Skylanders Swap Force: Say hello to Activision's 272 new stars

Plus, hear from the man who creates them from scratch

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventures introduced us to the world of Skylands and its 32 core Skylanders. Skylanders: Giants added eight giants to the line-up along with eight all-new core Skylanders, making the total Skylanders count so far - minus rare variants, glowing Lightcore types and special promotion creations - a shelf-spanning 48 figures. Soon that total will have climbed to a Pokémon-esque 320.

Give yourself a moment to roll your tongue back into your mouth and we'll explain. Madness? Insanity? Greed? Not quite. It's more a case of clever maths, actually.

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The next big release in the planet's fastest-growing game is Skylanders: Swap Force. It's set in an as-of-yet unexplored part of Skylands called the Cloudbreak Islands and it stars a raft of new and returning NPC characters. It runs on all-new tech. And, of course, it supports some brand new Skylanders.

Like the first game there are 32 new introductions in all. Sixteen of them are 'regular' Skylanders. The other 16 are known as Swap Force Skylanders and (this is the clever bit) they can be pulled apart at the waist and joined together with other parts. This simple mix-and-match design turns a 16-strong Swap Force roster into a memory-muddling list of 256 combinatorial possibilities, making Swap Force's total Skylander count a cool 272.

Not enough? Then you'll be excited to know that in addition to that total there are 16 returning, re-posed Skylanders and eight bonus Lightcore variations, too.

Our introduction to Swap Force begins with a demo in Iron Jaw Gulch ; a Wild West-themed gallimaufry of islands under attack by a new enemy type called Greebles. Greebles are small purple critters enlisted by Kaos to bombard Skylands with cannon fire from their patchwork airships.

The story goes thusly: the Cloudbreak Islands live in the shadow of a magical volcano that erupts every 100 years to replenish Skylands' magic reserves. When the new Swap Force characters were caught up in its latest eruption they were blasted to Earth in bits but gifted with the ability to rebuild themselves using different parts.

And now, with Kaos hoping to hijack the volcano's power to fuel his Evil-izer machine and poison Skylands, the SwapForce characters must join together to save their home.

Portal 2

Nex our demoer from Vicarious Visions begins by placing Eruptor on the Portal of Power, and straight away we clock two important changes. First of all is the Portal of Power itself. It's new. Old portals aren't equipped to deal with Swap Force's mix-and-match Skylanders, we're told, so you'll be getting a new, lighter portal in Swap Force's starter pack. Wii U owners will need it too: the GamePad's in-built NFC capabilities aren't good enough for Skylanders: Swap Force, we're told, and wouldn't support dual figures.


The second big feature we spot is the look of the game itself. It's stunning, and if we didn't know better (it was running on a 360, we checked) we'd say it was a full generation beyond Skylanders: Giants. Vicarious Visions have supplied the technology for Skylanders right from the get-go and for Skylanders' third year they've unleashed a new engine that flat-out embarrasses the past two games. Characters look much more detailed and have gorgeous new animations, and Skylands shines with a vibrancy we haven't yet been accustomed to.

One button press later and we see another new feature: jumping. All Skylanders, old and new, can now jump, which we're promised will open the door for much more interesting and intricate level design.

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