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Skylanders Swap Force Review

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On 11/23/2013 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

Another year, another Skylanders game.

For fans of past titles and those with kids who are easily entertained, even if the game isn't fantastic.

Three years later and the Skylanders craze is still in full swing. From kids to adults, it seems that everyone loves collecting and playing with these colorful characters. The latest iteration of the series brings a new wrinkle to the toys as well as to the game, but neither truly changes the tried-and-true formula. Platforming mechanics add a bit more depth to the traversal and combat mechanics, while the swap ability makes it a bit more fun to play with the physical toys by mixing and matching tops and bottoms. There’s no doubt that the whole kit is quite nifty, but as a game, Skylanders Swap Force still leaves something to be desired.

There are plenty of similarities in Skylanders with the Gauntlet games of years past. Naturally they’re a bit easier and more “kid friendly,” which incidentally makes them quite boring to play for your average gamer. Despite this reality, the series has managed to do well and I can only assume it’s all thanks to the toys. They’re brimming with character and just seeing them on the shelf at the store is enough to get excited about playing with and displaying them. The toy line is the real product here, not the passable, children’s quality Gauntlet clone that accompanies them.

If you have any degree of experience with dungeon crawl games in the vein of Gauntlet, you’ll be more than equipped for the light challenge in the base mode of the game. Even the hard mode is far from difficult once you’ve become accustomed to the character you’re using and their moves. The RPG elements that level up your character make that easier, as does the currency which can be spent to upgrade your top and bottom halves, falling in line with the new construction of the swappable toys.

I actually find Swap Force to be something of a conundrum. It has all the necessary component parts to be a fantastic experience. Cooperative dungeon crawling, multiple upgrade systems, some gear, hidden areas, collectibles, and even a few mini-games and bosses to break up the seventeen levels in the game; however, I couldn’t get engaged. Truth be told, the game put me to sleep a couple times because of how mindless some of the levels were. I thought the addition of platforming mechanics would’ve broken the monotony of the dungeon crawl, but it proved to be a small impediment on the way to the next enemy encounter.

Exploration of the levels is also flat because most of the hidden components are locked behind the physical DRM of the toys. If you already have a large collection of toys, this isn’t likely a problem for you, but anyone else will be hitting pay walls quite often due to not owning one or two Skylanders of the proper elemental type. It’s a frustrating reality of the configuration of this game, but as a completionist, it’s frustrating to not be able to fully clear each level as I progress through them.

The obvious marketing extends into the Soul Gems, which are tied to each of the different toys. If you don’t have the toy, you can watch a little clip about the character to see if it’s worth a purchase. Many of these Soul Gems are found at the end of an unlockable area, which feels like a greedy place to advertise for yet another product outside of the ones you’re already using.

Forcing more toys on you is the most grating example of how Swap Force isn’t really much of a deviation from the past two entries in the series. All of the components introduced there have been carried forward and all of the past series of toys will still work, meaning that those invested in the series will have a ton of options and upgraded characters right from the start. If you like what Activision has done before with the series, Swap Force is a no-brainer, but if you’re looking to take a dive into the series, take into consideration what age gamer is going to be playing, as well as the exorbitant cost of the figurines. This is a big investment and the actual game isn’t particularly special.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




11/23/2013 at 03:50 PM

Ah, that's kinda too bad about the easy gameplay. I thought it might've been fun to play even as an adult but it looks like it's primarily a kids game. I love the look of the game and the figures. One day, as I've done with the Lego games, I may play it for achievements and the novelty of owning a few figurines.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

11/23/2013 at 06:06 PM

Challenge never got in the way for me on hard mode. Wasn't the toughest game, but I'm regularly losing 4-5 Skylanders per level and am excited to try crushing. Gotta disagree on the variety too, I think it's one of the biggest strengths, but I did get some good deals on Swap figures so I've been able to do most of the bonus levels. It's really a game where you get out as much as you put in so I understand why other people don't want to spend so much, but by being frugal with getting figures, you can get a great amount of content without spending too much.


11/24/2013 at 07:02 PM

My biggest complaint with this series is simply the overall price--according to one article I read, to experience the entire game, the bare minimum one would have to pay is about $180.00. BARE MINIMUM. No game is good enough to merit that kind of cost, but there's no accounting for taste, it seems, especially when kids are involved.

Incidentally, anyone wanting a useful price guide for the game should check out Venturebeat's handy piece here.

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