Video-game franchises are notorious for over-promising and under-delivering year on year. The more successful they are the harder they find it to follow things up. This has led to what some cynically describe as incremental improvement -- where features are drip fed onto the market to keep players coming back for more each year.
Perhaps it was because of this that I had expected Skylanders Swap Force, the new toy-meets-game title from Activision, to be more of the same with a few tweaks here and there. However, Swap Force offers a whole new way to role-play in a video-game with an innovative set of interchangeable figures.
I asked Guha Bala, Studio Head for Swap Force, to talk me through the new features and figures in their game:
The 16 titular Swap Force figures separate at the waist and can be mixed and matched to create over 250 different combinations. This takes Skylanders slightly simplistic role-play aesthetic and places it well and truly on the core-gamer's map.
In terms of party management this is revolutionary. No more digging through menus, or pausing the action to make a change. The physical nature of being able to tailor your characters to the current challenge by reconfiguring the toys is a stroke of genius.
Children will enjoy the additional play possibilities that these toys create while hard-core players will start to see where Activision are going with all this and (just maybe) get on board for the first time.
There is a sting in the tail though: you need to buy a new Swap Force Starter Pack this year, even if you already own a Portal peripheral. The Swap Force figures required an upgraded peripheral to work. You can, however, still use all your old figures in the new game. There are also 16 new core Skylanders planned, another 8 Light-core and 16 Series 3 returning characters.
Currently Skylanders Swap Force hasn't been dated or priced.