Skylanders: SWAP Force (PS4) Review
Kalvin Martinez / Nov 27th, 2013 No Comments
Skylanders: SWAP Force is an action-adventure game for the PlayStation 4 (also on Xbox One and PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii and 3DS). Vicarious Visions developed the game while Activision handled publishing duties. While the current-gen version of SWAP Force has been on shelves for a while, the next-gen versions are just hitting stores to go along with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. It may seem like Skylanders: SWAP Force would not benefit in any significant way from increased processing and graphical power with next-gen tech, but the game does. SWAP Force on the PS4 looks markedly better than its current-gen counterpart thanks to increased resolution. The core game remains the same with fun gameplay and compelling toy technology , but benefits from better visuals.
Once again, Kaos threatens the safety and existence of Skylands as he hatches another plan to destroy the Skylanders. This time, his plan for ruin includes turning one of the four ancient elementals evil so when they come together to replenish the magic of Skylands, it will turn every creature evil. It is up to the SWAP Force and the other Skylanders to prevent Kaos’ plan and save Skylands. To do this, they must rescue the ancient elementals by stopping each attempt Kaos makes to convert them to evil. The Skylanders must fight through the hordes of Kaos’ army to stop the destruction of Skylands.
SWAP Force’s story lies in a weird middle ground between overly simplistic and something that tries to hit on a broad level. The writing is all foghorns and whistles as dialogue is saturated by uses of “awesome” to give the impression that things are indeed awesome. The issue is that the story does not need to try as hard as it does to convince its audience of its awesomeness. SWAP Force’s writing definitely needs the less-is-more approach. The story is solid in spite of its menacing villain-who-aims-to-destroy the world plot because it crafts that story around a meaningful gameplay and level design with the four ancient elementals. This structure allows the game to introduce some cool supporting characters to help out the Skylanders and pepper in some fun boss fights.
Gameplay is a hearty mix of combat, mini-games and toy strategy to unlock areas. SWAP Force mainly pits players and their Skylander of choice against legions of Kaos’ minions. Players will fight through scores of enemies using a basic attack and an evasive or crowd controlling move. As players battle through levels, their Skylanders gather experience to level up and improve stats as well as money to purchase upgraded moves. Upgrading moves unlocks additional attacks and improved version of current attacks. For SWAP Force characters, players can upgrade either the top or bottom, allowing those upgrade parts to be used effectively when mixing and matching SWAP Force characters. Combat is not particular difficult; it mainly consists of recognizing enemy patterns and using each characters’ abilities well. Combat is fun though, and after taking advantage of the RPG elements, it opens up a bit even if it lacks a standardized control set.
[adsense250itp]In SWAP Force’s various levels, there are areas where certain elements enjoy a perk to combat. This adds some amount of strategy to combat, in which players can choose the best character-element match to tackle various challenges. In each level, there are locked gates that require players to place a specific element on the portal, usually netting them a neat bonus for completing the area. Also, levels feature newly created SWAP Zone challenges that can be completed using SWAP Force characters who have the corresponding gate ability. These challenges are fun and add variety to gameplay.
New to SWAP Force is characters’ ability to jump, which adds some minor platforming elements to the game. However, the jump is sluggish and soft so platforming is imprecise. Luckily, there is no penalty for falling down or missing a gap, but there was a missed opportunity to change up level design a bit. Ultimately, the coolest part of gameplay is the ability to upgrade and switch between a large array of characters using the portal. It gives a small bit of strategy to gameplay and replayability to upgrade each characters.
Graphics and Sound
There was nothing particular bad about how Skylanders: SWAP Force looked on current-gen consoles but the difference between the PS3 and PS4 version is stark. The increased resolution actually greatly improves the visual quality of the game. Everything from the environments to the character models to the color gets a nice face lift moving up to full HD resolution. The game still has its charms with its visuals and character animations but with better aesthetics on next-gen. It was a solid-looking game that benefits greatly from a next-gen makeover. SWAP Force’s voice-acting is solid with a large cast. Patrick Warburton’s character is still a champion at giving a funny voice performance. The soundtrack by Lorne Balfe remains amazing.
Skylanders: SWAP Force likely will not be the go-to launch choice for most PS4 early adopters. But, like Knack, it offers a great counter to the Mature-heavy launch lineup. Games aimed at a broader audience generally suffer from bad execution, way too simple gameplay and often being profoundly broken, but SWAP Force manages to avoid all those pitfalls giving its target audience a challenging and fun gameplay experience. SWAP Force also manages to create an experience that will entertain an older audience, which is no small feat. While the combat lacks some of the finer controls and finesse, what it lacks in points is made up by the variety of characters and the strategy of using the toy technology. Despite not seeming to benefit from next-gen technology, Skylanders: SWAP Force looks great and plays well on the PS4.
tags: activision , ps4 , review , skylanders , Skylanders: SWAP Force , SWAP Force