more restrictive in that regard, but giving players the ability to jump adds a whole new dimension to the game, offering far more engaging platforming challenges to go along with the dungeon crawling combat.
Besides that, the game is basically the same Skylanders gameplay its been since the beginning. Players go through various levels, collect treasure, complete objectives, and fight bosses. The boss fights in Swap Force are the best to date, offering unique challenges and tougher battles that are difficult without being frustrating like they often were in the first game.
The hub world this time is much larger than before, with a lot more to do. There's plenty for players to purchase, and treasures found in levels offer bonuses once equipped in the hub world. Players can level up their portal master ranking to unlock more content, and the Skylanders themselves receive a level cap increase with this new game, encouraging players to bust out the old figures as well as use the new ones.
This game is also notable for having the most polish than any other title in the series. I didn't run into any glitches or any technical problems, which can't be said for the first two games in the series. The level design has been vastly improved, with each level bringing something new to the table, and the amount of enemies in the game is staggering. Better yet, every enemy feels different and requires a different strategy to take down, so the game never gets boring and is constantly throwing new stuff at the player.
The story is still pretty basic, but more effort has been put into it than the other two games. Building off the end of the previous game, there are two antagonists in Swap Force, in the form of Kaos and now his mother as well. The dynamic between Kaos and his mother is an interesting and often amusing one to witness, with the protagonists being the more boring part of the story. The conflict comes in the form of evil crystals that Kaos is using to turn creatures evil, so it is up to the Skylanders to band together once again to stop him from achieving his goals.
The graphics are really impressive and again, they're the best in the series to date. The levels are vibrant, colorful, and full of life, with slick animation and quality so high that this could pass as a Pixar movie. Swap Force is honestly one of the best looking video games ever made, and easily in the top five best looking games released for the eighth generation so far. It's just so beautiful that it sucks you into its world within minutes of booting it up.
The voice acting and music are top notch as well, with voice actors from previous games returning to reprise their roles and new talented actors added to the cast to play new additions to the story. The music is catchy and fun, matching the friendly atmosphere that the rest of the game exudes.
Replayability in Swap Force is significant. Besides story chapters, there's bonus missions, time trials, arena challenges, and more. Players can go back through old levels on higher difficulties, and the higher difficulties are actually significantly more challenging, which makes the levels a lot more intense. Better yet, co-op has been fixed so that the second player actually earns achievements along with the first player this time, which is an improvement I've been asking for since the first game. This significantly boosts replayability and makes it much easier to recruit friends to play local co-op. There's no online multiplayer or co-op yet still though, which is kind of disappointing.
Skylanders: Swap Force is the best Skylanders game available today. The graphics are gorgeous, the sound design is great, and the gameplay is addicting and hard to put down. It is a great improvement over its predecessors, providing the most polished, most exciting Skylanders experience possible.
Product Release: Skylanders Swap Force (Starter Pack) (US, 11/19/13)
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